Jesus calls us to follow him. He makes no distinction between men and women.
He does not call women to follow him by “being anxious and troubled” about cooking and cleaning, and men to follow him by fishing.
He praised Mary, who sat at his feet and listened to his teaching– like a seminary student–for having chosen the better part, though she was certainly not “being busy at home”. It was Martha to whom she left “all the preparations,” “all the work,” who was playing “the woman’s role” whom He gently rebuked.
Nowhere in the Gospels are there distinct commands for women and for men.
Had Jesus intended distinct roles for men and women–women to run the home, and men to run the church and the world–He, being brilliant (as Dallas Willard points out in The Divine Conspiracy) would have said so. And his brilliant biographers would have recorded it.
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I have seen perfectly good teaching ministries get derailed when they venture into gender roles.
John Piper had a fresh take on discipleship when he described Christian hedonism—that following God is a hedonistic, joyful endeavour. However, when begins telling each gender their proper roles—things Jesus was silent on—things get very weird.
Similarly, John Eldredge wrote two excellent books, The Journey of Desire and The Sacred Romance. However, he and his wife get off-track when they talk about gender roles. Men, it seems, are Wild at Heart. As for Women, alas—oh, it’s embarrassing stuff– their chief desire is to be Captivating: “Every woman longs for three things: to be swept up into a romance, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to be the Beauty of the story. We wear perfume, paint our toenails, color our hair, and pierce our ears, all in an effort to be ever more beautiful.”
These are only partly true. I am quite as Wild at Heart as John Eldredge says men are. And it is terribly reductive to imagine that all women want nothing more than to be beautiful, or loved.
Though I would have hated to be single–or to have a facially disfiguring illness like Lucy Grealy’s which led to her suicide, or Natalie Kusz’s as described in Road Song–being beautiful is not central to my life, and never has been. I imagine I have this in common with thousands of ambitious women, who want to be writers and artists and mathematicians and actors–while not being averse to beauty.
And to thwart these God-given passions and gifts is cruel and unChristlike. Beauty is fleeting, as Peter and experience tell us. To focus on it is a doomed quest to grasp what is passing. Whereas a gentle and quiet spirit, or fascinating work, a passion: these are gifts which keep giving.
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Pay no attention to those men and women who maunder on about gender roles. Almost always, when I hear men speak or write about them, I hear a strong undercurrent of masculine insecurity (those putting women in their place are often middle-aged or aging men). And, no matter the gender of the speaker, I also hear sheer meanness, and the desire to control others, and make sure that 21st century women carry the cross 1st century women bore in all its burdensomeness.
If a man tells a women what she should do, tell him to mind his own business, and speak on subjects he has some experience of. And the woman who flies around the country, and writes dreadful books telling other women to clean, and cook, and stay home with the kids and submit to their husbands, just ignore her. Or tell her to be quiet, (you can quote Paul here) and go home and do likewise.
If she does, she will soon discover that a woman is awake for 16 hours and that running a home efficiently does not take 16 hours a day or 8 or 4.
Let us each do what we have to do for domestic order and shalom swiftly and minimalistically, and then busy ourselves with “the better part.”
And what that “the better part” might be in each woman’s life will have to be worked out between her and Jesus, while she steadfastly ignores the voices of all theological bullies who pronounce on gender roles.