1 Corinthians 11:11-12. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.
Paul’s conclusion above comes after a long paragraph regarding maintaining gender differences in public worship. Yes, in Christ, there is no male and female (Galatians 3:28). Which is to say that we are all equal in Christ. But gender equality does not negate gender differences. Nor does it negate cultural distinctives. Paul’s message over the past few chapters has been to put others first and not seek your own “rights and privileges.” So could a woman pray and prophecy with her head uncovered (see 1 Corinthians 11:4-7)? Yes. But should she? No. Because that would bring great distraction and debate into the worship of the church, and hurt the witness of Christ. Again in this scripture we see that “to live is Christ” means putting others first, even if that means not practicing some of my new freedom.
1 Corinthians 11:1-12 is by far one of the deepest passages in this letter and even in the whole New Testament (I do not claim to even begin to understand what Paul is saying at times). It is also very controversial. Some people read it and think Paul is a sexist. He’s not. He is seeking to correct bad theology and bad practice. Without going too deeply into this complex passage, Paul is seeking to restore holiness, orderliness, and love to their public worship. This includes seeing that the genders were created for both their equality and difference. And our public worship should be a glimpse of this restored creation, not a chaotic mess (more on that in future chapters), or the deletion of the gender differences.
Paul’s summary statement above tells us that men and women are not made for independence from each other, but rather for interdependence with each other. Our union with Christ restores the image of God, and the image of God is reflected in BOTH the male and female genders as they rule God’s creation together.
Genesis 1:26-27. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Union with Christ does not end gender differences, it celebrates them. It sees both genders as reflecting the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 11:7. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
The church in general, and public worship specifically, are the place where these gender differences should be celebrated and honored. As Paul makes clear, both men and women have the same role of praying and prophesying in church (1 Corinthians 11:4-5). But they carry out that role in different ways. Just as God the Father and the Son carry out their common mission in two different ways.
I’m sure it is safe to say that there is way too much independence between men and women in churches today and not enough interdependence. Men and women working together, both offering their strengths to the building up of the church, is the glory of God, the goodness of God, on display. Every church should be seeking ways to bring men and women together in ministry, not isolating them from each other.
“To live is Christ” means that men and women are both gloriously restored image bearers of God, who, when they learn to live in interdependence with one another, reflect the re-unification of humanity that Christ’s death and life brings.
It also means that men and women, in both their similarity and their difference, reflect the image of God. Men and women are “same yet different.” God, as a Trinity, is also “same yet different.”
Our union with Christ should allow us to embrace our gender and heal us of any gender confusion or misplaced gender identity. Union with Christ can never be consistent with the “fractured self” that seeks to separate the body from the “self.” All things are from God – including our gender and biological sex. Because, through union with Christ, Christ is now ultimate, your gender can be embraced as a gift and a reflection of the glory of God in you.
Do you believe that both genders equally image God and his glory? Have you sought ways to respectfully work alongside the opposite gender for the good of the church? How can men and women working together for Christ be a powerful witness for Christ? Are there any ways that you have sought to be independent of the opposite gender that you need to confess? How does union with Christ empower us to embrace our gender and the opposite gender?
How does Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality reflect the truth of the gospel? But how does the “He for She” argument for gender equality get undermined by an argument to eliminate “He-ness” and “She-ness?”