Many understand the Bible to be written by authors inspired by God to record accurately what God is like and believes. But, the Bible was written over a thousand years ago in languages other than the interpreter so interpretations aren’t infallible and the writer is not available for further clarification. Unfortunately, opinions are not shared openly and gracefully so each can work out their own beliefs and relationship with their Creator. Supposed “truths” become more important than the main encouragement of the Bible that true freedom is loving others as yourself.
I am convinced the Bible reveals that roles in life are determined according to one’s gifts and not their gender. I have become rather dogmatic about such views but know I must meet the challenge that I give to others. What we believe are truths contained in the Bible are not more important than the love of our Creator and how we are encouraged to follow in God’s footsteps in our own relationships. Let me share my interpretative views and end by suggesting a model for how we can handle our personal views as to what we think God is like according to the Bible.
- Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is used to suggest God ordained separate gender roles and as you might suspect the men aren’t women’s helpers. The English implication of the word “helper” translated from the Hebrew word ezer is nowhere to be found in the Bible (2:18). Ezer is used of God and implies or often is translated as “strength” (Deut. 33:29).
- The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament is said to suggest that wives are subordinate or under the leadership of their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives (Eph. 5:22). But, mutual submission is a way of life for all followers to imitate Jesus: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). In verse 22 in the original manuscripts, Paul literally says: “wives to your husbands as to the Lord.” The verb missing is supplied from verse 21 so verse 22 is often translated “wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” If wives are under the leadership of their husbands, then we must also say church members are in subordination or under the leadership of one another (v. 21).
- I am convinced to believe the Bible teaches wives are in subjection to their husbands in a way husbands aren’t to their wives creates an environment most conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men throughout history.
Since interpretations are fallible, it is best to error on the side less prone to abuse. Equality is the least unclear to most. Mutual submission is impossible for men to twist to justify their subtle or blatant mistreatment of women. Lack of mutual accountability can be disastrous. Men often interpret leadership as making final decisions when there is a stalemate. Jesus suggested we lead by serving, so perhaps the man should always submit to the woman’s final decision. Truly, in any dyad relationship, there are many creative ways to resolve impasses. Couples can agree with the decision of the one with the most expertise in the area of conflict.
We all need a model for behaviors or priorities when it comes to interpretation. First, I would suggest when two debatable interpretations in Scripture exist, err on the side that portrays God as the most relational and rational to the human mind. Those who believe there is a God believe in the goodness of that God. Secondly, supposed truths are not more important than God’s hope for the world to love others as yourself. God only seeks to inspire and encourage us in such a journey. Many feel the Bible condemns homosexuality; I believe the Bible is silent about monogamous same gender relationships, so same or opposite sex committed relationships are between God and individuals. Regardless though what you believe, we should not declare any belief stands between God and one pursing God.