Reader Response: On Marriage, Gender Roles, Submission, Scripture, God’s Sovereignty & Grace

Reader Response: On Marriage, Gender Roles, Submission, Scripture, God’s Sovereignty & Grace

One of the most popular and controversial posts on my little blog is Lowly Woman: Cook, Clean, Make Babies & SUBMIT to Your Husband.

Tonight, the post received a comment that I really appreciated. I really enjoy interacting with my few readers!

I started writing an email response to him, but it got pretty long so I thought I would just publish it as a blog post. In order to full appreciate the context, you might want to read the complete referenced post.

“Brandon” submitted the following comment:

Hi, this is in response to your post: “Lowly Woman: Cook, Clean, Make Babies & SUBMIT to Your Husband“. My wife, we are both new too our faith, has taken the scriptures on a wife’s role distressingly. There have been many times when she comes to me in tears and we seem unable to find “adequate” answers through praying or other knowledgeable Christians.

Her biggest issue is why God declares that women can’t be spiritual leaders like pastors in a church and why did He deem that only men should have leadership roles? Honestly, it is a bit unsettling for me as well. I try to tell her and myself that it has nothing to do with superiority but I guess we are still blinded by our human perceptions of pride and worth.

If you have any input on this it would be much appreciated. Thank you.

First of all, Brandon… thank you for writing!! I really appreciate your thoughts, honesty, and the desires in your message. I sense a real “seeker’s heart”. Thirst for God’s truth is awesome.

I hope this is not too disappointing, but I will not have a magical cohesive and conclusive answer for you. However, I am humbled to share some of the thoughts and considerations. Some of the thoughts below may seem like “cop outs”… but, I don’t think they are.

I struggle with some of these things too. I am extremely certain I will struggle with many of these or similar questions until I meet Jesus. Then, I’m not sure how much the answers will matter.

IMPORTANT: My comments below are not me talking “at” you, but “with” you. I struggle with tone sometimes. I share these thoughts as a fellow sinner and someone who desire’s more of God in my mind, heart, and actions.

What Explanation is “Adequate” Enough?

Part of the difficulty is we want “adequate” answers. What we often really mean is we want Scripture to agree with us. Sometimes that honestly isn’t the case, but we still have no bar or scope for “adequate”.

What would be a “good enough” answer? Even when scripture instructs us directly on topics, we often just do not like what it has to say and do not want to trust (a.k.a. obey) God.

There is interesting sin in this too: “God, what you have given me isn’t good enough to trust you… I demand more”. God has given us the Holy Bible, which is one story about the redemption of humanity through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Bible was literally penned in time and space from within eternity by the creator of life, through the Holy Spirit.

As if that was not “good” enough, he gave us the Holy Spirit to instruct, counsel, admonish, and direct us. The power of the living, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God of existence is at our disposal for the purpose of His glory among the nations. Wowsa!

The greatest miracle of all is that God evened revealed himself to us. Not only did he reveal himself to us… but he actually loves us.

The fact that we seek “adequate” answers partly points out to why God is so awesome.

Trusting God’s Sovereignty

I think this may be one of those areas where you/we need to trust in God’s sovereignty and where you will have to actively exhibit faith and submission to God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

If we really believe that God’s thoughts / ways are higher than ours, then there will be points where we stop trying to demand or think we can fully understand Him. We will still pursue knowledge of, obey, observe [in Scripture], intentionally serve,and worship of Him, but in that… the focus is on him, not on us.

As we focus on Him in these ways, he promises that our heart and minds will be transformed into Christ-likeness. As this happens, more closely conform to His. Also, there are times where we have to simply trust his design. God never promises understanding, but he promises peace if we trust and worship Christ.

The following statement sounds cheesy, but it is nonetheless true. Something we could truly fully and comprehensively understand wouldn’t really be worth any worship. It surely wouldn’t be a soverign God.

God is God. He operates beyond our understanding and far beyond the need for our approval.

The role of man / woman is much easier for me to understand than many stories from the Old Testament, such as Passover, the flood, Sodom / Gamora, the life of Job,  the story of Jonah, etc etc.

Approaching Scripture with an Agenda

Often we come to scripture with an agenda to prove or disprove something… and that is an inappropriate way to approach scripture. We want scripture to agree with us. I absolutely believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but that does not mean I understand most of it.

There are many mysteries we will never truly understand. This is not a cop-out… perhaps this is faith?

In the context of your question about men / women / pastors / headship… scripture affirms the man’s role in marriage and the office of pastoral overseer / elder as being intended for men in quite a few places in scripture. This means God cared enough to affirm it multiple times in scripture. This fact could actually make the truth exciting and a reason to praise God and thank him for educating us.

After all, he alone knows his own intentions. He is the designer and creator, so he determines the purposes of his creation. You might appreciate reading Jeremiah 18, “The Potter & the Clay”.

Praise God that God is God & Good

If we assume Scripture is right, the default of the repentant and regenerated heart is the belief that we are wrong and God is right. God knows more than we do. If we believe in his Goodness (which we can through the work of Christ), then we can celebrate his instruction. If we assume God is God and that God is good (even when our minds and hearts fight against us), our hearts are moved toward humility / marveling at God, and away from pride / arrogance / self-indulgence / self-focus.

In some of these contexts, as we humble ourselves before God and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s heart, personality, commands, love, and encouragement from Scripture… our focus changes. God changes us as we focus on him.

Our Answers May be Questions that Focus on Him

For example, in the struggle regarding gender roles and humble-servant-headship, as we stop demanding further explanation from God and focus on Him, we start celebrating God’s design for roles of men and women (equal worth, different responsibilities). We can ask:

  • What can this teach us about who God is, his personality, his design, and how he loves?
  • What does this reveal about the relationship between Christ and the church?  In this context, we are thankful of Christ’s headship, not resentful of it. 
  • How can I pray about this?
  • Am I being prideful / arrogant / demanding of God? (Then we should ask His forgiveness).
  • How can I submit to these truths?
  • Is this in line with the big story of scripture and Christ’s life and teaching??
  • How can I grow in humility toward scripture and others?
  • Isn’t it awesome that God shared these truths with us?

As we look at God as a loving Father, we grow in worship and appreciation of his design and instruction.

The funny “turn” in this is these are the actual answers… marveling at and focusing on Him. Yes, that means the answers may actually be questions. Haha! These questions are opportunities to worship God. 

Here is a simple and overused (and potentially mediocre) illustration to explore this:

Can you imagine demanding this explanation from your Dad… “WHY can’t I jump into this bonfire? It looks awesome. It is pretty and enticing! I know you say bad things might happen… but I don’t believe you. I understand that you fell into a fire and most of your body is covered in scars and you say you know about this, but why is that how it has to be? Will you please give me more evidence? Your experience and the hotness of being near the fire is not adequate”.

Dad responds: “Son, I love you. I know the pain that will come from this. I love you so much. I really do. Please trust me. You will be thankful. I know how this is supposed to work.”

We spend our lives hopping in the fire anyway. Somehow, God still loves us and offers us Grace. Isn’t that crazy? It surely isn’t deserved. It’s grace

I would encourage you to read Isaiah and Psalms. These books contain the cries, questions, and celebration of people with similar struggles understanding and worshiping God.

It’s not really up to us to like or agree with God. As we worship Christ, however, we will do so. This is the journey of sanctification.

The Sufficiency of God’s Grace

I feel led to conclude this response with simple and powerful scripture that is on my heart for you and prayer.

God promises peace, and tells us his grace (not his explanation or our understanding) is sufficient.

… So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Hopefully something in here has been helpful or beneficial for you. I’m not a scholar… but I surely enjoy worshiping and sharing about Jesus.

A Prayer for Brandon & His Wife

Dear God, I thank you for the opportunity to digitally connect with people and share about your love, scripture, your grace, and the life / death / resurrection of Jesus. I thank you for Brandon and his wife’s desire to know you deeply. Please continue growing Brandon into a man that desires to lead His family in prayer, reading of scripture, and in connection with body of believers. Please continue growing Brandon into a man that is easy to submit to. Help him grow in his submission to you, and in his appropriate submission to and service of his wife. Help them (and me!) grow in humility.

I thank you for the passion it seems they have for your seeking truth. I ask that you continue revealing yourself and Christ’s love to them through scripture, prayer and community. Help them and myself grow in worship of you. Help them be able to identify with the enemy is trying to separate them from you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit… please continue instructing them on the meaning and truth of scripture so it can change them, so they can glorify you in their relationships with others. Help them feel the grace and love you freely and openly offer as a Father, through Jesus. Help them grow in peace about the topic he wrote me about. Help them grow in the discipline of holding their minds and thoughts captive. I also pray a blessing over their marriage. I pray they grow closer in their marriage through their worship of you.

Amen

Resource Suggestions

Here are a couple quick book suggestions for you.

Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism by D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Wayne Gruden

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim & Kathy Keller

 

  1. Brandon says:

    Great post! This is exactly what needed to be said because now I understand, not in a way that is “good enough” for me but because it’s truth. I understand that it is not necessarily wrong to doubt God’s plans for us but by placing all trust and essentially faith in Him, we are able to grow closer to Him and just accept that things are the way they are because God made it so and that is “good enough”. Thank you so much for your time and quickness in replying. God bless.

  2. Jorja Stewart says:

    Well said!

  3. Vinson says:

    As as we so often tell women that there job is to submit and alloe the husband to submit too, we must surely telll the husbands that they are to be servant leasders to the wife and love her and honor her. God

    If we do not tell the whole truth, then we are not obeying God. We are just picking and choosing the parts of the Bible so that we can just worship and exalt husbands.
    This is wrong and we must tell husbands what their awesome respoonsibilities are to their wives.
    Women get tired of being choked with the lecturing about respect and submit. Please be fair. Lecture men as well. Men are sinful mortals, just like women.

  4. Chris Collins says:

    It is good to discuss these things especially in the light of Scriptures 🙂 Men and women are made in unique ways and to discuss differences is a good way of leading each other to understanding and accepting how God designed them. God bless your marriage and God bless you author for sharing this!

  5. Mikk says:

    Like Brandon I’ve been struggling lately with how the bible or my local pastor represents my wife’s role in the home. We’re currently taking a bible based parenting class and the pastor seemed quite adamant that when both my wife and I are present in the home, that I as the father should always be the one disciplining our children. I’m not quite sure I agree because I’ve seen the negative effects of this. I’ve seen my nieces and nephew no longer give any weight to what my sister says when disciplining them and only wait to hear what the father says. As such, I’m definitely weary about this approach. I definitely don’t want to go against what god says but it does make me wonder and want to study it further. Thanks for the post.

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