Here's an example of another comment I encounter a lot. In discussions of women in Christian ministry, someone almost invariably says something along these lines:
"The call for women in ministry turns me off because it's all about women demanding their rights. That isn't what Jesus taught, about humility and seeking to give rather than receive. Whether or not women should be church leaders, they're wrong to seek it. It all comes from today's 'entitlement' culture, not from the heart of God, that women are seeking power in the church. It's not supposed to be about power."
True-- Christian ministry shouldn't be about power. But it is about power, and it is not women who have made it that way. Church leaders throughout church history have made their positions into positions of power and authority, when they should have been positions of service, lifting up their brothers and sisters in Christ to find their own callings. Until 50 years ago, many church leaders didn't want to share their power with men of other races. And many still don't want to share their power with women. But if they'd realize that it isn't about power, and would lay down their power, maybe it wouldn't bother them so much that some women feel called to minister, not just in the kitchen or nursery or in women's Bible studies, but to the whole congregation.
But the question has to be asked: is seeking church leadership, by its very nature, sinful ambition and wrongful power-grabbing? Because if it is, men shouldn't seek church leadership either.
Do men who feel called into church leadership, seek church leadership? Well, yes-- they do. They talk to their own church leaders, they ask for prayer over their calling; they attend seminaries and request mentoring. And they may be told they're not ready, that they should pray more, serve more, seek God more. But one thing they will not be told is that it is impossible for them ever to be called, and that even thinking that they might be called is stepping out of their place and sinfully seeking a position they are never meant to have. No man has ever, purely on the basis of his maleness, been told, "We have a leadership position open, but you should not apply." And no one, to my knowledge, has ever objected to a man seeking church leadership as if he were out of line just for seeking it. If seeking church leadership, in and of itself, were wrongfully ambitious power-seeking, then no one should do it.
It's easy, really, if you're born into a position where you never have to shout to be heard, to fault those who do have to shout to be heard. But this argument that women who want full-time church ministry are wrongly demanding their rights, is really based on an expectation that everyone should keep their place in an established hierarchy. It used to be considered wrongful power-seeking for members of the servant class to want to own their own homes, or for merchants to want to become part of the gentry. It's the same attitude that used to consider people of color "uppity" if they walked down the street with their heads high and dared to meet a white person's eyes. The gentry were never faulted for seeking the high seats at the table, for those seats were considered theirs by right.
This is what Jesus said about those high places at the table:
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11.
The word there translated "distinguished" is the Greek word "entemos," which means "dear, precious, highly prized, held in honor." It is used in Luke 7:2 about the servant of a Roman centurian whom he prized highly It is used of Jesus as the "precious" cornerstone, highly prized in God's eyes. It is not a word that refers to someone having a high place in a hierarchy, but is more a relational word. Jesus is not saying, "Someone who outranks you may come to the wedding banquet, and claim your place by right." He's saying, "Your wedding host may have invited someone more dear to him than you are (such as a closer family member)." Since this teaching is identified as a parable, Jesus is not speaking of literal guests at a literal wedding banquet, but is counseling His listeners not to be seeking positions of honor for themselves. This is probably the verse that people have in mind when they say women should not be "demanding rights" in seeking ministry-- but what would Jesus say to the guests at the banquet who are already sitting in the highest seats when the other guests enter, who cling to their chairs with both hands and refuse to surrender them to the "upstarts" who are arriving? What would He say to the one who, when the host says, "I want my friend to sit there; please give up your seat," replies, "But you can't possibly want that person to sit here! It's not her place!"
True, it would be wrong of a person who feels called into ministry to exalt themselves and demand to be given a high place. But are women who want ministry really doing this? I have never heard of anyone, woman or man, demanding of a church hiring committee, "This is my position! Give it to me!" Women in reality are not doing anything that men do not do as a matter of course, to seek ministry.
To me, the real questions are these: Are we going to let God call women? Or are we going to tell God He can’t? And are we going to let women whom He calls obey? Or are we going to tell them they have to be wrong, that God can't possibly be calling them?
Remember how sure Peter was that he should have nothing to do with Gentiles, because they were unclean? God gave him a vision to show him he was wrong. Acts 10:11-15. Peter knew the Scriptures. And yet he had to let God step outside the parameters of what he had always thought God's will was all about. Peter was misunderstanding the Scriptures about Gentiles. What if many of those who think they know their Bibles today, are misunderstanding the Scriptures about women?
In China many women are serving as leaders of underground churches-- and it's not because God can't find any men! Here in the US, women are feeling God's call to church leadership, and they live their lives in frustration because their churches have forbidden them to answer that call. Fundamentally, this isn’t about “rights.”* It’s about obedience to God, and openness to His ability to call anyone He wants, be it male or female.
So it comes down to this. I myself am not called to church leadership. I am asking nothing for myself. But if my sisters feel the call of God and want to obey it, I’m going to stand up to those who forbid them, just as Paul stood up to Peter when he refused to eat with Gentiles. Gal. 2:11-14.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is not part of the "entitlement culture." Neither is "Here am I, Lord, send me." And that's all we're saying-- my sisters and I.
*Not that there's anything wrong with standing up for your rights when necessary. Paul did it in Acts 22:25.