What’s especially odd about this dynamic is that men in leadership aren’t held to either extreme. They’re allowed to be individuals. Men who are great examples of faithfulness or leadership or intelligence are held up to all people as an example—not simply to men. Further, whether they experience success or failure, they’re held as individuals without the added pressure of representing all men.
On the other hand, there are many people for whom I am a pariah because I want to use my leadership gifts. It just happens that leadership has historically been considered masculine in the church. There was a time when I was hesitant about being a leader, as if to say, “I’d like to do this for God’s glory, but you know, only if it doesn’t make anyone around me uncomfortable.” For years I bought into the lie that God had created me somehow spiritually different than men. When I really dwelled on Galatians 3:28, however, I was challenged beyond my culture to consider the upside-down, in-breaking kingdom that Jesus established. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” writes Paul. My world was further shaken by Galatians 5:22–23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” How could I mistake any gift that includes wise counsel, hospitality, truth in love, or anything else as “feminine” or “masculine” when the fruit of the Spirit is gender-neutral?
Between Pariah and Paragon
As Christians we live in the already and not yet, the time in which we are fallen, sinful creatures and yet also the great redeemed multitude in Jesus. We are all imperfect, breakable, tired, joyful, messy, beloved creatures of God. We each have something that we are uniquely gifted to do, whether or not it fits what other people think we should or ought or must do. But the only thing that matters is hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” at the end (Matthew 5:23).