Now, I want to reiterate something before we get into this text. In your Christian life, you have a choice to make when you read the Word. When you encounter a difficult passage of scripture, you can do one of two things, you can bend scripture to fit how you are living, or you can adjust your life, and belief to match what scripture is teaching. Ultimately, what you do with the scripture will reveal who you believe has the authority in your life. If you bend scripture, you are the authority, and if you bend yourself, you are placing yourself under the authority of God, by way of His Word. Now, the sticky part of this equation is this, we need to understand not only what the scripture says, but what it means. For that, we need to be students of herminudics, which is just a fancy word for Biblical Interpretation. Because many times where there are disagreements around passages like the one we are looking at today, it is not about “did he say that?” it is about “did he Mean that, for us, today?” So, what I want to do is look at this text, share what it says, and look at some different interpretations of it, so that we can all hopefully be better equipped to apply it to our lives.
Ok, so a question to ponder for a second: Can two things have the same worth, and yet have vastly different roles? So, lets say you have a $15,000 car, and a $15,000 back hoe. Are those things equal? That depends on what equal means right? They have the same worth, in the sense that they both are worth the same amount of money, but they are not equal in their functions. Why is that? They were designed to perform different tasks. Now, while I know every metaphor breaks down, let me suggest that what Paul is demonstrating in this text is the truth that while men and women are equal in worth, and value, they have district roles that they were made by God, for a purpose. And just so you know where I am headed, the purpose is to display the gospel. lets read the text and pray.
Just so you know, I am fully aware of the culture that we live in, and the mantra of the culture is that there is no difference between the sexes. The cultural distinctive are being blurred in so many ways. The whole question of gender identity is just an unreal debate. There are movements now on some college campuses that tell students and faculty that they should ask what gendered pronoun people would prefer to be called.
I also understand the history of oppression and domination and inequality that we are coming from. So, before we pick our side and dig in our heals, lets try and understand this text from God’s heart on the issue. I am fully aware that we live in a culture that decrys the income gap between men and women in the workplace, screams for equality, and celebrates the achievements of so many women. And, at the same time, we live in a culture where men are taught from an early age to view women as objects to be used in their pornographic fantasies. Women’s bodies are used to sell everything from web domains to cheeseburgers. And at the root of much of it is powerful men who use and abuse these women, as well as an economy that eats it up! the hypocrisy of our own culture is astonishing to me sometimes.
You may recall, early on in the bible, there is a statement that God made us Male and Female. So, here we have in the earliest moment of human existence, a distinction between the sexes. Now, what I want to do with this text is not focus on the abuses of the people who have come before us, but to focus on the calling that we are being encouraged to live out as Christians who believe that this book is the word of God.
Men: Step up to spiritual leadership: Lifting hands in prayer, not in domination. There is an episode or two of the Office where Michael Scott and Jim Halpert are made co-managers of the Scranton Branch of Dunder Mifflin. As you can imagine, this does not go well at all and there is one worker who makes the statement that of course co-managers work, thats why there are co-presidents and co-kings… The statement he makes is incredible, because he is stating what we al know inherently, that in every relationship that involves more than one person, there must be a leader. Now, here we have a recognition that holds through ought scripture that God made the role of leader in the family and in the church to be tied to the men. Now That can be very upsetting if your idea of leadership is based on the abuse of power that is so often seen in the world and in history. However, if you have a Biblical understanding of what leadership is, there should be no fear in any wife’s heart about God placing the role of leader on her husband. Because leaders are most often referred to as shepherds in scripture, and what do shepherds do? They lay down their lives for their sheep. So, here we see Paul stating how he wants the men in the church to behave. Notice he says that we should be lifting holy hands in prayer. Now, when you think about men lifting their hands, what typically comes to your mind? I think about lifting their hands in anger, about to strike. It is the domination and violent control that we see so often portrayed. Yet, here is Paul, affirming male leadership, while calling men not to domineer and lift their hands in violence, but to lift their hands in prayer, in gentleness, and in love for those whom they are called to lead.
Men have historically done two things, either abdicated their leadership, or abused it.
Women: Step up to serve: Focus on the inside, let that be the source of your beauty.
Both display the Gospel: God’s created order.