I was a young child in the 1960's--a time when women were making small steps toward equality. Even so, in the small Midwestern town where I lived, family and church structures were still fairly traditional. It was assumed that men would be the leaders in the family, the church, and the community. Women were often the followers. They typically cared for the home and children, making it possible for their husbands to take on those positions of leadership. This was seen as the best model for leadership in Christian families and in churches.
As a young adult, I found that others in the Christian community saw it differently. As I listened to their interpretation of Scripture, I began to reexamine my own beliefs and revised them to take into account the social context of passages that appeared to restrict the roles of individuals based on gender. As I began to see that God doesn't limit us based on our being born male or female, I felt tremendous freedom.
I give much credit for my change of perspective to my family. I was always encouraged--actually expected--to test what I heard against the truth of Scripture. I knew I should never simply believe something because someone else believed it was so. The Bible was to be the final authority.
I was also taught to not be afraid of making my faith my own. As a college student, I remember feeling anxious when considering beliefs that ran contrary to what I had been taught as a child. When I discussed this with my parents, they gave me the very clear message that I should follow the Holy Spirit's guidance, even if it contradicted what others, or they themselves, believed.
And finally, I was taught respect for both males and females through my parent's example. The first time I heard the story of Esau selling his birthright to his brother, Jacob, I was told that the birthright went to the oldest child. "So it would go to me, right?" I asked, since I was the older of two siblings. "No, actually, it would go to the first son," I was told. "The first son?" I wondered. "What's that about?" I was confused by a system that clearly favored men over women, since my brother and I had always been treated equally.
Despite my more traditional background, I have moved toward gender equality. Several factors allowed for this shift in thinking: I was taught to value Scripture more highly than others' opinions; I was expected to make my faith my own; and I lived in a family that respected both males and females.
In a culture that could have been limiting, I'm grateful God gave me a family that fostered freedom from those limitations.
Whom do you credit with freeing you from limitations?
Published September 24, 2014 by CBE International (Christians for Biblical Equality).