This post is part of the Rachel Held Evans synchroblog event “One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality.” You can follow this event on Twitter by entering #mutuality2012 to read the entries by participating bloggers. Isn’t it telling which accounts from the Bible we use to shape our understandings of God, ourselves and our place in the world?
Earlier this week, author and blogger Rachel Held Evans made the point that “when it comes to womanhood, many Christians tend to read the rest of scripture through the lens of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 rather than the other way around.”
11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
I was just reading the first few chapters of Luke. The angel Gabriel visits Zechariah and tells him that Zechariah and Elizabeth will have a child (improbable because of their advanced age). Then a few months later, Gabriel visits Mary and tells her she will carry the Son of God.
By reading this passage through the lens of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we might have expected this account to play out differently. Luke tells us that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:6). Wouldn’t we have expected Luke to say that Zechariah was righteous, but that Elizabeth needed to be saved through bearing this child (1 Tim 2:15)? And we might have expected that Elizabeth would be silenced, so she couldn’t disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit, rather than Zechariah being rendered mute until Elizabeth had spoken the name of their son. But that’s not the way it happened.
And then consider when Gabriel told Mary she would carry Jesus. If these events had met with the expectations of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Gabriel would have appeared to Joseph instead of Mary, right? Given him the message for her? Or at the very least, wouldn’t he have reminded Mary to “check with your fiancé”? Gabriel probably wouldn’t have told Mary “you are highly favored” (Luke 1:28), but instead he would said “if you do this, you will be highly favored. God will save you if you have this child.” Salvation for all of us comes through her childbirth – because she bore Jesus. But it’s not like she had to do this to earn God’s favor.
But that’s not the way it happened either. God chose to speak straight to Mary through Gabriel, to ask her to do something very important. He didn’t do it through her husband, and He didn’t tell her that this act of obedience would save her. He called her personally and directly and asked her to do something that took courage and strength, just as He continues to call other women personally and directly too – throughout the Bible and into today – to do things that required courage and strength: Miriam, Deborah, Mary Magdalene, Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth Elliot, Mother Teresa, Christine Kane, Margaret Feinberg, Katherine Leary Asdorf, Stephanie Summers.
The church needs to be a place where the direct and personal call of God upon women to act on His behalf is celebrated. When Christians use one or two passages (like 1 Timothy or 1 Corinthians 14) to shape our worldview of women and their roles in society, we are failing to embrace a wholly Biblical view of how God spoke to women and acted through them, and continues to do so today.