Friday, December 5, 2008

It seems so good . . .

After writing yesterday about temptation’s subtle forms, I was tested on what I wrote. I received a call from a church I had never heard of asking me to come and teach their congregation about spiritual gifts, a favorite topic of mine and one that has proven to be very helpful to all who understand their gifts from a motivational perspective as in Romans 12.

I was excited as I listened to the request, but as the conversation progressed I began wondering if this was an opportunity or a test. To be fair, I asked lots of questions. I discovered that this church does not have any hierarchy of leadership, but consider themselves egalitarian. They also wanted me to be their Sunday feature. Although they called it a workshop, the sessions in which they wanted me to speak followed their typical worship service format.

What made this even more interesting is that all week my pastor and I have had some discussion on the role of women, both in the church and in the home. I know this is a controversial issue, but both he and I agree on sticking to a literal interpretation of the Bible. This means that from the very beginning, God established a headship or leadership principle that applies to husbands (and later church elders) and requires wives (and non-elders) to align themselves under that leadership. This has nothing to do with equality. All are equal before the Cross and as Christians. It has everything to do with order, and with helping both men and women overcome the power of sin in their lives.

One passage from 1 Timothy 2 covers most of what I’ve been thinking on this topic. Verses 11-14 say:
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Many women are annoyed by this passage and resist it. Many men use it like a club. Neither are God’s intention. First, God knows what happened in Eden. Eve had been created as a suitable helper for Adam (because it was “not good” that Adam was alone). However, she was deceived by Satan and instead of helping Adam, she persuaded him to eat the forbidden fruit with her. He knew better (was not deceived), but let her be the boss. After this happened, the Lord told the two of them that they would be in conflict. She would want to rule, but he was going to rule over her.

Note, this headship/submission thing was in place before their sin, and it is not the curse on their sin. The curse is that both genders are now stuck with that desire to rule over each other. Instead of following those sinful desires, God tells women to fit into the leadership of their husbands because that is the best way we can “help” them. He tells men to lead and love their wives because that is protection and security for women. Of course we need Christ and the Holy Spirit to even want to fulfill this, never mind do it. Sin is powerful and the desire to be the boss and control others is part of that sinful nature. Sin is our enemy; submission and headship are the cure, not the curse.

I’m not sure that a Christian woman is still vulnerable to being easily deceived like Eve was, but have to admit that I certainly struggle with wanting to be the boss and wanting to have my way. In fact, my definition of submission is: “Being free from the tyranny of always needing to have my own way.” When I do as God says, I experience great freedom, not bondage to sin.

When women teach men, we invariable start telling them what to do. Not only do men resist that, but it upsets the order God intended. There is a difference between being a helper and being the boss. I’ve learned that through obedience to these verses in 1 Timothy, God protects me from sin.

He wants me to learn (in Bible days, this was a new thing for women), but He also wants men to learn and to seek His will. While some men need help to do that, they tend (because of their sin nature) to resist the “help” of women when it comes in the form of her telling him what to do. I might know the answers, but the Bible tells me to back off.

There is more here. The words used also indicate that God does not want women to take an authoritative position such as the role of pastor-teacher, or elder in the church. Other places in the New Testament show that this is a male role. Aside from other reasons, I’m convinced that this relationship has a big-picture purpose. A biblical male/female relationship in marriage and in church roles mirrors or images Christ and the church. Ideally, men are to be as Christ in their leadership and women are to be as the church in responding to that leadership. There are lots of issues and questions, but in my heart, I know it is best to aim for the ideal.

Back to the request. It came from a church that is not following the biblical pattern for leadership, nor is it following these verses that say no to women taking an authoritative teaching role over men. It doesn’t matter how good I might be in that role, or how helpful the material I teach might be to the congregation; God says no. On a human level, I wonder even this group could benefit from my input when they have ignored other instruction from Scripture.

With that, I’ve decided to also say no to this request. The invitation seems more of a test than an opportunity. I’m aware that I could be wrong in my understanding, yet I am trusting God in this one. His Word says this is not what I should do. Something in me wants to jump at the chance, but I need to know the source of that something; is it God or is it that old nature that likes to have power and control? I can’t go by my feelings on this one so I am trusting in the Word of God!

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