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Jesus & gender (5)

An unchurched family visits an assembly. A man gets up and warmly greets everyone.  Another man leads the congregation in singing praises to God. This is followed by another man who leads the people in prayer. Then a group of men serve communion to everyone, which is followed by another man who gives a message. At the end of the service, another man leads a final prayer. 

On the way home, the family has a discussion as to why everything was done by men. After all, there were more women present than men! One of the teenage children says they talked about this at school and it’s call gender discrimination and it’s against the law. They wonder how this could happen in the 21st century? Is the church just old fashioned and out of touch?  Or are they stubbornly close minded? They enjoyed everything about their visit but this has left them wondering. This church just seems out of step with what’s going on in the world.

What can we say to them? What can we say to young people who are being raised in a culture where men and women are not regarded as equal unless they do identical things? If you’ve read the previous pieces then you know that I think there is much that we can say as well as a few things we need to avoid saying.

1.  A good place to start would be with the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Discuss the symbolic nature of thesehow the actions have a meaning beyond the obvious eating of bread, drinking of juice, and immersing of someone in water. To judge them by their “appearance” alone is to miss their purpose. They are connected to profound spiritual realities (i.e., Christ's sacrificial death on the cross and our union with Him).  When viewed this way, the symbol is still importantbut because we don’t stop there we’re not as likely to get bogged down with it. It is simply the vehicle through which a deeper truth is communicated.

2.  Men lead in the assemblies (as well as in the home) because though both man and woman are made in the image of God, are equal and share a mutual dependency (1 Corinthians 11:11-12), the Lord chose to create man first and then formed woman from man and for man (v. 8-9). As man takes the lead, he is reflecting God’s created order. As men and women participate in this arrangement they are also reflecting something of the relationship between God and Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:3), as well as the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). There are other redemptive truths being modeled as well (1 Timothy 2:11-15). All of this is of profound significance and reflects the grand drift of Scripture. To dismiss these things as cultural relics belonging the first century is to ignore how they are anchored in the creation and redemption by the Spirit-led writers of Scripture.
3. To reduce it down to a gender conflict is popular and politicalbut it altogether misses the point. Men don’t lead because they are more capable, superior, or anything along those lines. They lead because it reflects God’s created order and redemptive truth just as the Supper reflects the sacrifice of Jesus and baptism reflects our union with Him. And why are any of these things so? Because our Father in His loving purposes deemed them to be. 
That ‘s our story and we need to stick to it for our own good and the good of the world. 
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