Does the Bible Give Husbands/Fathers a “Gender Role?”

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Last Sunday morning in church I found myself staring at a father and daughter. He and she had made their way to the front of the sanctuary to the altar so they could worship God without the constraint of chairs (yes, I am charismatic and this is very normal). During the thirty minutes that worship lasted, the maybe 10-year-old girl hugged her daddy non-stop. It was as if they were slow dancing the whole time. He never took his hands off of her. Even when he lifted one arm high to worship his Savior; he kept one arm wrapped around his daughter at all times.

She yawned at least three times and although she was sleepy and maybe even a bit bored, she was content to be wrapped in her daddy’s arms for as long as he was willing. As she snuggled her little face into his belly, I heard the Spirit speak softly to my heart; “That is the Father’s role.” Tears immediately began to stream down my cheeks as the worship leader sang the lyrics, “There is no end to the affection you have for me.” I could not help but think of God as my heavenly Father who continuously wraps me in His loving embrace.

God does not have a gender because He is spirit, but scripture compares Him to both a mother and a father quite often. The writers of the Bible use these analogies to help the human mind grasp the endless love of God.

Growing up I was surrounded by kids and teens who had either no father figure or one who was not much of a dad. There is no doubt in my mind that boys and girls need a father and it greatly impacts their lives when they don’t have one. As it relates to girls; I believe that a father who loves his daughter and provides her with endless amounts of affection safeguards her life against teen boys and men who would seek to take advantage of her emotionally and sexually.

There are no guarantees of course, but a daddy who fills his daughter’s love tank by giving her whatever she specifically needs (quality time, affection, gifts, service, and/or encouragement) gives her a better chance of having healthy relationships with the opposite sex as a teen and adult. I am not sure if this is biblical, but it is certainly common sense. It is fairly easy to see how a little girl receives love. All one has to do is pay attention to how they give love.

A daddy’s role is to love his daugher (and son) in the way they need to be loved even if it does not come natural to them. Father’s are to reflect “Father God” by providing endless amounts of sacrificial love.

While the father’s role is crucial to the family unit, there has been an unhealthy lie spreading in the church that no one actually says directly, but indirectly, and that is that the father’s role is more important than the mother’s role. I think this has been a knee jerk response to try to motivate all the lousy fathers out there to get off their behinds and “be men.” But in an attempt to inspire men to step it up in the home, women are being devalued, which is never God’s plan. Sadly, many Christian women have jumped on this idea too in their desperation to see the men in their lives do a better job. Things have gotten out of balance, which is the natural human tendency.

As egalitarians we must be careful not to diminish the job of a father to love his family sacrificially by protecting, providing, nurturing, and even leading in the areas he is naturally gifted in that may or may not have anything to do with his gender. A man in the family is needed. But, complementarians have created “gender roles” that are not socially true or biblically accurate. There is truth to their statements, which is why they are able to convince so many, but the Lord has called both mothers and fathers to love their children by protecting them, providing for them, nurturing them, and leading them. To say that the father is the only one who is supposed to protect, provide, and lead the family is completely foolish and no where to be found in the Scriptures.

Just to name a few:

Hosea 13:8 God described as a mother bear (Protector) 

“Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and tear them asunder…”

Deuteronomy 32:11-12 God described as a mother eagle (Protector) 

“Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.”

Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 God as a Mother Hen (Protector) 

Jesus: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

If you don’t beleive me that women are “providers” in the Bible, simply read Proverbs 31:16-18:

She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
    with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is energetic and strong,
    a hard worker.
She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
    her lamp burns late into the night.

We don’t need the Bible to tell us that women are also providers. We can simply see how she nurses her infants and provides nourishment for their growth. The truth is that most women would starve before they would let their child go hungry and would take ten bullets before they let their child take one. Women all around the world work multiple jobs to provide for their children. It makes no sense to say that God has prescribed the man the “gender role” of provider and protector and that this is his sole responsibility when it is so obvious that both men and women naturally protect and provide for those they love.

Admittedly, biblical leadership becomes a trickier subject to navigate in the family unit. There is no doubt that God has called both men and women to serve in all positions in the Church, as one can find females leading as prophets, queens, and judges in the Old Testament and home-church leaders (aka pastors), prophets, evangelists, apostles, deacons, and teachers in the New Testament. But what about “husband-headship?” Is Paul not clear that the husband is supposed to lead the family unit? Honestly, this Pauline passage found in the book of Ephesians (5:23)  is not as clear as one might think when deeper study of the Greek word “head” (kephale) is done.

I like how Tim and Anne Evans put it over at The Junia Project:

Our position is that before sin entered the picture, there was no designated hierarchy, headship, or female subordination, and man was not declared the leader or spiritual cover. Headship is never mentioned until thousands of years after God’s original marriage design. In Eden the husband and wife enjoyed mutual equality intrinsically and functionally. The husband and wife co-led together—naked and not ashamed—as they celebrated the miracle and mystery of two becoming one (Read the full post here).

The fact remains, however, that even if a husband/father is meant to lead as Christ led the Church, this would include giving up rights, laying down authority, and sacrificially laying down his selfishness for the good of the family. Thus, leading us right back to “mutual submission” and “co-leadership” of the family. I don’t know any egalitarian women who would not enjoy having a husband and “baby daddy” who “led in love” the way Christ led the Church.

Popular conservative blogger, Matt Walsh, stated on Facebook:

Men and women are different. This is probably the most obvious thing a person can say, but progressivism makes controversy of the obvious because, in the end, confusion is its aim (Source Here).

I would argue that fundamental Christians, namely complementarians, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and those who subscribe to rigid gender roles, are the ones who are confused – both socially and biblically. Egalitarians, who would be considered progressive Christians to most in complementarian camps, are simply trying to get real and be honest about what the Bible actually says when read as a whole book. 

We are not at all trying to “confuse” people and we most certainly recognize that men and women are different, but we also recognize that human beings are individuals and all men do not fit into one human-made box (same with women). We must stop trying to force fathers and mothers be someone they may not be “wired” to be. Likewise, we must stop discouraging men and women not to be someone they were “wired” to be.

There is no doubt in my mind that the father I witnessed practically slow dancing with his little girl in church last Sunday would have no problem nurturing his daughter all day long. In fact, I noticed that her mother was there too, but he definitely seemed to be more nurturing of the two parents. He was most certainly the more affectionate parent.

The father of the household has only one prescribed biblical “gender role” and that is to sacrificially love his wife and children the best way he knows how and since all Christians are called to sacrificially love both their neighbors and their enemies, I am not convinced we can even call a father’s job a “gender role” at all.

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8 Comments

  • “While the father’s role is crucial to the family unit, there has been an unhealthy lie spreading in the church that no one actually says directly, but indirectly, and that is that the father’s role is more important than the mother’s role. ”

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I have read books explaining how both young girls and boys develop a sense of self-worth based on their father’s involvement in their lives. It left me wondering “what about the mother’s involvement?”, but that was never addressed. I think it was just assumed that of course mothers will be involved! But we don’t assume the same thing about fathers. Funny how our cultural expectations of mothers are so high, but in our desperate attempts to get fathers involved in their children’s lives by writing about how important their influence is, we end up inadvertently devaluing the mothers.

    Thank you for writing about something I’ve thought about but never articulated!

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