During a recent chat I made a comment along the lines of this: "There are times when women should step back and let men lead." When asked what I meant I actually had to stop and think about it - to be honest I didn't even realize I'd chosen that turn of phrase. I discovered that I didn't really know what I meant.
To give you some context, we were talking about men/women/church etc. and the difficult positions women can find themselves in within church walls. So many of us have a sincere desire to lead as God directs, yet we find ourselves facing (biblical? cultural?) obstacles to leadership.
I replied with the example of Lydia: a wealthy, capable women identified as the leader of a group of folks meeting by a river, not the synagogue. The gist of the reason: no priest so no meeting in a synagogue - The Law laid out a provision for just such a scenario. Paul and his team arrived, told of them of Christ, and a church was birthed. See my first post on this fascinating woman here.
The relevance? Lydia did not insist that she was still in charge when someone more qualified showed up - she was willing to step aside and allow another to lead. [Be careful: don't incorrectly apply passages about submission here - she's not married to these men or under their authority.]
Our conversation moved on to other topics, but I've been thinking about it ever since. I find myself wondering if I really believe that this passage is instructional/should be applied to the positions of men/women in the New Testament church.
What I do know is this:
- The Law was super clear that all Jewish priests were male (see Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).
- The New Testament is super clear that all believers in Christ are priests. He is our High Priest, we are his priesthood - there is no gender distinction (see Hebrews, 1 Peter 2).
This one's hard, right? I acknowledge that in Christ I am part of His priesthood...but at the same time I believe that The Fall impacted how men and women relate to one another...that women tend to want to take control. We justify frantic grasps for authority and/or pride of place at church by claiming there are no men available - perhaps even refusing to step aside when someone (male or female) more qualified arrives.
There is no indication that Lydia was upset when qualified folks showed up to teach and help them. She still played a significant role in that group of believers - she simply changed position.
In the end I suppose that's where I land. I don't want to cling so hard to a position that I lose sight of Christ, that I forget where my gifts/abilities/passions lie. I want to be willing to step back so that another man or woman can step forward. So long as I keep sight of Christ, connect to God, trust the Spirit that resides within me...I can remain confident that I'll know when to lead and when not to lead.