Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (Titus 2:2-6)Really, Paul? You start "what accords with sound doctrine" with patriarchal gender roles? You begin with ageism and sexism? This is "what accords with sound doctrine"?
We don't think so. In our enlightened days, we know that when Paul engaged in this ill-considered rant about different roles of men and women, he was actually thinking of the known fact that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28) As such, these apparent differences between gender roles are, well, a mistake, a misunderstanding, a failure to communicate. We can figure that out for ourselves simply by looking at our culture today. And that's a relief.
Except it isn't because it is not possible to put "gender equality" in the sense of "gender sameness" (as opposed to equal worth) in the whole of Scripture and have it make sense. The Bible is full of differing rules and roles for men and women. Further, the failure of sinful human beings to properly carry out those differing rules and roles is not a valid argument to say that either God or His Word is wrong for stating them.
But, in truth, I'm not writing this simply about gender roles. I'm writing this about the problem. I'm writing about what is at stake. Note what Paul told Titus in the course of "what accords with sound doctrine" regarding young wives. He told Titus to teach older women to train younger women (wives) "to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands." Now, in today's world and even in today's church whose values and perspectives too often come from today's world, that whole sentence comes across like nails on a chalkboard. "'Love their husbands'? We will if our husbands do what's right, but don't expect us to love the unlovable. 'Working at home'? Yeah, right, like some rotten '50's sitcom. No thanks. I have a career and I won't be fulfilled with that silly 'Suzie Homemaker' nonsense. (Which, by the way, will bring into question any need for that whole 'love their children' concept, since there very well might not be any.) And, honestly, who, anymore, is really going to be 'submissive to their own husbands'? Welcome to the 21st century. You know what you can do with your archaic patriarchal nonsense. We're at least equals in this marriage and, truth be told, we're pretty sure women are superior. So keep your 'submit' stuff to yourself." With or without the acrimony, that is the common view inside and out of the church.
But notice why Paul tells Titus that young wives ought to be trained this way. This is no minor item. Paul says that, in keeping with "what accords with sound doctrine", older women should "train the young women" in this manner that the word of God may not be reviled.
Paul mentions a similar concept in Romans. "You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" (Rom 2:23-24) In the same way, according to Paul, when wives do not love their husbands and children, are not self-controlled and pure, do not work at home, are not kind, and are not submissive to their husbands, it reflects badly on God's Word. And, of course, when God's Word is diminished ("reviled"), the origin of God's Word -- God Himself -- is diminished (reviled). (Note: the words used in Romans 2:24 -- "blasphemed" -- and in Titus 2:5 -- "reviled" -- are the same Greek word.) So while we boldly stand on "higher ground" where "women are empowered" and no more of this silly (or worse) "patriarchal stuff" is in play, we hold God and His Word up for ridicule. And we are Christians.
When will we learn that we do not know better? When will we realize that we are not "of this world", but simply in it? When will we recognize that the world hates Christ and we ought not think that the views of the world should be the same as the views of the Father? Mind you, I'm not asking about the world. They're operating blind (2 Cor 4:4), hating God (Rom 8:7), with deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). But you, Christian, redeemed by the Son, forgiven by the Father, indwelt by the Spirit, adopted by God ... why are you buying the lies from the father of lies instead of being transformed by the renewing of your mind? Why, instead, are so many Christians conformed to this world? I think these are questions each of us needs to answer. (Rom 12:1-2)