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Biblical Love Should Not Be Determined by Gender

Our pastor is beginning a new ministry series for the new year. He feels constrained by the Spirit to speak on the love of God and how our being loved by God should impact upon our ability to genuinely love others. In the introductory message he touched on some texts that really got me thinking about how it is that the Biblical injunction to love should not be determined by our gender. One of the passages that he referred to was Ephesians 4:1-3, which, in the TNIV reads:  “As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” 

What Would Jesus Do?As these verses were being read it occurred to me that our tendency would be to immediately translate those verses to incorporate gender. The Biblical imperative, as encouraged by the Apostle Paul in verse 2 is, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Note here that there is no instruction as to which gender would do this better, yet we may immediately categorise this as, this is something that would be more natural for women to do. Paul doesn’t even go there. His emphatic instruction is addressed to the whole church and concerns all human relationships. Just because men are culturally conditioned to be rough, tough, proud, loud and said to be more naturally gifted to take the initiative we might presume that for them to be completely humble, gentle, patient and put up with others in love is beyond the expectation of the male ego.

This is precisely why I am an egalitarian. To approach the biblical instruction to love unconditionally in any other way causes us to be unduly influenced by cultural expectation or church tradition. The suggestion that men are hard-wired in a certain way and that we need to make allowances for what men can and cannot do, to me, is bringing compromise into the clear teaching of Scripture. There is no hint of pink and blue in the passage under consideration here. This injunction to demonstrate our love, in this particular way, (by humility, gentleness and patience) is universal and therefore encouraged as an essential practice of every follower of Jesus, regardless of gender.

It disturbs me when I hear of other christian leaders, either by instruction from the pulpit or through a plethora of written material, making excuses for men because they believe that men are gifted by God to be the leaders of both the home and the church. What we are being called to here, by the Apostle Paul, (a love expressed through humility, gentleness and patience) is something much higher than gender stereotyping would have us believe. It takes a real man to move against the status quo and humbly admit to a failure to love as he ought. It takes a real man to be gentle in his dealings with others when both the church and the world cast him as the tough, no compromise individual whose steel will must be obeyed. It takes a real man to be patient with, what he conceives to be, the bumbling efforts of others. It is just these kinds of men that the Apostle Paul is appealing to here. Men that will stand against the tide of public opinion and stand up as real men who will obey Scripture with a total disregard of their privileged status as males.

I have to admit that a part of the reason that I am a believer in and a follower of Jesus is that I believe him to be, and see him as, just this kind of person. One who was willing to put everything on the line and not bow to public opinion. One whose sole purpose was so much to do the will of the Father that he would not bend to either religious tradition or cultural expectation. For me, to have any other view of Scripture than that which promotes full Biblical equality, that is, where the same expectations fall on both men and women, is unworthy of the great God whom we serve.  It seems to me to be right and proper that all Scripture can speak to all believing humanity with equal measure and that we are all bound, regardless of gender, to obey and walk in the light of what has been revealed to us.

18 Comments

  1. JUDY
    Comment #105308 posted February 1, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Beautifully put!

  2. JRiani
    Comment #105310 posted February 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Personally I don’t identify with any labels such as egalitarian, feminist, etc. The problem with labels is they are often a gross over simplification of complex issues. I certainly believe that society needs to stuff it with regards to men being humble and gentle. Being an aggressive jerk isn’t good for a man’s blood pressure so that’s reason enough for me to be chill. I do think women need to be a lot more accepting of a man nurturing his way. So often I see “Mommy and Me” programs which exclude dads. Too often women assume they know everything about kids and that men are clueless dolts. A man changing a kid is often looked at with suspicion. Some Australian airlines will move a man seated next to an unaccompanied minor without apology. Male preschool teacher? Male babysitter? Not going to happen anytime soon. I read an article by one woman who made a big stink about a male preschool until she made the school promise to only have female teachers take care of her daughter. I would have quit if it came to that. Sure, we can chastise men for claiming “men will be men” but I think a lot of the hysteria that keeps men from those “gentleness required” professions is from women.

  3. Comment #105311 posted February 2, 2014 at 5:25 am

    To Trevor: Great article, thank you. However I don’t believe that men are ‘naturally gifted to take the initiative’ but rather socialized to do so.

    To JRiani: the ‘hysteria’ and the labels may be due to patriarchy which is oh so deeply entrenched in our societies, so casually excused (by women and men) and so deafening un-hysterical; being at the root of the greatest evils in our world today, such as extreme poverty, human trafficking, rape, GBV, I have to admit that ‘hysteria’ and labels might -wake some from the slumber,. .

    • JRiani
      Comment #105314 posted February 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

      @Xana: We live in a world that is in a constant struggle between matriarchy and patriarchy. Subscribing to labels declares the team you fight with and a blind adherence to their doctrines. The problem with hysteria is that it often leads to an unjust witch hunt and mob mentality. If one cannot sit down at the table civilly without name calling and antagonism their cause is no better than that which they fight against. Ends do not justify the means.

      • Comment #105315 posted February 2, 2014 at 11:01 am

        Hi JRiani. On my side of the world I don’t see much matriarchy nor its horrible impact. Interestingly what some may call hysteria can be many times simply a way of discrediting important matters and passionate pleas. I also disagree that a label necessarily requires blind adherence, at least not for a Christian. Agreed – ends do not justify the means; but many times desperate measures become the only option for desperate people.

        • JRiani
          Comment #105316 posted February 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

          @Xana: I live in the United States. Read Christina Hoff Sommers book “The War Against Boys” if you have trouble seeing the matriarchy we live under. Feminists are smart and know they can’t get their way head on so they get their way one piece of legislation at a time. In the UK, female elementary school teachers grade boys lower than an outside independent committee. Research has proven this to be true and it’s a result of matriarchal attitudes towards men/boys. Tons more research has shown that boys feel that teachers and parents favor girls. Matriarchy exists but our blind adherence to it is like putting ones face right on top of a mirror. You can’t see it unless you take a step back.

          • Computer Science Professor
            Comment #105319 posted February 3, 2014 at 8:16 pm

            Actually, JRiani, one book aside, there is copious amounts of evidence that boys are preferred in the classroom. Boys are called on more; they are praised more for correct answers; boys who struggle are encouraged to try harder, girls who struggle are ignored or told ‘it doesn’t matter’. Up until the 8th grade, boys and girls say they like math and science equally, and perform in these classes equally, then performance drops precipitously. If it was a “brain issue” (“boys are better at math, girls are better at language”) these differences would appear at all grades. As a result, over 82% of computer science degrees are awarded to white or Asian men. Men of color and females earn the rest of them. Google “underrepresented populations in STEM” and you will find it is true. There is even evidence that bias towards males continues into college, even though more females attend college than males.

          • JRiani
            Comment #105320 posted February 5, 2014 at 8:04 am

            @CompSci: That isn’t just one book. Its a book that summarizes many many many peer-reviewed journal articles. Google “female teachers biased against male students” and you will see that female teachers rate boys lower than an outside committee. That “boys are preferred” business was a lie started by the AAUW to justify spending millions on feminist pet projects. Girls don’t go into computer science because they prefer fields like psychology that are subjective. It isn’t that girls aren’t capable, I agree, but being a shrink is a lot easier than writing a massive algorithm that could take months or years to get right.

    • Comment #105318 posted February 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      Hi Xana. Just read this post again and will change the wording slightly to make sure it reads that it is cultural conditioning which suggests men more naturally take the initiative, which was what Trevor meant when writing the post.

  4. Comment #105313 posted February 2, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Great article and good comments, there is now no male, female, slave, free, etc as far as salvation, but Paul and others spend an awful amount of time telling all of these who no longer exist how they should behave in the church, the body of Christ

  5. Comment #105317 posted February 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Great article, Trevor! It really speaks to living a life just as Jesus himself did.

  6. JUDY
    Comment #105321 posted February 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Hey! JRiani said:

    “Google “female teachers biased against male students” and you will see that female teachers rate boys lower than an outside committee”

    So I did and the first post up said:

    “Math teachers demonstrate a bias toward white male students “…

    Great theory!

    Furthermore, the article below seems to indicate two opposite views combined:
    http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/genderbias.html
    Gender Bias in Education
    by Amanda Chapman of D’Youville College:

    out of one side of the mouth:

    Across the country, boys have never been in more trouble: They earn 70 percent of the D’s and F’s that teachers dole out. They make up two thirds of students labeled “learning disabled.” They are the culprits in a whopping 9 of 10 alcohol and drug violations and the suspected perpetrators in 4 out of 5 crimes that end up in juvenile court. They account for 80 percent of high school dropouts and attention deficit disorder diagnoses. (Mulrine, 2001)

    and out of the other side of the mouth:

    the American Association of University Women published a report in 1992 indicating that females receive less attention from teachers and the attention that female students do receive is often more negative than attention received by boys. (Bailey, 1992) In fact, examination of the socialization of gender within schools and evidence of a gender biased hidden curriculum demonstrates that girls are shortchanged in the classroom.

    Sounds like you can find whatever view you want to find online.

    • JRiani
      Comment #105322 posted February 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

      @JUDY: As with all social science “research” we need to be careful. Actual numbers of boys’ grades are rather concrete and its easy to sample a large population. That information is often collected by the government for logistical purposes. The AAUW is the biggest feminist propaganda machine after the NOW. They manufactured (a.k.a fabricated research) a girl crisis in the 90′s and refused to acknowledge the evidence against them when even the NYT questioned them on it. They have a motive for publishing the results they do and I noticed how your excerpt about the AAUW had no numbers associated with. How exactly does one accurately control and measure what constitutes “shortchanging” girls in the classroom? It’s entirely a subjective matter of opinion. Boys’ grades however are what they are. That is what colleges are looking at. One has to look critically at the data and dismiss what is junk like the AAUW.

      Also, think how telling it is that when you are looking for ways boys are discriminated against we still make girls a priority. Do you know what message that sends to boys? It says “you don’t matter.” That is a great way to “equal the score.” I thought “an eye for an eye” was un-Christian. Look at the third link down from Huffington Post no less and the fourth one down from Time! Why didn’t you mention those? THOSE were the ones I was referring to.

  7. Comment #105323 posted February 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Thank you Liz.

  8. Comment #105324 posted February 7, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I thought this to be serious fun; it was forwarded to me by a friend – Graeme Codrington. It is by Micah J. Murray who writes a blog called Redemption Pictures. Enjoy.

    How feminism hurts men.
    http://www.futurechurchnow.com/2014/01/12/how-feminism-hurts-men/

    • JRiani
      Comment #105325 posted February 7, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Very one sided and narrow-minded argument. It clearly dismisses if not out right ignores all peer-reviewed research that shows how feminism has hurt men. It is this kind of dishonest emotional propaganda that keeps the “gender wars” in full gear.

      • Trevor Trevor
        Comment #105326 posted February 7, 2014 at 9:29 pm

        @JRiani. It seems to me that we’ve had this discussion with you before about the fact that this site is not biased against men as you seem to persistently assert. We do not subscribe here to a feminist agenda but are attempting to be true to Jesus and accurately demonstrate how patriarchy harms both men and women. By putting this case we are not thereby suggesting that matriarchy is the answer.

        It disturbs me that you keep commenting here in such a way as to suggest that we are unaware of how it is that men may be unfairly impacted by secular feminism. You also refer to literature that relates particularly to secular culture, albeit Western, rather than church culture which is more where our area of concern lies. You are taking up a lot of space on this site with discussion that is not really on topic.

        Can I encourage you to attempt to stay on topic and not continue to drift to dominating the discussion with your strong, anti-feminist viewpoint.

        • JRiani
          Comment #105329 posted February 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

          @Trevor: I understand your concerns but I do not understand why Xana doesn’t get a similar scolding. That link she provided was from a church group but very secular in nature. It pretty much mocks men and that is allowed?

          Also, I take issue with the use of this word “patriarchy.” In my experience, most “patriarchy” is just matriarchy in denial. Likewise, even “patriarchal” groups like the Catholic Church are matriarchies. Women run the school, plan church events, and are even “doctors of the Church.” The men that occupy these positions write encyclical after encyclical about how wonderful women are with men pretty much being garbage to them. A male leader singing the endless praises of woman while neglecting men is nothing more than a male for matriarchy. I get aggravated when people charge there is patriarchy yet it seems more like women are running the show. It’s like looking at a cow and someone trying to convince me its a dinosaur.

          The Japanese emperor throughout history was nothing more than the face of empire. He had no real power. That is how I see the relationship between men and women. In today’s marriages Christian or otherwise, the wife is the leader and if the man dares to challenge her on anything he gets piled on. Ever hear of husband bashing? (http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2008/september/5.32.html and http://www.truewoman.com/?id=1203) If we really lived in a patriarchy do you think this would be so common? I don’t. How about we start talking about matriarchy because that is what we have in our churches and secular society?

          Male leader figures are nothing more than faces. They have no real power because it is constantly usurped. Same with pastors except they cannot do anything God hasn’t already permitted / commanded in the Bible.

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