Socially constructed gender norms have produced gender inequalities which clip wings and dwarf personalities. While gender injustice is the fallout of the Fall, deep-rooted gender prejudices masquerading as Scriptural arise from a failure to let Scripture interpret itself to reveal God’s big story. The overarching narrative of Scripture is God’s kingdom being lost to humans through Sin, and Jesus through His death and resurrection restoring this Kingdom. He now partners with those redeemed in growing His kingdom and healing the brokenness of this world. The finished work on the cross and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth through transformed lives and churches capable of transforming society is now God’s unceasing work of restoration.
Long before Jesus introduced a counter-cultural kingdom, God included women who had faced injustice and abuse into Jesus’ earthly lineage. Mary’s reaction to the annunciation contrasts with that of the learned officiating male priest Zachariah to a similar announcement, revealing her understanding of God’s purposes. Jesus’ theological discussion on worship with a woman of questionable character makes her His ambassador. Women disciples travelled with and provided financial support for his ministry. They remained at the cross while the male disciples fled, ‘sharing in Jesus’s suffering’ and ‘in His glory’ long before Pauline theology explained it. The democratization of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost visibly ushered in the Kingdom of God.
The distortion of the distinctiveness and complementarity of the two sexes through gendered overtones is sin’s effect on creation. Much prejudice against women is rooted in seeing Eve as the one who was tempted and Adam as an unwilling participant in the Fall. God addresses Adam and Eve together in Genesis 1-2 as he gives out blessings and responsibilities. However, God’s words to Eve about child-bearing and her subjugation is His predictive pronouncement of Sin’s effect on the man-woman relationship and not a prescriptive curse. The guilt imputed by prejudice on women as the first to sin is removed as man and woman are co-participants in the Fall. Further, the “whoever” in John 3:16 and the “all” in Romans 3:23 are inclusive of genders.
A common argument for male hierarchy is Scripture’s use of masculine terminology for God and Jesus’s incarnation as male. But God is Spirit (non-matter) and God is Love (relational). The creation order, rather than denoting hierarchy, highlights the complementarity of the sexes to be image bearers together. The glory of Christian marriage is that husband and wife together represent God to the world. The Fall facilitated the misrepresentation of who God is, positioning man-woman as competitors instead of co-workers. God’s relational nature is built into His kingdom and His redemptive act demolishes hierarchical structures of gender (male & female), culture (Jew & Gentile), power (slave & free), emphasizing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit based on grace and faith alone (Ep.2:8-9). The Old Testament covenant of circumcision restricted to men becomes the empowering covenant of Baptism & Holy Spirit dispensed to both men and women. The damage of Genesis 3 is redeemed in Acts 2 and this process of restoration continues today! Participating with God in ushering in the new order of equality and justice is the greatest calling we have. The mandate for us is to make our homes and churches launch pads of the charter of the Kingdom of Jesus! The influence of non-biblical worldviews over sound theology has resulted in the worldview that accords dignity to humans also being used to oppress them. Now more than ever, the church should take the Word into the world and become a safe place where human equality and dignity are foundational.
Janet and her husband Prem live in Bangalore. She works as System administrator with The Survey of India. Janet is a participant of the TRACI Online Course on Gender and Biblical Equality.