Unless you’ve been blissfully disconnected from social media of late, you’re probably aware that the debate over women in ministry is making the rounds…again. Whenever you find this type of controversy, you can also count on finding this unfortunate result: confusing the substance of a theological view with the spirit in which that view is communicated.
In all candor, hearing someone articulate a doctrinal stance with ungracious and tactless words can be disillusioning; if loving our neighbor confirms the authenticity of our faith, surely it should also confirm the authenticity of our teaching. One can only hope that the agent of those words is unaware of the damage done to those wrestling with the theological concepts – and to the teachers who labor to communicate those concepts with grace and winsomeness.
Scripture gives us all we need regarding the ministry of women in the church, and we do well to revisit the passages that address the topic of church order and leadership (1 Timothy 2:9-15; Titus).
But the Bible also gives us an additional pattern by which we can discern God’s truth from man’s tone: how Jesus treated women.
A Look at Jesus’ Conduct
You will not find a passage in the Bible where Jesus is irritated by a woman’s presence, where He talks down to her in condescension, or where He regards her questions as less important than those of His male disciples. You will not find a passage in the Bible where He makes a woman the butt of a joke or an object of scorn. You will not even find a passage in the Bible where He rebukes a woman with the same degree of astringency as He did men.
Instead, you will find a Savior who engaged a woman’s theological questions with intellectual rigor (John 4:1-11), who regarded women as persons not as temptresses, who intervened to shield them from shame (John 8), who corrected with tenderness, and who, in the middle of excruciating torture, made sure someone would take care of his widowed mom (John 19:26-27). He neither dealt with women as “one of the guys” nor dismissed them as “just women”. And it bothered Him to see a woman cry (Luke 7:12-14).
No social, or cultural custom could prevent Him from looking a woman in the eye. No sordid past could prevent Him from regarding a woman as an image-bearer of God. No theological error could prevent Him from speaking to a woman with gentleness (Matthew 20:20-28).
Don’t Forget to Be Christian
In her speech, “Are Women Human?” Dorothy Sayers said it this way:
Perhaps is it no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher…who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy dignity to defend; who took them as He found them and was completely unselfconscious…[N]obody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.
As we discuss the role of women within the Bride of Christ, let us not forget the Bridegroom in whose image we must be conformed. As we uphold the teachings of Christ, let us not forget to be Christian.