Some paint the issues surrounding the place of women in the family and the church as an issue of autonomy; that is, Man seeks to decide for himself and not let God be God. The issues are bundled with other contemporary issues of sex, life choices, materialistic goals, and so on. However, what I argue is not for an expansion of human autonomy, even though some see it that way. It is no argument for allowing Christians to move into what the Bible defines as sinful behavior. Rather, it is standing against human systems of oppression that oppose God and His purposes. My goal is not to free humans to choose their own way. My goal is to remove human oppression that stands against what God has created and that attempts to thwart what God is doing in the lives of women. It is to open the way for women and men to be who God created them to be, exercising the gifts he gives them as he calls without interference from other humans who hold up old traditions or ways as being God’s ways when in reality they were ways born in the curse.
No one should seek place or prominence in the body of Christ. We should all follow the example of Christ, humbling ourselves to serve in whatever manner He determines. If God lifts one into leadership or a place to exercise a spiritual gift, who should oppose Him? No one. But if God does not lift one to such a place, who should presume to take it on their own ambition or will? No one. The way I am advocating is to avoid ruling out a particular direction that God might lead. It is undeniable that God has used women in positions of leadership among his people in scripture. Some claim this was because the men were falling down on the job. Some say this is because God does not intend for women to be restricted to certain roles. Either way, if one opposes what God does for whatever reason he does it, one is opposing God. I caution Christians about proclaiming what God cannot or will not do with women, or standing legalistically on what we will allow God to do with or through women. We are not talking about a license to sin; we are talking about not standing against God when he leads or teaches through a woman when that is what he chooses to do. I believe God creates women and gives them gifts of teaching and leadership to be exercised at his calling for the benefit of the body of Christ as a standard part of life in his kingdom. However, even if you disagree that this is a normal path for women in the body of Christ, it is very dangerous to argue that we should stand against what God has demonstrated he may do when he sees fit – even if you think he only leads through women to shame sinful, distracted men!
For the women, though, there is a caution here. It is never safe to take on service in the kingdom of God just to prove that you can do it. The church is not the place to prove women are capable for the sake of human pride. God calls his people and arranges the members of the body as he sees fit. The essence of sin is to ignore God and seize autonomy to do what we determine in our own hearts and minds is “best”. Eve demonstrated the folly of that approach. Paul’s words in Philippians 2 apply to women, too. The church is not first a battleground for women’s liberation; it is the kingdom coming among us.
Every local church has to make a decision about how it will approach this issue. Either there will be limitations placed on women in the church or there will not. Either women will have the opportunity to lead and teach and preach, or they will not. There will be women as elders and pastors or there will not. God can organize us as he chooses. God can move us to change as he chooses. There is a practical issue of how each local church will approach this issue. Let us make our best attempt at faithfulness and move forward to do the work of the church without apology and also without antagonism toward brothers and sisters who choose a different approach. As much as it is in our power, we should be at peace with others who decide differently than we decide on this matter. And yet we must speak the truth in love when God says to speak.
We should want nothing more and nothing less that to allow Christ to lead us according to his priorities for his kingdom in a particular time and a particular place. What is helpful to communicate the gospel? What is helpful to advance the kingdom of God? What blesses the church? I believe that God will move his people to release women from the bondage resulting from the Fall that is reflected in human societies and cultures around the world. The timing is in God’s hands. Truth spoken in love, as God leads, is in our hands. God will move his people to change human society in the direction of his will. God’s enemies will oppose this movement.
I earnestly sought for God to guide me in this issue. In His time, He spoke, and said, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The other gods are falling. Traditions of men and false spiritual powers are being disarmed. His kingdom is advancing. Good news is preached. Prisoners are freed. The blind recover sight. The oppressed are released. It is the year of the Lord’s favor.
“to the pure, all things are pure”
– Titus 1:15, NIV