Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Monday, October 15, 2007

Know Your Place

"Christian women should know their place."

There, I said it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that if they don't "know their place" they cannot minister effectively.

Of course, I could also say the same thing of Christian men. They must "know their place" if they are to minister effectively.

Now, by knowing one's place, I am not talking about knowing which, if any, roles in marriage and the church are the exclusive province of one gender or the other. That's where there is certainly room for reasoned debate. But there should be no debate about the importance of knowing our place as believers. In fact, it is only when we know our place in that sense that we can find the humility and security we need to debate the "complegalitarian" question constructively.

It seems to me that too much of this discussion centers around men and women trying to tell each other to "know their place" in the first sense of knowing one's proper role. But the places, the spheres, the stations, and roles we are concerned about defining, however important those may be, are not the ones which will ultimately help us to reflect Christ in our marriages and in our churches.

One of the most fascinating passages to me has always been John 13:3-4, which tells us that Jesus was able to wash his disciples' feet precisely because he knew his place:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. . .

Jesus was able to humble himself, serve, submit, and lay down his life for his church precisely because he knew who he was and that he ultimately had nothing to lose. In Christ, we ultimately have nothing to lose. We have come from God (been "born from above") and are returning to him. Consequently, whatever we understand the Bible to be saying about leadership and gender roles, our own calling is clear: "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).

Ephesians 5 clearly describes the Christian marriage as one where husband and wife are not serving themselves, but one another. This is only possible when we realize that in Christ we ultimately have nothing to lose. We can afford to put the other first because we know that even if they do not reciprocate in kind, God in Christ has already given us everything we need.

Likewise, 1 Corinthians stresses the importance of "one anothering" in the context of the church. It is not that we don't have the "right" to eat, or drink, or speak, or exercise our spiritual gifts; it is merely that we are called to set those rights aside whenever they would be disruptive, harmful to others, or harmful to the name and reputation of Christ.

Whether we are men or women, as believers we have been wonderfully exalted with Christ (see Ephesians 1). We have come from God, are returning to God, and have graciously been given everything we need, both in this life and in the one to come. Yet we have been exalted not so that we can clothe ourselves in purple and carry a scepter. On the contrary, we are to clothe ourselves with a towel and carry a basin. Whether men or women, egalitarian or complementarian, that is our place as believers. Until we know it, we cannot minister to one another effectively.