Westmont Magazine Lead Like Jesus
What is leadership supposed to look like in the body of Christ? In Matthew 20, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them — not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Rule which is literally the exercise of power over others is not a characteristic of the body of Christ or God’s kingdom. It is a characteristic of a fallen world.
Believers are called to serve one another in love and to submit to each other. We are to lead like Jesus leads, giving our lives for one another. If we lead like Jesus, serving the body sacrificially, who could possibly be disqualified from leadership in His body? A hierarchical structure of ownership, oppression, and control restricts ministry, not Jesus.
Helpers and servants submit themselves to one another, and that is a calling not just for wives, but for every person in the body of Christ. God did not order men to oppress women. Oppression reflects the enmity of the enemy. It is characteristic of the fallen world. Women who serve like Jesus are free to exercise all their gifts for the edification of the whole body of Christ.
A careful study of the word of God reveals that Jesus and Paul both stepped over all the social, cultural, racial and religious barriers, prejudices, oppression, and discrimination of their day to include and use women. Think how drastic that was in a society that oppressed women to the point that they were only possessions.
Telling husbands to love their wives, even to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ laid down his life for the church, was unheard of. How radical that Phoebe should be a deacon at the church in Cenchrea — no “ess” on the end of that word. It is the same word used of Paul and Timothy and Epaphras and Tychicus and so many others in the New Testament. She was an important servant in the church. How amazing that Junias should be called an apostle in Rome. Chrysostom in the fourth century speaks highly of her ministry. How unheard of that women should pray and prophesy in the public meeting at Corinth. No wonder Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11, “See that they continue to wear the veil so they don’t offend and hinder the message.” He says that in the light of chapter 10, in the light of becoming all things to all men that by all means we may reach some.
Paul struggled to bring women into a full inheritance in Christ out of a harsh and oppressive world. And he says that they should learn. He worked to guide them into developing the Christ-like qualities of leadership rather than emulating the abusive leadership with which they were so familiar.
Paul’s exhortations are more in the realm of including than forbidding, of releasing women from the bondage of a fallen world. He sets them free to reach for their potential in Jesus Christ without offending the culture in which they were so oppressed. We have taken these passages and erected a towering superstructure of doctrine about women from Eve to eternity that is inconsistent with the weight of scripture, often drawing lines that are arbitrary or illogical and don’t agree with God’s attitude about women or with his use of women.
Eve is called the mother of all the living. In a very real sense she bore her own redeemer. Sarah is called the mother of nations; God said kings would come from Sarah, including Jesus Christ, the king of kings. Deborah, a married woman, was a judge in Israel like Samuel was a judge, and a prophet in Israel like Isaiah or Jeremiah or Amos. Called of God to lead a nation, she calls herself a mother in Israel. Mary is called the mother of our Lord. Women, says Paul in 1 Timothy 5:2, should be treated as mothers and sisters of the body. I suggest that a body of believers that forbids its women operates dysfunctionally. It is missing the balance, the nurture, the wisdom and the input of its mothers.