Where is the line when it comes to women teaching men? May women preach on Sunday mornings? Teach a Sunday school class? Lead a small group? Instruct a seminary course? Speak at a conference? At a couples retreat? Or on the radio?
May women ever teach from Scripture when men are in the audience? Should men even be reading this article? How far is too far?
It’s a question being asked by scores of women who want to be faithful to the Bible and want to exercise their spiritual gift of teaching in a way that honors God’s pattern of male headship in the church.
The discussion surrounding the boundary reminds me of another how-far-is-too-far issue: How physically affectionate should a couple be prior to marriage? Should they hold hands? Kiss? Kiss for five seconds, but not fifteen? Lip kiss but not French kiss? How far is too far?
Well, the Bible doesn’t exactly specify.
Trying to put together a list of rules about permitted behaviors would be both misleading and ridiculous. But we’re not left without a rudder. The Bible does provide a clear boundary. Sexual intercourse prior to marriage crosses the line.
God reveals for us the principle of purity, gives a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and to help us figure out the rest, provides us with the gift of his indwelling Spirit in the community of the saints. And thankfully when we mess up, he stands ready to extend his lavish and costly forgiveness and grace.
Asking the Right Question
Pre-marital sexual intercourse crosses the line. But let me ask you this: Can a couple physically honor the boundary and still violate the principle of purity? Of course they can.
So a woman who only considers the boundary and asks, “How far is too far?” is really asking the wrong question. A better question would be, “Do I love what God loves?” “Do I treasure what he treasures?” “Does what I do with my body indicate that I treasure purity?” And, “How can I best honor Christ in how I physically interact with my boyfriend?”
By now you may be muttering, “I thought she was going to talk about women teaching men in the church.”
I am. But I think the question of how I — as a woman with a spiritual gift of teaching — ought to honor male headship in the church has many similarities with the question of how a young woman ought to honor the principle of purity. In the former situation as well as the latter, God hasn’t given us a detailed how-far-is-too-far list. He’s given us a broad principle, a clear this-goes-over-the-line boundary, and the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit to help us figure out the rest in the wisdom of community.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Mary A. Kassian