Home, Church, World—What Applies Where?
by Kristi Meyer
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27).
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Altar Guild member. Handbell choir director. AV volunteer. Professor. Department chair. Committee member. Friend. Neighbor. Student. This is only a sampling of my various vocations and the different roles in which I serve. And although your list isn’t the same as mine, I’m confident that you also use your God-given gifts and talents in a variety of vocations and roles.
In addition, there’s another calling that we have: God’s unique callings for men and women. Throughout this devotional series, we’ll be examining how these unique callings play out. Before looking more specifically at applications in various areas of life—including in the home, in the church, and in the world—it’s important to understand both how Scripture talks about these areas and how differing circumstances impact the way we live out our callings.
In the Home
It’s clear that our unique callings have application in marriage and in the home. God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, and he showed this “not goodness” to Adam through his naming of all the animals (Genesis 2:18-20). So God created Eve to be a helper for Adam, a role that she fulfilled in her vocation as his wife (Genesis 2:24). Through the establishment of their family and the population of the earth, Adam and Eve lived out their unique callings in the home and established a pattern for all of us as we also strive to live out these unique callings.
We also have significant guidance in the New Testament on how our unique callings play out in the home. Passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 are specifically addressed to husbands and wives. The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings. And as families are created, husbands and wives again have the opportunity to live out their unique callings in parenting their children and bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
The relationship between husband and wife, modeled on the relationship between Christ and the church, is a beautiful opportunity for both men and women to live out their unique callings.
That’s not to say that everyone’s home situation is going to look the same, however, and it would be disingenuous to imply that applying our unique callings to the home is easy. Unbelieving spouses, single-parent households, blended families—all of these create nuanced situations in which the application of our unique callings differs. And for those of us who are single—especially those of us who are single females—there’s yet another wrinkle to navigate in determining what our unique callings look like in our own personal home situation.
All that said, we do still know that our unique callings apply in the home. We know that wives are called to “submit” by putting themselves under their husbands, yielding to them, and supporting them as they carry out their role as the household’s head. Conversely, husbands are called to “love” their wives by reflecting a Christ-like sacrificial love, regarding their wife’s welfare ahead of their own, and showing this love not only in their words but also in their actions.
So yes, everyone’s home situation will look different. And yes, each individual husband and wife pair must prayerfully consider how to apply their unique callings to their own relationship and their own marriage. But there is no question that the guidance God gives through the inspired writings of Peter and Paul still applies to marriages today.
In the Church
Speaking personally, application in the church is the hardest for me to navigate when it comes to the unique callings of men and women—and, if I’m being honest, the hardest to accept. I’m sure I’m not alone in some of my struggles, struggles that we’ll explore throughout the course of this summer devotional series. What roles can a woman fulfill in the church? Can she usher? Lead or facilitate a small-group Bible study? Serve as a lector and read Scripture during the worship service? What about a woman who has been blessed with gifts of leadership? Can she carry out this leadership in the church without violating Paul’s prohibition on teaching authoritatively (1 Timothy 2:11-12)?
And, regarding Paul’s writings on women in the church, how do we know that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 still applies today? Why don’t we consider it an outdated cultural relic similar to Paul’s directives on women covering their heads in worship (1 Corinthians 11:5-6) or keeping their hair long as a covering (1 Corinthians 11:15)? For that matter, what about single women? Is there any way for them to have a voice in the church while still respecting whichever Scripture passages might apply today?
Answering each of these questions could easily be a devotion in and of itself, and we will tackle many of these questions over the course of this series. For now, we again need to remember the difference between principle and applications. Biblical principles are timeless and still hold true—as they were originally written—even though we live in a world far removed in time and space from that original writing. Applications of these principles, on the other hand, can (and do!) change from time to time, from culture to culture, from situation to situation, from believer to believer.
In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles.
In order to understand how Paul’s writings apply to the church today, we need to be careful to differentiate between principle and application when reading his epistles. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it is always a consideration that should be at the forefront of our minds when reading and studying Paul’s writings on the unique callings of men and women, especially as these writings relate to the church.
In the World
But what about in the world? In an unbelieving world that routinely rejects God’s Word and his plans for creation, that thinks of traditional gender roles as archaic and unenlightened, that encourages women to shatter the glass ceiling—in such a world, do the biblical principles surrounding the unique callings of men and women still apply?
Saying “yes” is not a popular answer; yet it is the answer that we must give. God does not have a separate will for Christians and another will for society, and therefore our topic extends to the world as well.
It is too strong to say that this “yes” needs to be qualified, but it does need to be understood properly. In the world—unlike in the church—we do not have the gift of being surrounded by the body of Christ. For many of us, we interact more often with unbelievers than with fellow Christians in our daily lives. There are multiple biblical principles at play in each of those interactions, and we need to consider how to properly balance and navigate those biblical principles—all while also striving to be salt and light to a world lost in sin and darkness.
We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way.
We do well, then, to exercise loving patience when applying biblical principles in the world, and we do well to recognize that not all Christians will apply the principles in the same way. An action that causes one woman no pangs of conscience whatsoever may bind the conscience of another. A role that one woman assumes without any hesitation may bring consternation or discomfort to another. As long as both women are acting with biblical motivation, neither woman is wrong, and yet their applications of the same biblical principle look entirely different. Instead of giving in to our sinful inclination to judge, we should take the opportunity to have open and honest conversations on this topic—conversations that are always solidly based on God’s Word.
We are so grateful to be able to regularly have these conversations as a WELS Women’s Ministry team, and we’re looking forward to sharing the fruits of these conversations with you this summer. We also encourage you to have these conversations within your own sphere of influence. In your home, in your church, in your world, engage in open and honest dialogue on the biblical principles and their applications. Time spent in the Word is never time wasted, and we pray that your time spent with us on the unique callings of men and women might lead to more fruitful conversations—wherever those conversations occur.
For Further Reflection
- What does your own personal home situation look like? How do you live your unique calling in your home?
- Are you content with the way your church applies the unique callings of men and women? If yes, how can you support your church leadership as they continue in their application of this biblical principle? If no, where does your discontentment come from? Is it appropriate?
- What other biblical principles are at play in our interactions with an unbelieving world? How do you navigate these principles in your daily life?
Lord God, thank you for placing us in various roles and vocations within the home, the church, and the world. Guide us as we strive to faithfully apply your principles, and help us to view different applications as opportunities to engage in discussion and build others up rather than to gossip and tear others down. Bring us together as the body of Christ, and let all that we do be done to your glory. Amen.