Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Struggling Together - Part One by Mickey Sanchez
Mickey Sanchez is a Harvard Chaplain, representing InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Graduate & Faculty Ministries.
In this post I’d like to share a bit about my own experience supporting my wife as she wrestled with gender equality issues while in seminary. (In a future post I hope to share about my experience supporting her as a full-time working mom in ministry)
My wife is a gifted woman and while we were both in seminary we tried to sort out what biblical gender roles meant for her work in the church and at home. We went to a seminary that had professors from each camp in the debate and my wife won a scholarship to do extensive research and interviews with some of the leading evangelical figures in that debate. That said, we each had personal challenges in looking into this issue.
We both came from a complementarian church that we loved. That church had a lot to do with my own initial growth in faith right after I became a Christian and it laid the groundwork for how I would approach God and the Bible, which is still operative for me today. My wife and I fell in love within that church’s community and hoped to serve with them in the future. So I was somewhat wary of moving toward an egalitarian position which would leave us outside that church/denomination’s doctrinal boundaries. Also, I thought much of what the main pastor taught was right and was worried that disagreeing with him meant I was making an intellectual error. Moreover, the time it took to rigorously look into this debate concerned me as I had other questions I wanted to look into as well. All that to say, I had reasons to be disinclined toward delving too deeply into this issue myself.
However, my church’s emphasis on the gospel and its implication paved the way for me to be supportive of my wife as she wrestled with the gender roles question. For one, the gospel gave me compassion for my wife and a desire to help with this time consuming project. If God could be so put upon to leave his royal throne for my sake, the least I could do for my wife was take the time to make this long journey with her. Also, Jesus empowered people for ministry and I wanted to make sure I did that for my wife as I thought she had a lot to offer the church from her giftings. Beyond that, I became a Christian because I followed the evidence against my will and found the gospel to be true. Why should I stop following the evidence now with this issue just to save time or for comfort’s sake? And if the evidence pointed to the egalitarian position, then we’re keeping roughly half of the church from fully utilizing all their giftings!
Perhaps most practically, though, the gospel helped me to anchor my wife in the midst of her research. She had such a desire to get this question right, to please God and not disobey him, that she feared God’s judgment if she was wrong – a fear that some complementarians unfortunately encourage. But the gospel is not that we are saved because we have all our theology right or because we’re smarter than others. We’re saved by grace. So even if we made a mistake here, and we’re all likely mistaken on something as we’re not saved because of our intelligence, God’s grace would cover us. That allayed the fear and allowed us to think more clearly together.
It took a while to sort it all out, but I’m glad I journeyed with her on this. It opened my eyes to various struggles women go through and how men could do more to help them. For example, in seminary I learned that a number of women struggle with low confidence in their opinions and in their ability to disagree with others, even though they have good reasons to do so. Despite my wife’s natural confidence in other areas, she struggled in this debate to have confidence in her opinion at a point when I thought we both could be confident of the egalitarian position. I realized I could help her grow in this area, not by giving her another authority figure to trust, but by helping her trust the gospel so her fear would melt away. With that gone, she was better able to make up her own mind, thanks be to God.