In the ongoing discussion about gender “roles” for husbands/wives, and men/women within the church, it seems as if we base our beliefs about this subject only on the teaching of Paul (1 Cor. 11, 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Col. 3:18-19, Eph. 5:21-33, 1 Tim. 2:11-15, 1 Peter 3). Yet it should be equally, if not more significant to examine Jesus’ example in interacting with women, as we pursue his example in all other things.
Over and over again, Jesus defied social convention, and even Jewish law. He allowed women to travel with him. He talked alone with them. He accepted lavish displays of love and emotion. He allowed them to question – even challenge – him. (That behavior would be scandalous… even in today’s church.)
My favorite example is the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42). The sequence of events is as follows:
1. Jesus stops at a well in Samaria.
2. The disciples go off to buy food.
3. Jesus (alone) speaks to the Samaritan woman.
4. They have a conversation from water to living water, her marital history and living situation, which turns into a theological discussion about worship and ends with her recognizing that he is the Messiah.
5. The disciples return, surprised to see the situation.
6. The woman returns to her town, and with her words persuades both men and women to come hear the message of Christ.
7. The disciples remain preoccupied with the food situation. “Jesus, eat something.”
8. Jesus has a conversation about sowing and reaping, “…look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
9. The woman returns with “the harvest,” and many people of the town become believers.
The woman is clearly an evangelist – she goes home, tells her story, gives an invitation and literally brings the the people of her town to Christ. In the meantime, the male disciples were taking care of dinner. (That’s my favorite part.)
Consider this: Jesus knew a harvest was coming, yet he didn’t send the disciples to the town to preach.
So. Do we continue to selectively accept as literal Paul’s admonition to not allow women to teach, and ignore Jesus’ example? Or, should we seek to find an understanding of Paul’s teaching in the cultural context of the churches for which those teachings are intended that provides harmony with all of Scripture?