Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7
It was quiet in the Oak Street Bible Shop, as was often the case in the morning. Joy and Gary were preparing book orders from little slips of paper, looking through stock books and filling out the forms.
Sue had entered with the mail and was sorting through the envelopes and putting rubber bands around little bundles of bills and advertisements.
Glen, seated by the coffee urn, was writing in a little book and occasionally looking out the window at the birds gathered round the feeder.
"I've found the little bird we were wondering about," he said. "It's a white crowned sparrow."
"I thought you were studying,” said Joy, not looking up from her order form.
"I am studying,” said Glen, "I'm studying birds".
"What's the book then?" She asked idly, still not looking up.
"It's one of Peterson's Field Guides to the Birds," he replied. "You know there are all kinds of sparrows, you'd be surprised."
"And His eye is on all of them," said Sue. She laid her little bundles of mail on the counter.
Gary was lost in details, unaware of anything except the task at hand. He often got so lost in thought that a customer would approach his counter and have to speak to get his attention. This was true on this particular morning when a thin and energetic woman came through the door.
She was in her late thirties with a little gray in her short hair. She was wearing slacks and a quilted vest and had a knitted headband over her ears. Her rather thin face had a tense expression.
Joy looked up at her and asked, "Can we help you?"
"I hope so," she replied. "Do you have a book on the woman's role in the church?"
Gary had looked up by now and was about to slide one of his New Testament's across the counter. Joy anticipated this and waved one hand frantically behind her back as if to say, "Knock it off.” She led the woman to a shelf marked "Ministries".
“Is there a particular area you are interested in?" she asked politely.
"Teaching," was all the woman offered.
"Joy tensed a little, remembering the conflicts that often arose over this subject. "You mean Sunday School?" she asked again.
"No, I don't mean Sunday School," the woman snapped. "I mean regular adult Bible classes."
"Oh, you must mean an adult women's class.”
"No, I don't mean that either. I mean men and women taking a Bible class and a woman teaching!"
The expression on Joy's face gave the woman reason to reconsider. Joy was not one to speak harshly, and it was visible on her face.
The woman changed her tone. "I'm sorry I snapped at you, but since you are a woman I thought you'd understand. You see, our church has installed a woman teacher, and my husband won't even attend now."
"Your husband won't attend her classes?" Joy asked.
"He won't attend the church," the woman replied, “or give any offerings. He says they have crossed the line as far as he is concerned and he is through with them. He is a Bible man, as he describes himself, and he said if anyone can show him a place in the Bible where a woman can teach men, he will take
back everything he said. Can't you help me turn him around? I mean, he is so old-fashioned!"
Sue and Gary kept quiet, realizing that Joy was in a situation. Joy would not compromise on Bible doctrine. Of course she did not want to antagonize a potential customer, but most of all she wanted her to know the truth about the role of women in the church--and for the woman and her husband to come to an agreement.
Joy took a deep breath. "Just like that sign outside says, this is a Bible shop. And we are committed to Bible doctrine. I would never want to take sides in a personal issue between a husband and wife."
Glen laid down his field guide and closed it carefully over his pencil to keep the place. He approached Joy and the lady.
“Pardon me," he said. "Good morning, ma'am. I overheard your conversation. And since this is such an important matter I was wondering if you would be willing to accept the words of a third party as a negotiator?"
"Well," the woman said, glaring at him. "I think I know what your opinion will be before you even say it. Who are you, anyway?"
Glen introduced himself, but before he could proceed, the lady showed her hostility towards him.
"I know who you are, my husband thinks you're so great. But why do you think you are qualified to act as a third party in this or any other disagreement?"
"Oh, forgive me for not making myself clear," said Glen. “I wasn't speaking of myself. The third party I had in mind was the Bible. Since you are attending a Bible class at your church, I felt you would be willing to abide by what the Bible says concerning women teaching men. You already said your husband will."
"Oh, you can prove anything from the Bible. You can always find something somewhere to prove any point you want to make."
"Good," said Glen. "Since that is true, then you should be able to find a place that says women can teach men."
Joy backed away and sat back up on her stool. Sue and Gary exchanged looks, but said nothing. At this point they were happy to be spectators.
"I don't know of any particular place that says, yes, women can teach men, but I don't see why it has to," she said. "After all, the Bible says that men and women are equal. I don't know where offhand. But I know it says somewhere, ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek,’ and so forth. And it goes on to say ‘there is neither male nor female.’ I know that."
"I sure do agree with you on that, ma'am," said Glen. "The passage is in Galatians, chapter three.” Glen recited from memory. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28.
"But this passage speaks of equality before God. Between human beings, the differences still existed, and they still do now. Slaves and free are equal before God in salvation, but that passage did not abolish slavery. Men and women are equal in terms of salvation, but they are distinct in other ways. I'm sure you don't approve of men marrying men."
"Of course not!" she objected.
Glen held up his hand. "I'm not trying to bait you, really. It's just that being equal does not mean being the same, that's all. In the Bible God assigned different roles for men and women and they still hold true today. I don't understand why anyone would object to that."
"We have in our church," the woman began, "a highly qualified woman who the church has assigned to teach the Bible. I think she's terrific. She is a good speaker and is very highly qualified. She has a doctorate degree."
Glen listened patiently. "Ma'am," he said, "I'm sure you aren't old enough to remember the Nazi era. But did you know that over ninety per cent of Hitler's SS officers had doctorate degrees?"
"Oh, I see, if you have a Ph.D. you are no better than a Nazi!"
Again Glen held up his hand. "Please," he said, as he gestured towards the shelves of books. “Many, if not most of these authors have doctorates. But having a doctorate does not qualify a person to teach the Bible any more than not having one disqualifies a person to teach."
Glen stepped to his "prophecy corner" and pulled out a small volume--Jesus is Coming, by W.E.B.
"You take this little book," he said. "The man who wrote Jesus is Coming, did not have much in the way of formal education. But even though he died the year I was born, in all those years since he wrote it, no one, with or without a degree, has ever been able to find one flaw in his book."
"You're getting away from my point. Why can't a woman teach men? How can a Bible person, as my husband calls himself, object to it?"
"I'm sure your husband has referred to what Paul wrote in first Timothy chapter two. Help me out, Gary."
Everyone turned to Gary as he found 1 Timothy 2:12.
"For I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
"But that was then!" the woman objected. "We've come a long way since that time."
"If you follow that argument, then men can marry men," Glen said. "If a person says it is against the Bible, it is objected, 'but that was then.' Paul refers to the events in Genesis to prove his point."
Glen turned to Gary, who continued to read.
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 1 Timothy 2:13,14."
"So not only can't women teach, they are responsible for the Fall!" the woman objected.
"Not at all," said Glen. "Paul is not talking about who sinned, but who was deceived. In this passage Paul is not talking about who is the worst sinner, or who gets blamed for the fall. He is saying that woman came second in the creation and that she, not Adam was deceived.
"In fact, the Bible lays the fall on Adam. Adam wasn't deceived. Kind of like that old song 'With My Eyes Wide Open'. Adam knew better and ate the fruit anyway. He has the greater guilt."
"He has the greater guilt, but men can teach and women can't!" the woman objected.
"Awful, aint it?" said Glen. "Hate to admit it, as a Bible teacher, but teaching is not so much about being perfect, but about knowing and telling the truth.
"Don't get me wrong. Sin distorts our knowledge. But the issue is authority. I mean here, the authority of the Word. In Matthew chapter twenty three Jesus told the Jews to listen to the scribes and the Pharisees, because they sat on Moses seat."
Gary found Matthew 23 and read,
"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: and therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not. Matthew 23:1-3."
"You see," said Glen, "God's word gives the order of creation. And the purpose of His creation as the reason women are to submit to the teaching of men, and not the other way around. Some day men will be judged on how well they carried out their orders. So men need to shape up."
The woman looked at Glen. Then she looked at Joy. Joy kind of shrugged as she smiled.
"So that's it!" the woman said with resignation. "If I was to follow what you say is in the Bible, I have to tell my husband that he is right. Women are forbidden to teach. He'll love that!"
Glen had started to walk to his seat by the coffee urn, but Joy knew him too well. Just part of his theatrics, she thought to herself. He can be such a ham
"Oh, no!" he said as he walked back to her. "Please don't misunderstand. I hope you tell him the Bible gives you the authority to teach. Personally I think that America is going down and down because women aren't teaching enough. The signs are all around us. Please tell him, since he thinks so highly of me and all, that I said women must teach. It's in God's word, very plainly."
Joy turned her head away. Glen could be impossible at times.
Sue smiled at Gary. They had a good idea of what was coming.
The woman raised both arms and let them drop. "Now I know why my husband likes you so much. You're as crazy as he is!"
Glen pretended to ignore this remark. "You know I've often wondered why women don't teach more. I mean they have a big responsibility and just let it go by, while they're trying to do the job of men. What a waste, is all I can say."
Glen walked over to the counter and turned Gary's Bible around. He found the book of Titus. He turned towards the woman.
"Some women get so mad at what Paul says in First Timothy, but they need to read what he says here in Titus. Paul seems to take with one hand, but he gives with the other. Both are God's words to the church. Here is what he says of women and their teaching role.
"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. Titus 2:4.
"Sounds so simple, doesn't it? But it sure is important. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Every wonder how much education she had?"
The woman spoke softly now. "I'm sure Mary couldn't read or write," she said.
"But she was chosen of God to bear Jesus and to mother him. When Jesus was on the cross, he told John, 'Behold thy mother.' John 19:27. And the Gospel says John took her into his own home. Women are to teach love, and the great ones do, through example. It doesn't get much credit in this world. But imagine their rewards in heaven!
"Nice talking with you, ma'am," said Glen. And he walked back to his seat by the window.