It’s my opinion that the Bible doesn’t teach us to pursue “roles” based on gender. Look here for the complementarian definition of roles. Here is the Oxford’s online dictionary’s definition of role. By reading the two definitions we can see that complementarians’ definition of role is different from what is in the dictionary. The dictionary defines role as things you do to act in a play, to play a part. But for complementarians, gender roles are not about what you do, they are about where you fit on a “gender hierarchy“. It’s not really about roles, per se, it’s about “who’s in charge“, or “who’s responsible“. Men are in a permanent place of leadership/responsibility by virtue of their being born men, and women are in a permanent place of submission, under men, by virtue of their being born women. They are permanent positions based on rank, gender being the only qualification. It’s a hierarchy.
I would like to share my opinion on this subject and hopefully spur others on to think about the concept of complementarian gender roles for themselves. I am not against the idea of roles themselves, but I believe they should be based on gifting, not gender. They should not be fixed and rigid; they should be fluid and subject to change with the growth and needs of any given family or organization. And even though in my family, the “roles” we have are actually very traditional, I don’t believe they are the “Biblical” way, (meaning the only way). They are based on the giftings and desires of my husband and I. We base our life choices on God-given talents and desires, and not all families will distribute tasks the same way we do. Some wife/moms work full-time and have no desire to stay home with their children or home school them. In fact, some women may remain single, or choose not to have children, or are unable to bear children. None of these situations are against some Biblically-prescribed “role” for women, because there is no such thing. They are sometimes choices that are based on God-given talents and desires, or they are something the person has no control over.
I like how this woman from Rocky Mountain Ministries describes her study on gender roles in the Bible:
“The Bible does not speak of roles but tells us that we will be given the heart of Jesus, and with this heart, we will find ourselves compelled to love and serve people in various ways. The Bible says nothing about roles, but it says much about motivation and spirit.
We do get off onto bunny trails and then pave them with eight lanes of man-made doctrines. We say “GRACE!” but then run back to Egypt to find out how to live. Well, either it’s by grace or by playing roles, but it can’t be a combination because they are mutually exclusive.
I am somebodies wife. I am not playing the role of wife. Everything I do, I do because it comes naturally to me. I love it. I am a mom. I never wasted one second serving my daughter out of role expectation. Hey, my cat feeds her kittens right on time and nobody ever told her that she had a Biblical Role to fill. Good grief. How much hot air we waste and how much life we lose.”
We need to remember, the gospel message is about Jesus, not gender roles. The purpose of the Bible is to point us to Jesus, not Jesus plus gender roles. Complementarian gender roles are a man-made concept. They indirectly teach people to perform in order to gain acceptance of God and people, which is legalism. They encourage people to BEHAVE(ACT) in a certain way; men lead, women submit. This is done by compelling them to place themselves in a “divine” hierarchy based on gender. But God never commands us to pursue “roles” at all. We are to pursue Jesus and then we will be changed from within by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“In Eph 5, Paul is not calling for unique behaviors that create 2 different roles, one for wives and one for husbands, rather he is emphasizing some aspects of what every believer should be doing… by doing it by gender as that 1st century culture had some temptations that were different for each gender. A wife is to respect her husband, do you think this means a husband is NOT to respect his wife? A husband is to love and sacrifice for his wife, do you think this means a wife is not to love and sacrifice for her husband? A wife is to submit to her husband, do you think this means a husband is NOT to submit to his wife? How crazy that anyone would think these actions would be restricted to one gender or another.”
The Bible does not teach that men are to lead or be responsible for women, or that each gender has a specific, rigid role. The main message of the Bible is that Jesus came to reconcile a Holy God to sinful human beings through the saving grace of Jesus Christ, not “Jesus saves…plus, you must get into your proper place in the gender hierarchy.” That’s adding to the Gospel.