Do you struggle with understanding gender roles and equality according to the Bible? Are you asking questions like, should a man rule over a woman? Is a man always supposed to be the head of a household? Does the Bible imply male hierarchy over gender equality? How can we interpret challenging scriptural passages in today’s world?
To find the answers to these questions, it’s imperative to look beyond one or two scriptures to understand God’s original plan, the impact sin had on male and female relationships, and how Jesus came to radically revolutionize the way the world views women.
Equality was God’s Original Plan
When seeking to understand whether it’s biblical for a man to rule over a woman, it’s essential to go back to the beginning. In Genesis 1, we learn about God’s original plan for gender equality.
Genesis 1:28-29 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”
From this passage, “it is clear that God has given man and woman joint dominion over creation… As the text makes very clear, Adam and Eve, who can be taken to represent the male and female sexes, have both been given dominion by God over creation” (Jesus and Women, p. 3). Equality was God’s original plan–not that man shall rule over a woman but that both have equal rule over creation.
Inequality was a Result of Sin
While God’s plan for equality is evident in Genesis 1, the confusion often comes just a few chapters later in Genesis 3. Genesis 3:16 says, “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’”
So, what happened? Why did we go from gender equality and equal dominion to now a man ruling over a woman? It’s simple: sin entered the picture. Gender inequality, therefore, is a result of sin and was never God’s original plan for His people.
Before sin entered the Garden of Eden, everything was perfect. However, everything changed after Adam and Eve caused the Fall of humanity by consuming the fruit of Good and Evil against God’s command. The Fall changed the human experience forever.
Restoration Between the Sexes was Part of Jesus’ Mission.
If you like this article you may want to read Jesus and Women.
While it may feel like all hope is lost for women if we stop at Genesis 3, Jesus brought new hope for restoration, harmony, and equality between the sexes during His time on the earth.
“What is… clear from the Genesis account of origins is that the underlying cause of the loss of all harmony in creation stems from that original loss, and that the restoration of harmony between the sexes will be essential to the restoration of the overall harmony of creation willed by the Trinitarian God. As a consequence, the healing of relationships between the sexes and the restoring of Trinitarian harmony would have to have been the main aim of the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ” (Jesus and Women, p. 4).
This truth is evident in New Testament scriptures that point to God’s original intent for equality between the sexes.
Galatians 3:26-28 states: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Ephesians 5:21 tells husbands and wives to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” From there, it goes on to explain what “submission” looks like for a man vs. a woman, but both are called to submit to one another, not one rule over another. A woman is called to “submit” to her husband by respecting his leadership. A man is called to “submit” to his wife by loving her unconditionally.
Both are a form of submission that creates harmony within a marriage. After all, when two people get married, they become “one” person. And a body can only have one “head.” Harmony could not exist between men and women if both fought to carry the same role. This was God’s intentional design–not that man shall rule over a woman but that there be equal submission to God’s perfect plan.
Jesus’ Treatment Toward Women Highlights His Plan to Bring Harmony to the Sexes.
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