“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” the firm foundation of male authority?
There is a movement today that calls men to be responsibly involved with their families and in the church. Unfortunately, this movement equates this responsible involvement with “leadership.” Apparently, men will either be leaders, or they will be uninvolved. (For more on this movement read a brief history from Christianity Today or this critique from Relevant magazine.)
But is “leadership” the best way to frame the conversation about men’s participation in the home and in the church?
I don’t think framing male participation in terms of “leadership” is either necessary or helpful. Can a man courageously share responsibility for the well-being of his family, without thinking this means he has authority over his wife? Of course he can. Can a man actively serve God in the church without assuming this means he must exercise authority over women? Of course he can.
So then, is “to lead or not to lead,” really the most important question that faces Christian men today? I don’t think it is. The gospel calls upon all Christians (men and women) to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus explained that in following these two commands, we fulfill the entirety of God’s will (Matthew 22:36-40). “To love, or not to love,” I believe that is the important question facing all Christians today, men included.
Restoring men to their “rightful” place?
The Christian male leadership movement also suggests that if men do not “step up” and take their rightful place as leaders in the church and in their homes, our society will fall into chaos. The flip-side of this belief is that women are overstepping their bounds and usurping male authority if they lead anything. As a result, some would say that God’s “created order” has been turned upside-down. In contrast to this androcentric worldview, the Bible tells us that it is not men who need to be restored to their “rightful place” in human society; rather, it is God. (More about androcentrism here.)
Sin, we’re told, has taken all of humanity (men and women) captive, and we are all equally in need of redemption. By faith, Christians share in the death of Jesus Christ. This means that as far as our former master (sin) is concerned, we’re dead. It can no longer lay claim to us; we have been set free: “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:13-14, NKJV).
Male leadership is not what humanity needs to cure what ails us.
The Bible describes the inclination of men to “rule over” women as a “curse,” a consequence of sin (Genesis 3:14-16). Rather than being the solution, it is a part of the problem. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ died to free us from sin, the law and its curse: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’…” (Galatians 3:13, NKJV). As a result of this redemptive work, we are freed from the curse, which includes gender inequality: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV).
Instead of insisting that we look to male leadership to save us from our troubles, let us instead say with the apostle Paul, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV).
It seems to me that putting our trust in male leadership is a false hope and a poor substitute for the gospel.
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” (Mote, 1836)
Pick up the Kindle version of Bob’s book Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church.