Galatians 3:23-29 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
When I was in seminary back in the 90’s, we had students from a broad theological spectrum. We had theologically conservative students, students in the middle ground, and some from “progressive” camps. I considered myself then, and still today, in that middle ground. One of the issues that brought much conversation then was the role of females in leadership roles in the church. Being United Methodist, I was in a tradition that had already embraced women in any and every role in church leadership, including Pastor, Bishop, etc. Others were very critical of that perspective and there were some passionate discussions that ensued.
Once in a class, this passage of scripture was discussed at length, and it led to another round of debate about the role of women in leadership. My more conservative brothers (and the ones who resisted were all men) argued vehemently that Paul was only discussing soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) in this passage. When Paul said, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”, the conservatives argued this only applied to one’s life in Christ as a believer, not in areas of call and vocation. I found their argument lacking in earnestness then, and still do today.
Jesus Christ came for the complete and total transformation of the world. He breaks down barriers of every variety. He breaks down the barriers of race. He breaks down the barrier of slave and free. He breaks down economic barriers and social barriers. And yes, he breaks the barriers of gender. Jesus empowered women and set them free to be all that God had created them to be. He entrusted the greatest news the world had ever known to a group of women on that first Easter morn and told them to “Go and Tell!” To limit the work of Christ to a single aspect is to minimize the enormity of his power in the cosmos. Jesus is the Savior of the world, and that saving is not limited to our souls but to our entire being.
Some folks are still having these debates. A recent controversy stirred when a famous large church Pastor told Beth Moore, a noted female teacher/preacher, to “go home.” My belief is that Jesus is still beating down walls in us today, and his work continues unabated.