In Genesis 3, after the man and woman disobey God by eating fruit from the forbidden tree, their equal partnership in carrying out their role as God’s image bearers was broken. The power struggle that results, and the rule of men over women (Gen 3:16) is a disordering of God’s good creation. This is descriptive, not prescriptive, and it is life under judgement, not life redeemed.
This tells us two important things.
First, it tells us that this side of the new heavens and the new earth, fractured relationships between genders will always exist.
We should not be surprised that gender inequality exists throughout history and in all cultures. We should not be surprised that gender inequality persists in the modern world and in ‘civilised’ countries. Because it is a key marker of our fallen state - a central stronghold of human sinfulness. Gender inequality is writ large in our world – bride burning, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and slavery, domestic violence, honour killings, rape, the abortion and neglect of female babies; but it is also written on our hearts - our inclinations and desires, jealousy and selfishness, the disruption of our most intimate relationships.
Second, it tells us that recovering dignity, equality, and true freedom for women (and men) is an outworking of the gospel.
In Christ, God not only forgives our sin, but releases us from our slavery to it, and is redeeming us from the consequences of it. Working for freedom, justice, rights, and protection for women and girls is God’s work. Pursuing a marriage that rejects gendered scripts for competitiveness, stereotypes, complaints, bitterness and self-promotion, is Christian discipleship.
As Christians we must both recognise our own personal proclivity towards the disruption of harmonious relationships between men and women, and understand that God calls us to something better. We acknowledge our inability to overcome this on our own. We rely on and trust in the Holy Spirit to not just conform our outward selves, but transform our innermost desires.
So Christianity not only allows us to better understand why gender inequality persists, it also motivates us to do something about it, and empowers us to overcome it.
Hannah Craven is an Anglican minister in a church in North Carlton - on the fringe of Melbourne city. Wife to Tom & mother to Liam & Amber.