Because women in the twenty-first century [in the U.S.] have basic human rights, we often take for granted the revolutionary aspect of Jesus’ bold efforts to elevate women in a society that degraded them. What seems like a normal action to us—Jesus intimate conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, for example—was really a dramatic act in a culture in which it was inappropriate for a man to speak with a woman in public.
Occasionally, I get a call from a guy who wants to visit our faith community. During the discussion I always point out that our gatherings are participatory and inclusive just to make sure that we aren’t being checked out by somebody that has a problem with women. There are guys like that out there looking for that little pocket of orthodoxy that fits his idea of what the “true church” is, a place where he is safe from the contributions of the sisters. It is what such men call a “biblical” church.
I have no patience with these guys. Here’s how I see it:
If wives are not regarded in the equality of the Spirit, then husbands, in the weakness of their flesh often will attempt to enforce balance in the relationship by what I call “New Testament Law,” a statutory approach to faith. Husbands should never expect to achieve by control a result that ought to be engendered by their own character. A godly wife should inspire men to greater maturity not intimidate them to inactivity or domination. Inspiration draws the body (the church) upward. Intimidation leads to stubborn complacency in men and frustrated rebellion in women.
Men who feel the need to control the women in their lives would be better served by forgiving the women of their past and encouraging the women in their present rather than attempting to control them—seeking to be protected from them—via “statutes” drawn from the New Testament.