Gender, Submission, and Conformity

March 3, 2016 — 1 Corinthians 10:31–11:3

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Oh boy, here we go. This is the part of the show where I make someone mad. I trust all of you to hear me out and not make sweeping generalizations about my character or my regard for Scripture based on the things that I write about the next few days. If you hadn’t picked up on it now I have been using this space as a way of reflecting and meditating on Scripture. My thoughts are not necessarily fully developed, and I may come to different conclusions over time. I believe that certain parts of the church are uncomfortable with fluid beliefs. The Bible obviously takes some stance on the issues it writes about right? While I trust that the Bible is fully correct in every thing it is saying, I am completely certain that my interpretation is flawed in so many ways.

When it comes to discussions of headship often we make the mistake of looking at the passages in a systematic way, forgetting to remember the full context of the letter that those passages are written in. It is important to remember that Paul just has finished talking about the fact that we are permitted to do anything, but that doesn’t mean we are living our lives motivated by love. The most important thing that Paul has to say throughout the whole of his letter is that we ought not to fight for what we deserve, but rather for the betterment of others.

It is important to frame discussions of headship in light of what Paul just finished saying. He wants people to imitate his way of not offending others by his way of living. In all things he wants us to live in a way that does not draw attention to h0w we think we ought to do things, but rather on maintaining the order of the culture that believers are living in. Christians aren’t supposed to change the culture, they are to live as Christians in it.

For that reason I think we need to ease ourselves away from the binary of complementarianism and egalitarianism. I think that the Bible has something to say about men and women in regards to the relationship of Jesus and the Father (spoiler: I believe in the eternal sonship of Jesus). At the same time, I think that much of how we talk about gender and relationships are more about maintaining the culture of Bible times rather than the culture that we are living in now. As we talk about gender and marriage we ought to be asking what it means to live as Christian men and women in the culture that we live in now in order that we would be able to live peaceably among our neighbors.

The Bible should defy the binaries that we like to live our lives by. When it comes to how we should structure our society we are called to look to conforming rather than transforming. That feels weird and wrong to us, especially when we think things are going in the wrong direction. Ultimately our motivation needs to be love, and laying down what is ours in order that we would not be a stumbling block to those who would come to know, and be united to the person of Christ.