I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12
Years ago, I ran into a female acquaintance who was attending seminary to become a pastor. I should have kept my mouth shut, but instead, based on today’s passage, I expressed my disapproval. Women can’t be pastors. Paul said so. It’s in the Bible. Some of you agree with this sentiment and some of you can’t believe I said it – more on that in a minute. I had my convictions, and I wanted to make them known. The problem – other than the sexism – with my statement was that I was hiding an opioid addiction. I was living in blatant self-destruction, but if I could keep that a secret, I felt comfortable telling everyone else how to live. I was the worst kind of hypocrite – a Christian who’s addicted to sin, while trying to tell others what they should do with their lives.
In today’s passage, Paul did indeed say that women should learn quietly with all submissiveness. He also said that he didn’t allow women to teach in church but rather insisted that they remain quiet. In the same passage however, he said women shouldn’t braid their hair or wear jewelry. We hardly follow those rules of dress anymore. We would dismiss them as cultural and sexist. Some of you will think I’ve gone liberal, but I’ve come to see Paul’s ban on women leaders in church as culturally irrelevant. I’ve attended church with women pastors, and they’ve preached the gospel with an effectiveness to which I cannot object.
Whether or not women should be pastors though, isn’t really my point today. My point is that as Christians, it’s often tempting to tell others how to live, while embracing sin ourselves. We pick out a passage – such as one on greed – and we aim it at anyone who makes more money than we do. Or, we take a passage on sexuality, pointing it at those whom we see as living an immoral lifestyle, all the while ignoring our own pornography addiction. It makes us feel better if we can judge someone who’s sin appears worse than our own.
It’s not that we cannot believe in right and wrong. The problem is that we publicly try to tell others how to live right while privately embracing evil. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy and it’s what the world hates about Christians. If we desire to follow Christ, showing his light and love to the world, we must first live rightly ourselves. Living rightly involves developing the wisdom to know when and how to speak up for what we believe – and when to simply work on ourselves first.