When people in the Christian churches talk about gender roles, it often ends up being a discussion about women and submission. If you’ve been keeping up with these discussions even a little, you’ve surely learned that good Christian women should view their role as a blessing. You’ve been told that submission isn’t a dirty word, but rather part of God’s ordained order for the church and the family. When we submit, we’re following the example of Jesus Christ and putting ourselves under His authority.
Even though I still hear ministers joke about how discussing submission will get them in trouble, I actually talk with very few women in the churches today who haven’t embraced, or at least acknowledge, the value of being a virtuous woman with a meek and gentle spirit. We might disagree on exactly what it looks like and we all still have much to learn about being godly women (though it really should be simple — a godly woman is a woman who’s following God), but we have a pretty good idea what our gender role is.
We talk about men’s roles in the church far less often (at least from what I’ve heard and seen). Women hear “submission is a good thing. It’s not always easy but it’s part of God’s plan and sometimes you just have to do it.” But how often do men hear, “leadership is a good thing. It’s not always easy but it’s part of God’s plan and sometimes you just have to do it”?
I wonder if one reason we overlook this is because we don’t understand why men might not want to take on their role as head, lover, provider, and protector. We might think, Why wouldn’t men want to be the ones in charge? Isn’t it much easier to “love your wife” than “submit to your husband”? They should be thankful they get to be leaders in the family and that they’re the ones who hold public ministry positions. After all, that’s the role everyone wants. That’s why we have to talk about submission for woman so much, because otherwise she’d be trying to steal men’s role, right?
But maybe that’s not an accurate viewpoint. Maybe both genders are tempted to shirk the responsibilities God has given us and avoid living up to His expectations. Maybe this is a human struggle we all share, and which also impacts how we live as godly men and women.
I recently read Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. In chapter 2, titled “The Wild One Whose Image We bear,” he talks about God as a warrior. We often like to think of God as safe, loving, and gentle — and He is all those things. But He is also more than that, which is one of the most interesting points I took away from reading this book.
Christ draws the enemy out, exposes him for what he is, and shames him in front of everyone. The Lord is a gentleman??? Not if you’re in the service of His enemy. God has a battle to fight, and the battle is for our freedom. As Temper Longman says, ‘Virtually every book of the Bible — Old and New Testaments — and almost every page tells us about God’s warring activity.’ I wonder if the Egyptians who kept Israel under the whip would describe Yahweh as a Really Nice Guy?” – John Eldgredge
God isn’t distant, uninterested, or emotionless in His dealings with people. Often, His interest in us means going to battle on our behalf. He is fiercely committed to fighting for us against the enemy, and fighting to win our hearts.
Fighting For Us
We often teach that God saving Israel from slavery and leading them out of Egypt is a picture of our redemption from sin. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Israel was told as they stood on the banks of the Red Sea, apparently trapped with the Egyptian armies closing in.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. (Ex. 14:13-14)
When you feel trapped and threatened, do you believe the Lord will actually fight for you? It’s so tempting to try to take things into our own hands instead of “holding our peace,” especially if we can’t picture God actually going into battle for us. The image of a long-haired Jesus cradling a lamb in His arms has saturated our culture. That gentleness is an aspect of God’s nature, but if that’s all we think of then we have a very narrow view of Him. He is also “the Lord of hosts,” the God of angel armies.
Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come. (Is. 63:1-4)
This isn’t how most of us picture God. It’s not how I usually picture God. But this image is just as valid as “the Lord is my Shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). In both cases, He is acting for our good. He gently leads and guides us, and He will fight as hard as necessary to redeem us.
Fighting With Us
We find verses that promise God’s protection, strength and aid comforting, but perhaps we don’t often realize those promises involve Him actively fighting on our behalf. There is a very real battle going on for us. In this battle, or God not only fights for us — He also equips us to defend ourselves with His strength.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-13)
Reading this description of our enemy, I have no delusions that I could fight them alone. Rulers of darkness? Wicked spirits in high places? I’m running the other direction! Even with the armor of God — described in detail in verses 14-17 — I don’t want to face this by myself. In Deuteronomy, the nation of Israel was given how-to instructions for waging war. Since the church today is spiritual Israel, I think it’s safe to say these directions are applicable for us on a spiritual level.
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ (Deut. 20:1-4)
We are called to do battle against overwhelming odds in a fight we have no hope of winning on our own. But because we are not alone, we have no reason to be timid. God Himself is giving us His armor, fighting at our side, and carrying us through with His strength.
Fighting To Win Us
God is love. Now, that word agape can refer to an active benevolence that doesn’t necessarily involve emotion, but not when talking about God. God’s love is passionate, consuming, relentless.
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns. The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Is. 62:1-5)
This is the end God is working toward. We are affianced to Jesus now (2 Cor. 11:2) and will become “the Lamb’s wife” in the future (Rev. 19:7-9). This doesn’t just happen, though. First there is a battle. One of the reasons Jesus came as a human being to live and die was so “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus’s sacrifice was part of a battle plan, and since He accomplished that, victory is assured.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:55-57)
The outcome of the this fight is already decided — God wins. What the Father and Son are fighting for now is to save as many of Their people as possible. The Captain of our salvation wants to bring many children into glory (Heb. 2:10). When He is victorious, our Leader wants His family to be there with Him. He will fight to accomplish His goals, including the goal of winning your heart.