Late thoughts on marriage and gender roles…

bible_ringIt’s the nights that I can’t sleep that I lay awake and ponder the difficult ideas for me to understand. Gender roles and marriage happens to be the subject of the night and while I don’t expect to come to any major conclusions tonight I was encouraged to open my email and find a new post by my favorite blogger Zach Hoag and his post about being a Jesus Feminist.

Feminist is such a dirty word isn’t it? But I like it. It means freedom to me. Freedom to come to the covenant table with Christ and be accepted for ALL of me. The strong parts of me, the gifts and talents that don’t mesh with the ‘traditional’ gender roles as church culture has painted them for the last thousand years, those parts of me are welcome in the kingdom of God.

I sometimes get flack from my anti-feminist, conservative friends for not being married…There are, I confess, a lot of mixed messages about marriage, about what will or won’t work. What makes a good wife? How do you be a good wife? It has throughout the years been called into question whether I would make a good wife. And this as much by myself as by other people. The kingdom of God is much more straightforward than marriage. The gender lines less rigid. I have finally realized that in the kingdom of God my personality, my strong, leadership qualities, insightful voice, and passionate dreams are not only welcome, but celebrated. I don’t have to keep them in the background and pretend they don’t exist or act like I’m ashamed of them. (sorry Jesus, I’m strong and passionate…but I’ll try to submit so as not to threaten your security in our relationship) In marriage I don’t have that assurance. And when compared with the need for kingdom workers I look at the old gender roles in marriage and think “ain’t nobody got time for that!”.

Is it any wonder that I chose ministry before marriage?

The kicker is that I’m starting to understand that marriage and ministry is not an either/or proposition. Being a ‘good wife’ doesn’t require that I fulfill a specific gender role, or have to sacrifice my spiritual gifting on the altar of submission. There are people (men even!) who are secure enough in themselves and their identity in Christ to subscribe to a mutuality of gender. That in Christ we are all one (first and foremost) and after that there is a mutual submission towards one another and towards Christ that serves as the guiding principle to all roles in the body. (not just women toward men) The specifics of that relationship are to be worked out between the two with respect and using (not hindering) the gifts of both parties. In this way, the trouble in marriage is not that we have forgotten the correct gender roles, but that we have forgotten the correct kingdom role. We have forgotten that submission and servanthood is for everyone in the kingdom (even the leaders). That we are to mutually love everyone in the body, and to invest in intimacy and honesty in all of our brothers and sisters. We ought to live on mission with one another; embracing and uplifting each others gifting so that we can mature and equip them for good works.

This is, perhaps, a high ideal. But it is the only one good enough. It is the one, I think, that allows God to come and work within relationships and within the body to transform our lives and establish his kingdom.

Rarely would anyone disagree with this mutuality in the body of Christ, why then do they disagree with it within marriage? I suspect that this has something to do with covenant and how we view our covenant with Christ, but more on that later…

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