Gender in the Kingdom of God

Click here to listen to this 26-minute sermon

God’s vision for the Kingdom is one in which all of humanity is related to each other in relationships of equality, dignity, respect and peace, under the sole headship of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:9-10). But in South Africa, as in many parts of the world, women do not enjoy this Kingdom. Women and girl children are all too frequently the victims of abuse, violence, exploitation, domination and subordination. I have been harshly confronted with this over the past 33 years, since I was a young teenager. We live in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

But the church has typically been silent and even complicit in this oppression of women. This is often because people of faith interpret the Bible through the lens of their culture, and most cultures are patriarchal – thus we come to the Bible with preconceived notions of gender and ‘find’ support for our ideas in the Bible. And of course the Bible itself was written in patriarchal societies by people who endorsed patriarchal beliefs. But while the Bible is surely filled with patriarchal passages, there are also many passages that have been invalidly used in support of patriarchy – texts have been distorted to serve the interests of men in power. What is required, in fact, is that we allow the Scriptures to interpret our culture, so that our culture is redeemed and transformed into the image of the Kingdom of God.

In this sermon, I take two passages that have, for thousands of years, been used to support the subordination (and often abuse) of women by men, and read them closely and carefully to show that they really do not provide support for male superiority or female subordination, but rather for equal partnership between the genders.

Genesis chapters 1 to 3 lay the foundation for our understanding of God, creation, humanity and the divine-human relationship. But far from endorsing gender power differentials, these chapters (specifically 1:28, 2:22-23 and 3:16) endorse both domestic and commercial partnership and equality between women and men, and depict patriarchy (a husband’s rule over his wife) as sin.

Paul, of the New Testament, was almost certainly a chauvinist, and grapples with the implications of there being “neither male nor female … in Christ” (Gal 3:28). Ephesians 5, with it’s infamous verse about wives submitting to their husbands, must be located against 5:21, which calls for mutual submission within the household of God. Using three pairs of power-differentiated relationships (wife-husband, child-parent and slave-master) Paul first introduces the cultural norm of submission/subordination for the less powerful person, though with a bit of a spiritual spin; and then a counter-cultural requirement for submission by those in power. Read as a whole, this passage calls for mutual submission or consideration in all human relationships, particularly when there are cultural power differences.

Through all of this, I am calling for people of faith to set aside their cultural assumptions as they read the Bible; to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, in choosing to unlearn racist, sexist and colonialist ways of thinking and relating; and to not stand by silently when women are humiliated or oppressed.

Blog image from http://www.borgenmagazine.com/10-examples-gender-inequality-world/

13 thoughts on “Gender in the Kingdom of God

  1. Melanie Evans says:

    So glad you’re still sending these out.

    Thank you

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

    Like

  2. edingight says:

    Just finished listening to your powerful and provocative sermon. Thanks for sharing. Much, much food for thought there.

    Love, Michael

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  3. Trevor G. Evans says:

    Dear Adrian,

    As ever you would appear to have spent a great deal of time deliberating over this gender issue. Your own personal experiences, as you related these, would have made an impact [luckily not one that saw you shrink from the clear abuse that you have witnessed] that informed your sermon.

    Sadly, this is not an issue that is going to be quickly and easily overcome but that does not mean one should not attempt to act in the manner that you have outlined. It is easy to understand why, for centuries, people [including the Church] took those passages you quote and applied them literally. Your revised interpretation and subtle nuancing of such apparently most straightforward edicts is where many people do not care to venture. Perplexing. I am left only to be comforted that, as you mentioned, Jesus was the game changer, sweeping past attitudes away with the overarching message of Love. Paul was not Jesus and as a human must have been influenced by the cultural norms that obtained 2,000 years ago…..other contributions by Paul, we all love!!

    Changing the attitudes in South Africa/every other country is a long term programme but at least you delivered a salvo of the right ammunition today………..

    Thank you for your time and dedication.

    Best wishes,

    Trevor.

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    • Dear Trevor, I appreciate your rich and thoughtful response. I agree that we must not be too quick to judge those who lived in previous eras. When read within his own context, I think Paul was quite revolutionary and we see genuine grappling with between his past and the future in Christ. It will be wonderful if the church today could similarly grapple. Blessings and peace, Adrian

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  4. Silvey, Pat says:

    Thank you very much Adrian
    Pat

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  5. Sendall, Carol Louise says:

    Dear Adrian,

    I fully agree with your piece below. Another scripture that really supports your commentary is Genesis 1 vs 27 where God says He made us in His image, both male & female. So for me this means that God has both male & female characteristics. Would you agree with this or not?

    Blessings,
    Carol
    Carol Sendall

    Medical Advisor
    HIV & Respiratory Franchises
    MSD (Pty.) Ltd, South Africa
    z
    T: +27 11 655 3041
    M: +27 83 450 2883
    carol_sendall@merck.com

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    • Hi Carol. Yes I fully agree with you. It is in the partnership between humans, male and female, that we find the image of God. God transcends the specifics of male and female. Blessings, Adrian

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  6. George Mason says:

    Well done, Adrian. Thank you for the thoughtful post and link.

    George

    From: Reflections of God’s Love <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Reply-To: Reflections of God’s Love <comment+_61iqfo286-s7qxeht32e-@comment.wordpress.com>
    Date: Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 12:44 PM
    To: George Mason <gmason@wilshirebc.org>
    Subject: [New post] Gender in the Kingdom of God

    Adrian van Breda posted: “Click here to listen to this 26-minute sermon God’s vision for the Kingdom is one in which all of humanity is related to each other in relationships of equality, dignity, respect and peace, under the sole headship of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:9-10). But in S”

    Like

  7. Saeed says:

    Hi. Really would love to listen to your sermon but it seems the link is broken. Could you possibly reset the Dropbox link? Thanks.

    Like

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