by Ella Corey
When addressing gender roles from a Biblical perspective you get lots of answers. These can range from man-hating activists to woman-oppressing extremists. However, you will see two prominent opposing sides: egalitarian vs. complementarian. Both categories are deep, heavy and have strong supporters with them. Also, both require lots of studying humans and lots of Biblical context and evidence. Here, I am going to dive into what each side looks like and how to approach the other with love.
The egalitarian side of Christian gender roles is known as being the more feminist of the two. Theologian Carolyn Curtis James says that egalitarians “believe that leadership is not determined by gender but by the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit, and that God calls all believers to submit to one another.” Thus, egalitarians are known for focusing on the Holy Spirit’s gifting in leadership rather than gender defining who takes what role. However, many know them as man hating, or people who do not see gender. While this may be true for some extreme egalitarians, this is not the basis of their beliefs. They do believe, though, that women can be pastors and leaders, and marriage is lead by Christ, not necessarily by men.
The complementarian side of Christian gender roles is the opposite, of course. They “believe the Bible establishes male authority over women, making male leadership the biblical standard,” says James again. Complementarian’s believe that the man should be the head of a marriage and a household. Additionally, they believe God gave the right of leadership in the church also to men. Complementarian are often known as condoning women, seeing them as items and worthless. However, rather than not valuing women, a true Christian complementarian simply believes a woman should to submit to male leadership.
It’s okay to be in between
Okay, so both of these sides are very extreme. Where does that leave you? Where does that leave me? It is totally fine to be in-between. Kelly B. Trujillo, author for Christianity Today, coins this “complegaltarian,” because she also goes back and forth. Similar to political issues, no one will be completely on one side. Rather, everyone is instead somewhere in between (some closer than others). I even find myself teetering between the two occasionally. It is important to remember that being in between is normal and okay. You do not need to take a side. This subject matter is hefty and requires a lot of research before properly coming to a conclusion. It’s a spectrum that you can rank on, you do not need to pick sides and be an extremist.
Don’t go with your gut
While this issue involves many heartaches and emotional ties, it is important to think about your decision on this logically, rather than strictly sticking with your opinioin. Personally, this topic tempts me to flee towards what is comfortable, and which side I feel more inclined to. However, I must know that there is more to this than my gut. There is an entire Bible of context and literature that backs up both sides better than my intuition can. Because of this, I need to search Truth there, rather than listening to my gut. Likewise, I encourage you to do the same. Form opinions based off of Truth, rather than what you hear and what sounds nice.
“Love one another”
Lastly, it is important—especially with such a touchy topic—to love thy neighbor regardless if their opinion is different from yours. Love is far more important than they basis of an argument. Love is more important than winning a debate. Love is more important than having the entire historical context of Ephesians 5 memorized. Without love, you have missed the entirety of the Gospel.
Thus, next time you encounter someone with a different opinion than you do, try your best to understand and love them. Know that they just have a different opinion, and your goal is to love and reflect Christ to your best ability.