By definition, a gatekeeper will limit the freedom of others, allowing people to enter or turning them away. In post 1 of 3, I looked at Jesus as a Gatekeeper (John 10:9) and in post 2 of 3, I celebrated good gatekeepers who allow people of all races and gender to enter and enjoy life to the full. Today is post 3 of 3 where we look at the impact of bad gatekeeping.
Enter through the gate and you will be asked to serve one another in love. As gatekeeper, Jesus opens the gate and gives you the freedom to choose to enter the gate or not. A human who closes the gate or limits the freedoms of others is usurping God's authority as a gatekeeper. Does anyone other than God control you? Our freedoms end where the freedoms of another start.
As parents, we may open the gate for our children to learn about God, but once they become an adult, they have the freedom to work out for themselves what they believe. They may be influenced by their peers, education, teachers, co-workers, and various church leaders.
As we were busy raising our children and working in our business careers, I did not notice the new organizations and publications trending towards women having a reduced role in churches. I had not heard of the term Complementarian to describe a biblical view of patriarchy. I had not heard of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which promotes the view that, while women have equal value, they are precluded from certain roles due to their gender, including roles in leading, teaching, or preaching. I didn't realize that Focus on the Family provided resources that help men, not women. I didn't realize that some Christians had changed ancient Christian beliefs about the Holy Trinity and God's design.
Don't get me wrong. I celebrate any woman who uses her freedom to be a full-time homemaker or prefers to work behind the scenes. Fantastic, if you are called to serve in the kitchen or in children's ministries. I also celebrate men who want to be a homemaker, take parental leave, or work behind the scenes in the kitchen or in children's ministries. I also admire both men and women who have the talent to lead, sing, pray aloud, speak, write and preach. Many times, these activities come by circumstance: health, ability, talent, or professional opportunities. Other times, performing these activities is not by choice but comes about by necessity or disability.
It is okay if you feel called to take a back seat in the community, focus on your home and family, or have a more quiet or submissive role. It is also okay if you are gifted and called for a role in leadership, speaking, teaching, writing, preaching, counselling or advising.
It is not okay if others use power and dominance to control or hurt you. It is not okay if others insult or shame you. It is not okay to be forced into a role unsuited to your gifts. It is not okay to be silenced and isolated. Domestic abuse can be caused by one spouse having more power, exerting control, and believing they are entitled to what they want. Research has shown that those who believe in complementarian roles for men and women are more likely to believe in domestic violence myths that it occurs because women argue and nag, women wish to be dominated by their partners and could avoid it if they met their partner's expectations. Together with physical, emotional or sexual abuse, Christian partnerships are vulnerable to spiritual abuse, when religion is used to shame their partner. For example, a husband may pray aloud that his wife becomes less greedy, have more self-control, and be more trustworthy. He might pray in a way that shows his wife that she is worthless and that even God does not value her. In marriage, if a husband has more authority, it can lead to domineering behaviour, strengthened by saying it is God's will that his wife should be silent and submissive. Similarly, in churches, a domineering pastor may silence women members, shame victims of abuse, and rationalize or excuse male sexual aggression. Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, which has promoted women in a submissive role, have been under fire in recent years for having advised abused wives to stay with their husbands, for humiliating a woman who reported being raped, intimidating and threatening those who would speak out about abuse.
We each have freedom of belief, up to the point where we infringe on the freedoms of others. Limiting the freedom of others closes the doors that Jesus opened. Paul's letter to the Galatians calls us to live in the freedom that comes with faith in Christ. Jesus paid the price to free us from slavery; we are no longer under the law. The kingdom of God comes when we let Jesus reign in our hearts, not using freedom to serve selfish desires, but to serve one another in love.
Loving one another means serving them, placing their needs and wants above our own, even if it is a cost or inconvenience to you. Loving others makes you vulnerable. It is only safe to do so in a community of people who love as Jesus loved, who love others as they love themselves. That is the community of believers the Gospel envisions.
Limiting the roles women may perform is not loving women, putting their needs first, or respecting the will of God. The Holy Spirit pours out on all people (Acts 2:17). Men and women are equal heirs to God's gift of life (1 Peter 3:7). There is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28). Both men and women inherit the rights of sons (Romans 8:17).
Jesus modelled attributes of humility, gentleness, and kindness for both men and women. The fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are for both men and women (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit gives a spirit of power, love, and boldness (2 Timothy 1:7). We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6-8).
God gives gifts of prophecy, speaking, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, and leading regardless of gender. The church needs a variety of voices representing our society. The church needs the whole body of Christ to be working together to build up the body, not competing selfishly for power and authority. The entire law is fulfilled in the command to Love your neighbour as yourself (Galatians 5:14).
Jesus began a trend to affirm and respect women as equals, and history has shown God blessing clergy, regardless of gender, as preachers and evangelists. Look at Joan of Arc's leadership in the 1400s. Read about Katharina Zell and Argula von Stauff von Grumbach preaching in the 1500s, Janet Douglas and Angelina Grimké and Sarah Moore Grimké preaching in the 1800's, and when the church began to ordain women.
Since Jesus paid for our freedom and opened the gate. Let us allow people the freedom to love and serve in the ways God gifts and calls them. Let's stop labelling gifts and talents as being male or female. Let's allow both men and women to nurture; both men and women to lead, according to their gifts. Let's stop telling individuals that their gifts belong to the other gender. Let's open the doors for individuals to do the activities that God gifted them to do, where God gives them a passion to serve. Let us honour those who serve, in whatever capacity that may be. Let us show the world we are Christians by our love.
Note: This post is a theological discussion and addresses church gatekeepers. I am not an expert in domestic violence and recommend you speak to others on that topic. If you are wondering if you are in an abusive relationship, check out these resources:
Natalie Hoffman offers the first chapter free of her book Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage https://www.flyingfreenow.com/resources/
Domestic Violence Resources from The Recovery Village:
Explore the connection between addictions and domestic violence here:
The government of Canada provides these resources for family violence:
Emily Elizabeth Anderson helps victims of domestic violence, spiritual abuse, and physical and emotional trauma heal from the past: https://www.thrivingforward.org/
Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse provides resources to assist victims of sexual assault or abuse: https://helpingsurvivors.org/domestic-violence-and-sexual-abuse/
Gretchen Baskerville provides hope for Christians in destructive relationships: https://lifesavingdivorce.com/
Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:
Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold
The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role