Definition of Equal

There are few things about me, some slight annoyances, that maybe aren’t common knowledge.  See, I don’t believe in gender roles.  I don’t believe that I ever have.  Women don’t have the job to cook, clean, and take care of the household.  And men are not required to provide.  I guess I am an egalitarian, in that I believe men and women are equal and that neither gender is superior or more important than the other.  The thing is, I grew up believing that this was common knowledge.  Because my parents are equal and my mother is a very feminist in her ways, I always assumed that women had proven their equality decades ago.  Which is why in my classes over the last few years I found it rather trivial to have entire sections dedicated to women in leadership and women in ministry.  Although I knew that there were some scholars who believe that women truly are lower than men, I always considered their beliefs on the matter as unimportant, because they could not be proven.  I never thought I would encounter someone who saw me, as a woman, below them simply because I am female.  When I jokingly implied that he did not believe men and women are equal he said of course that they weren’t.  To be equal is to be the same, and men and women are not the same.  He believes the definition of equal is to be “the same,” and although that is part of the definition, it is not the whole definition.  Even though men are men and women are women, and they cannot be mistaken for one another, this does not lessen their equality in any way.  To be equal, according to the dictionary definition, is to have the same rights, status, or opportunities.  So to dumb down the meaning to simply being the same is an insult to anyone who has ever had to fight for their rights.  We are not numbers in a math problem; we are human beings.  All humans are unique; there is no identical DNA, so saying that women and men are not equal because they are not “the same” is to say that no two people are equal at all.  In Genesis 1:27 it says that God created adam (the Hebrew word for man, or human) in His own image; male and female He created them.  We are all equally created in God’s image, so are we not equal in the most important sense of reality?  I believe that this makes us equal on every standpoint.

Now, it appears I have gotten ahead of myself.  I was talking about annoyances.  There are two other things that annoy me when I have to use them, even though I see them as necessary.  I hate apologetics, and I hate discussing theology.  Why?  Simply because I am horrible at arguing when I see my point clearly.  I am good at seeing both sides, but when others are as stubborn as I am when I believe I am right, I get frustrated and tongue tied.  So when I find that all the other people in the room have been indoctrinated and forced into some gender role mold, my frustration grows and I would rather leave than cause a rift in someone’s faith.  I think that arguing theology among Christians causes way more problems than it solves.  There are so many things that we can never know for sure, such as predestination or the security of the believer.  I know what I believe on the subjects, but I don’t see the point in getting into an argument over it, because it affects my salvation in no way.  What I’m saying is that the only important things that we can know for sure is that God created us, we sinned, God loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins, and Christ then rose from the dead, thus conquering death.  That is salvation.  All else eventually fades.

Back to what I was saying about women in leadership.  Jim W. Adams, one of my former professors, pointed out to me that many scholars believe women to be in a subservient role to men because they were created second.  Genesis 2:18 says that adam was not meant to be alone, so God created a companion.  However, using this created order as means falls flat, as humans were the last thing that God created.  Using this logic, man is lower than all other created thing.  And using the created order in the opposite direction, making man the pinnacle of all creation, as he was created last, in actuality makes woman the pinnacle of all creation.  This is not the case either.  If one follows the narrative, there was no helper among the animals to match Adam, thus suggesting equality.  Woman was created to be his helper in equality.  No hierarchy is suggested in the Genesis text.
When Jesus came to earth, he came as a social revolutionist.  Other self-proclaimed Messiah’s tried to overthrow the government, but Jesus instead demonstrated how humans should relate to one another.  He does not discuss how women and men should relate, but instead shows how they should relate.  In His time, women were treated and viewed in negative terms.  Jesus instead treated women with dignity and respect, showing how God thinks about women and how significant and valuable women are among the people of God.  In His parables, Jesus even uses women the represent God, such as the parable of the yeast in Matthew 13:33 or the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10.  In that time women were forced into the domestic roles of housewife and mother, much like where some people believe women still belong today.  However, Jesus invited women to be His disciples, in equal standing with men.  An example of this is the Mary and Martha story in Luke 10:38-42.  Mary takes the posture of a disciple and sits eagerly at Jesus’ feet while Martha is busying herself with domestic work.  Jesus corrects Martha when she complains, saying that Mary chose the thing that was needed.
Jim W. Adams goes on the point out the most remarkable of revelations.  Throughout the trial of Christ, before, during, and after His crucifixion, it is the women who stay close, when all of the male disciples virtually vanish from the scene.  When Jesus is raised from the dead, the first people He appears to are His women disciples, who unhesitantly believe and then rush to tell the 12.  However, the 12 are at first doubtful.  The funny thing about this situation is that women are the first to preach the Gospel, whereas the first recipients of the Gospel message are men.
The question as to why women are not then considered equal to men, even after the previously mentioned accounts found in Matthew 28 and in Luke 24, is one the baffles me.  The big verse that allows women to be squashed in patriarchy is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.  For  Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”  Apparently when looking at ministerial leadership, scholars have allowed for Paul to trump the Son of God.  Decisions on interpretation come from direct commands, which Paul gives in his letters, rather than what is seen in narrative.  This one passage in Timothy has become the end-all for women’s roles in the Church, even though Paul, the author, does not even hold a consistent conclusion on women’s role.
In Philippians 4:2, Euodia and Syntyche are asked to live in harmony as they lead, rather than rebuked for holding leadership roles.  Paul holds these two women, in verse 3, as equal standing with him when he calls them his fellow workers.  Within other letters Paul urges believers to submit to his fellow workers, which we see obviously include women.  The mark of the Christian is no longer circumcision, but rather it is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit decides leadership and gifts, rather than gender.
When Paul asks that the women in the Ephesian church to then learn in quietness, he means to take a quiet posture as they learn, rather than one of arrogance that interrupts.  He says he does not allow for a woman to have authority over a man, but the Greek word he uses for authority as a rare one, authenteo.  This puts authority in a negative connotation of usurping or domineering authority.  Looking at the situation, this text suggests that women were trying to take the authority away from the men, instead of leading in equality.

I could keep going, but this blog has already gone on much longer than my usual.  What is important to remember in any interpretation is the original purpose for the text, because although it is Scripture, Paul’s letters are also situational.  You should not zoom in on one text without looking at its purpose.  That is how confusion happens are people are led astray.  But I digress.  If you would like a continuation of this study, or have questions that I can answer, I guess let me know via comments.  However, although I did graduate from a Bible college with my degree in Transformational Ministry, I do not consider myself a scholar, so answering questions may be hard for me.  A majority of my research was influenced by Jim W. Adams and his article entitled “Reflections on Biblical Interpretation, Women, Men, and Leadership in the Church.”  Another blogger to check out, who is much more knowledgeable than I am in this subject would be Rachel Held Evans.  She is a blogger who discusses theology in depth.

I always become very nervous when discussing topics that are so much bigger than myself, so I hope that this comes across clearly and not as something that is offensive.  I just really don’t like being put in a mold simply because I am female.

2 thoughts on “Definition of Equal

  1. Hope Stoddard

    I’m sitting here, reading this article with full love in my heart, and I’m almost in tears. Having been squashed into roles my culture has taught me to believe that’s all I’m for, I’ve been left more bitter towards inequality that I’d like to admit. This was a beautiful statement describing everything I’ve ever debated against those who have told me that I’m worth less because of my gender. This deserves so much recognition. Thank you for writing this; this beautiful, eloquent, incredible statement on true equality. Thank you.

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