Submission of the Equal

When we think of men and women in the Church, we see guns drawn and aimed. It is a hot topic issue and has 2 main views competing for legitimacy. At the heart of the matter is status and roles.

For our purposes, let’s focus on Ephesians 5. It is the most comprehensive passage that is debated by both sides.

Ephesians 5 begins with a list of situations and things to do in those situations. If you pay attention, every verse builds to a climax to verse 21:

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:21, NLT

And then the chapter goes into a list of how family/house members should relate to each other. It keeps going to 6:9. At the surface it looks like the Complementarians have the say and we should all pack up shop and go home to live accordingly. But verse 21 stops that in its tracks.

The main clause that strikes the heart is to submit to one another. The reason this is so striking is that it asks us to submit. Let me explain.

To the Complementarian, although equality is found in salvation, hierarchy is necessary in practice. One cannot honor God when the “prescribed” hierarchy is mixed around or turned upside down.

To the Egalitarian, equality is something that can be pursued. Based on verse 21 and similar passages, we have to have equality and it is a worthy pursuit.

But turn back to verse 21. One point we must remember is that the verse asks us to submit, subject, or subordinate ourselves. What does this mean in the Ephesians context? It means that all people, regardless of gender or social role, are supposed to act in submission as Christians. Even the husband, who is told to love, is told to act in the context of just being to submit to his wife who is a believer.

So to the Complementarian, the roles are not as clear cut as we make it out to be. To the Egalitarian, it might be a little more than seeking equality. The answer is not in finding the right hierarchy or how high on the ladder. Neither is it seeking to be on the same rung on the ladder as someone else.

We must go down to the bottom of the ladder and we must ALL be trying to get to the bottom rung,

Because that is exactly what Jesus did (Philippians 2, Romans 15:8). He was God, but did not put on the big supernatural light show. He was the best of humans, and even the firstborn of humanity, and yet, he did not play big brother and suppress those who challenged him. He was a king that did not wield a sword but died at the hands of his enemies.

In light of Christ. Maybe we should make a new way. A way that says above all else, I submit in love towards God and my fellow-man.

What gender role paradigm do you prefer? What is it about Christ that challenges you? Do you think a third way is needed?

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