Have you noticed that Christianity sometimes gets a bad rap when it comes to women? The notion that God has a specific and distinct plan for womanhood has offended people inside and outside the church.
Truth be told, there was a time in my life where those ideas ruffled my feathers. First Timothy 2:11-15, as well as other places in Scripture that deal with boundaries for women in the church, seemed, well, unfair. I came to realize, though, that the problem was with me and not with God’s plan. In fact, putting together bookcases actually taught me a lesson about why God’s design is good news for women.
The Master Designer
Have you ever tried to put together store-bought furniture on your own? When I attempted it, my living room looked like a carpenter’s shop exploded. Tears happened. Patience was severely tested. Band-Aids had to be employed. However, when I look at those bookcases today, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
The secret I discovered in putting those bookcases together is that it is vital that I closely follow the directions provided by the manufacturer. I have absolutely no skills that enable me to be a master bookcase assembler. Yet, as long as I did exactly what the directions said, bookcases slowly emerged from the many odd-shaped pieces I was provided. A few times I thought the directions seemed silly, so I went off in my own direction, only to discover that I was the silly one. My “brilliant” idea only led to shelves that would not fit properly in their designated slots.
You see, someone designed those bookcases. This person then provided meticulous directions on how they were to be assembled. In those moments where I veered from the directions, I was essentially saying (in my mind) that I thought I knew better than the person who designed the bookcase, the person who had a plan for how every piece was meant to be used.
As senseless as it was for me to go off on my own path with those bookcases, how much more so when I say to God that I am going to do my own thing and ignore His directions and design for my life and His church? God is the Master Designer. He made each one of us and fashioned us (Psalm 119:73).
Like any good designer, God has the blueprints for how we fit together as the church, and these blueprints are found in the Bible. Do you ever find yourself wanting to do your own thing and ignoring God’s design? The end result will be worse than a few ill-fitting shelves on a bookcase.
God fashioned you. He loves you. It just makes sense, then, that we would follow His blueprints for how to serve within the church.
God intentionally created men and women as distinct, yet complementary beings (Genesis 1:27; 2:18). He did not create us haphazardly or in some willy-nilly fashion. While both men and women are given the responsibility of being God’s image-bearers to the rest of creation (Genesis 1:27), God had a specific purpose in mind when He created Eve—she was to be a “helper” for Adam (Genesis 2:18, 20). Being a helper does not mean that Eve was inferior to Adam in any way. It means that, from the very beginning, God had a plan and purpose in creating two distinct genders. Men and women need each other; they are “interdependent” (1 Cor 11:11) but not interchangeable with each other. These distinct roles for women and men were a part of God’s good plan before sin entered the world.
When it comes to how women serve in the church, I have found it helpful to remember some foundational truths. Here are eight things to remember as you approach this sometimes heated topic:
- True Christianity has raised the dignity of women. Whereas some societies, and even some religions, have treated women as property, the Bible teaches that women, just like men, are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-31).
- Christianity teaches that while both women and men are sinners, Jesus loved us enough to make a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and to have a relationship with God (John 3:16).
- The Creator has a blueprint for the Church. We may not always understand or, at times, even like the plan, but we can and should trust the Plan-Maker (Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 Corinthians 12).
- God has designed each of us and equipped us as He has pleased—it’s not about us; it’s about Him (1 Corinthians 12:18).
- Women and men are called to be a living witness of the goodness of God’s design by living obedient lives (Ephesians 4:1).
- The Church needs each member of the body—men and women, boys and girls—working together to build each other up (Ephesians 4:12).
- Despite the fact that there are some distinctions between men and women in terms of their roles within the church, the Bible is clear that both are equal in terms of their worth before God and in terms of the inheritance they have in Christ (1 Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28). Neither sex is more loved or more valued or more important than the other.
- While women have been given two boundaries within ministry (not to teach men in the church or have authority over men in the church, 1 Timothy 2:12), there is a vast field of ministry women can and should do (Titus 2:3-5).
At the end of the day, God’s design for the church will be accomplished whether we choose to be obedient to Him or not. However, isn’t it cool that He wants to use us? And, doesn’t it just make sense to do things His way? He is, after all, the Master Designer.
Candi Finch is Assistant Professor of Theology in Women's Studies, Dorothy Kelley Patterson Chair of Women’s Studies, and Executive Assistant to the First Lady at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.