One of the most important issues in the church in the next 10 years is women’s roles. One of the newest books dealing with that issue is about to be released by Leafwood press next month is called Bound and Determined. Jeanene Reese, wife of ACU’s Jack Reese, lends her voice to the conversation. This book looks at gender roles from a female perspective. She looks at this complex issue through the lens of what it really means for the genders to live in partnership rather than in competition or subordination. One of the problems we have had is that we have had this conversation more as a monologue than a dialog. Only one party has been able to talk, the men. So I appreciate hearing a woman’s perspective on this.
What I also appreciate about this book is that she starts the entire conversation from scripture, Genesis 1-3. She examines the role of woman as a helper and partner to her husband and how the same terminology is applied to God’s role in helping his people. One question she addresses that I had never really considered is that when God created woman it was said that a man would leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife and yet their culture was very much patriarchal. Was a patriarchal society God’s original intention in light of Gen 2:24? Her point in all of this is that this is not language of inferiority/superiority but of mutuality. She examines the effects of sin on all relationships, including the relationships between men and women.
Next is an examination of how many women in the Old Testament served in partnership with the men and how many of the men relied on the women for much of what took place in the narrative of the OT. She writes, “Too often we hear these stories only as indications of strong women being used by God and fail to see the unusual and meaningful partnerships they formed to strengthen and encourage them in their calling.” (p.36). We don’t often think of the relationships these women must have had with their male counterparts because we get so caught up in how God used them to accomplish a particular task. Could that be because we haven’t really spent time asking the same question in our contemporary culture in the church? We boil down women in the church to what they can and cannot do but how often have we asked the question of how they might better partner with us, the guys, to please God?
The last thing in chapter 1 is a discussion of our unity in Christ. The New Testament teaches us that all believers are on equal footing with God. That obviously doesn’t necessitate every believer have precisely the same role but it does mean God is not up to playing favorites, favoring the men over the women. Jesus’ ministry included a close connection and association (couldn’t we just as easily say partnership) with several women who really did make a difference in supporting his life and ministry. The same with Paul’s ministry (Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Lois, Eunice, and many more, p.40.). We don’t often consider gender differences as being a source of division in the church because, again, one party is typically not vocal but the reality is it might be on the most explosive non-verbalized silent issues in the church. One reason for that is women find themselves in leadership roles in the community and workplace and don’t find the same situation in the congregation.
Just as differences grew up among the earliest believers over cultural and social boundaries, so too we continue in similar conflicts today. Just as gender issues threatened the unity of the early church and the individuals in it, so too are we confused and challenged as we share life together. But these failures, conflicts, and threats are not the last word on godly partnership. The last word belongs to God. It belongs to God who lives in partnership within the Trinity in perfect love, harmony, honor, and unity. It belongs to God who calls each of us, and all of us, to live in meaningful relationship with God’s self. It belongs to God who places us in numerous situations that we share as men and women. To fulfill what God intends for us, we must learn to be together in new and meaningful ways.
I appreciate Mrs. Reese’s willingness to open up the text from a perspective that you don’t often hear. I think that is valuable and important as God created us male and female for a reason. I know I value the feedback, opinions, and interpretations of my wife when we have done Bible studies together. I have learned much from her and treasure her insights. I am looking forward to gleaning more from this book and will pass on whatever I find helpful. I believe you can order this book now and it will be available in September from Leafwood.