Question: What do I tell my friends who ask, "How can you be a member of a church that doesn't allow women to vote?"

The question this week is a very personal question that someone asked about the inner operations of the church, how we function as believers that are called to respect and adhere to God’s roles of men and women.  The question that came in was this, "What do I tell my friends who ask, "How can you be a member of a church who doesn't allow women to vote?"

Before answering this question, I’d like us to examine words of both Jesus and the apostle Paul first as they will sort of set the stage for us regarding our practice of voting in the church. 

First the words of Jesus,

Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

These words of Jesus to his disciples were in response to their bickering with each other.  You see, the mother of James and John had just finished asking Jesus if her two sons could sit at Jesus left and his right in his kingdom and the other 10 disciples heard about this and the 10 then got angry at the two for this devious jockeying for position of prominence.  So Jesus quickly ended the dispute by flip-flopping the rules of life.  Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” 

This is not how the world operates.  This world is a dog-eat-dog world with winners and losers and the one with the title “Doctor” in front of his name, the one with the most zeros behind the number 1 in his bank account, the one who is owner of companies…, and has the biggest portfolio and the best toys are on top in our society.  But that’s simply not how the Christian faith is to work.  And Jesus had to spend countless time with his disciples illustrating this very truth. 

So my first response to your friend inquiring about roles of men and women in the church is this – don’t try to answer their question in one sitting because it took Jesus three years to help his disciples understand the true role of humility in the church. 

Remember how Jesus responded to his disciples when they asked him the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?” (Matthew 18:1) Jesus called a little child over to him…, a child that is completely dependent on others; a child that has no legal standing in a society, he can’t vote, he can’t change laws, and yet Jesus says to his disciples, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). 

Jesus, our Savior, allows no room for pride and a superiority complex to be a part of the Christian faith because whenever it creeped its way in to the disciple’s life, he had a way of humbling them quickly to sort of reverse the way they think about things in life.  Remember he flip-flops the rules of life by saying, the greatest becomes the least and the least becomes the greatest – which is foreign to our natural way of thinking. 

Remember the night before Jesus gave up his life for us?  It was as though he needed to get one last lesson in on humility.  In the upper room, he wraps a towel around his waist; he gets down on his knees and he does the job of a slave as he washes the feet of his disciples.  When he finishes washing their feet he tells them this is an example for you to follow (John 13:14).    

Now, let’s go to the words of St. Paul, the apostle.  In chapter 4 Paul writes,

Ephesians 4:2-4 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit,

Then, just one chapter later, Paul gets into the distinctive roles of men and women as they live together as husband and wives, Paul writes,

Ephesians 5:21-24 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Submit sounds like such a dirty word to this world whenever the church uses it because it carries a negative connotation, until you understand it from Christ’s perspective.  He submitted to his Father’s will to take on human flesh and blood, to suffer and die for the sins of the world.  The innocent for the guilty so that the guilty might go free!  Our salvation and forgiveness came through a man who submitted to his Father’s will and he enslaved himself to us, putting himself beneath the very people he came to save!  And that’s now the Biblical foundation that Jesus lays in our submission to one another.   

This, now, brings us to voting in the church.  The church, or the gathering of believers is an extension of the home, which is why we hear family-like names given to the body of believers.  Men and women are called brothers and sisters; Jesus is called the bride groom, and we his bride.  And Jesus calls us children of God, who are to pray to God and call him our Father in heaven.

So as an extension of the home, the roles that men and women carry out in the home, the man as servant leader; the woman as servant helper is to be carried out with the same humility that brought about your salvation through Jesus. 

“voting” is a Biblical application to the roles of men and women.  It doesn’t have to be the only way to develop consensus nor would I say that it’s necessarily the best way – it’s merely an application of the roles of men and women that God gave in his Word. 

But like the home, a church would be losing a vital asset if it didn’t listen to its wife; Jesus said husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church, which means we are to work alongside each other as we serve our Savior. 

If someone were to say to me, “I can’t join a church that doesn’t allow its women to vote,” I might start by telling them that the goal of the body of believers is to seek unity and peace, while faithfully honoring the roles that God has asked us to carry out through his Word as servant leaders and servant helpers. 

And I might even tell them that in the Christian faith, Jesus says true greatness is found being last, not first.     

Thanks for the question and thoughts for all of us to ponder!