For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the passage Philippians 2:5-11, most likely thanks to Michael Card’s Carmen Christi. It has always struck me as a beautiful picture of service to one another.
But these verses have also been used regularly to put women in their place. In churches and in homes, I have often seen this passage used to suggest that hierarchy exists within the Trinity and therefore must exist within the home and the Church.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
My favorite part of this passage is verse six. The NIV says that Jesus did not consider equality with God to be used to his own advantage. This is so beautiful.
They are equal.
What I find missing in many discussions about Christian feminism and egalitarian belief is that most holding those titles will agree that submission is a part of any marital relationship (and I would say any relationship, period). If you spend time with someone you love, you will likely at some point submit to some of their decisions. This does not indicate a hierarchy in that relationship, but simply a way of living peaceably with one another.
We get so busy looking for hierarchy in this passage that we can miss that bit of verse 6. Jesus is already equal with God, but chose to lay that equality down. He chose not to use equality as a way to avoid service.
I have no problem with that being asked of wives.
I have no problem with it being asked of husbands as well.
Equality is not something to be grasped. It’s not a thing to hold onto. And it is most certainly not something that should be asserted for gain.
This passage is to teach us how to act with one another. In small ways and in large ways, we can choose to serve.
We recognize that we are equals. And we choose to lay that equality down for the benefit of those who we love. Husbands and wives. Parents and children. Friends.
We are equal. And that equality is not something to be grasped.
I am excited, because today I get to give away 3 copies of Rachel Held Evans’s excellent book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood! She devoted the month of June to submission and has some great thoughts about it.
The contest will run through midnight EST on Sunday and there are lots of ways to enter. Check it out!