When God created Adam, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as a partner” (Genesis 2:18, NRSV). And ever since this profound declaration, we have struggled to understand what it means.
Countless articles and books have been written in an attempt to understand what the nature of the relationship between Adam and Eve – and men and women today – was intended to be. Was Adam’s creation as the first human being some kind of indicator of Adam’s primacy and leadership? Was the word “helper” intended to teach us that women were meant to be second to men? The answers to these questions have led to remarkably different interpretations of what God intended the relationship between men and women to look like.
And then in Genesis 3 after an interaction with the serpent, Eve eats the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. Adam, who was with her, eats of it too, which leads to a series of curses. The serpent is cursed for its trickery. Eve is cursed with increased pain in childbirth and a desire for her husband that somehow gives way to her husband ruling over her. Adam’s curse falls on the ground he was made from, and he will have to work and toil long and hard for food. Eve is told that there will be enmity between the serpent and Eve (along with her offspring). This statement always makes me smile as I remember my grandmother who was known for charging after garter snakes with the garden hoe at the ready.
What it meant for Eve to be Adam’s helper was skewed and changed with the introduction of sin. Now, it isn’t my intention to get into a lengthy discussion about the role of men and women in marriage and in the church. That’s a different conversation for a different day. But, as a pastor (who happens to be female) and a blogger, I have discovered something about the relationship between men and women in the church that is troubling to me.
Both in church leadership and in books and articles written about the way men and women are to relate to each other, fear and competition seem to run the show. Rather than men and women helping each other, we seem to be engaged in a perpetual tug-of-war of power that leaves everyone exhausted and no one’s gifts celebrated. For too long we have viewed one another as enemies rather than partners, teammates, friends, and co-workers in Christ.
I think we’ve forgotten that the curse was enmity between the woman and the snake…not between men and women.
We were created to work together, not against each other, and until we can find ways to champion one another, we will present only a misshapen representation of the kingdom. And it is hard to work together. Whether it is a result of the fall or the result of living in a world where men and women are pitted against each other so frequently that it has become ingrained in us, we find it hard to lower our defenses and work alongside each other. We are so used to fighting with each other, that we have trouble working together.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, we see men and women who are called by God to do amazing things. We read about Esther who risked everything to save her people. We are inspired by Daniel who did not give in to the pressures around him. We see Paul endure imprisonments and beatings for the sake of the Gospel. We read about Priscilla and Aquila who labored alongside Paul for the Lord. Regardless of one’s stance on the role of women in church leadership, there can be no doubt that God calls and equips men and women. Together, we are the church. There is no place in the church for shaming people because they are male or because they are female. We are all children of God as we read in Galatians:
But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:25-29)
In my region of the country, there are not very many female ministers. When I attend meetings with area pastors, I am one of the only women in the room. And yet, some of the most profound affirmation and encouragement I have received has come from my male colleagues. I hope that they see me as a blessing to them along their journey, too. We need each other. We need to speak out for each other. When we see our brothers or our sisters being dragged through the mud, we can’t sit idly by and delight in it.
Because we are not enemies. God never intended that. And as we work with each other, we will see a fuller picture of the kingdom that God is ushering into this world.