A few weeks ago was International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the women in our lives, those who have paved the way for others, the role models, the ground-breakers. Do you know any women like this?
And perhaps I am a little late to the party on this. Forgive me has it has been a long time since I have written anything outside of work.
Over the last few months, a couple friends and I have been doing a bi-weekly Bible study via video conference. We have done two awesome studies by Christian women who have not had an easy life. They have known struggles, grief, loss, but also love; the love of family, husbands, children and the love of God. Thank you Ann Voskamp and Lisa Whittle for sharing your lives with us.
(Side note: I think I went to the same high school as Ann but she would have been a couple years ahead of me.)
When I look around the Christian leadership landscape these days, there are quite a number of great female leaders who are passionate, humble, grateful, God-fearing speakers and teachers.
But what I also see is a number of people trying to shut them down because they think women should not be public speakers and should only be preaching to other women, if at all. They reference the words of Timothy and feel good about it. There are still a number of churches who will not let women be preachers, elders, ushers, etc.
A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent.1 Timothy 2:11-12
I grew up in a fairly traditional Mennonite church and there was a woman on the elders board. If the Mennonite church is doing that, why can’t anyone else?
A few years ago I was at our church’s annual women’s retreat where about 80 women gathered to praise God and bless one another. This one particular year, there was another church there holding their family weekend. It is my understanding that we were supposed to have staggered meal times but ended up all eating together. It turns out this other church was of the mindset that women were not to publicly pray, so one of their male attendees would pray for the meal for all of us.
If someone wants to grab the mic and pray over the meal, all the power to them. Generally speaking I have no issue with this. But because of their thought processes (I can’t apply the word ‘beliefs’ to this scenario), we had a stranger pray over our meal during a weekend meant to build up one another.
Here is my question: If a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man, why did Jesus befriend so many woman? If God has such low regard for women, why was a woman the first person Jesus presented himself to after he walked out of the grave? If women are not supposed to teach, why do so many women have the gift of teaching, speaking and ministry. All of these gifts are from God, so why are we not to use them?
Let’s look at some of the women Jesus interacted with in the New testament for a moment:
- Mary and Martha: We are introduced to Mary and Martha in Luke 10. They were friends of Jesus. Jesus mourned greatly at the death of their brother Lazarus. Mary was the one who anointed His feet just days before His crucifixion. Refer to John 12 for this telling event.
- The Woman at the Well: John 4 talks about Jesus’ interaction with this woman. He knows about her past but still is content speaking with her alone, in a somewhat isolated area. After this interaction, she went back to her village and shared her story with everyone.
- Mary Magdalene: She travelled around with Jesus and the Disciples. She was the first person Jesus spoke to after the resurrection (Matthew 28). She went on to witness to others what she had seen.
- Adulteress Woman: Jesus showed forgiveness and compassion for her in front of a crowd of many men. Do you think she stayed quiet about what she experienced? John 8 is the reference for this event.
- Bleeding Woman: Again, a woman who received healing from Jesus after being sick and weak for 12 years. After experiencing the miracle healing we read about in Luke 8, she would have shared her story and became a witness for the Lord.
I have read/heard commentary of Jesus’ choice of a witness after the resurrection. In those times, women were considered less than. For God to use a woman to share the greatest event on earth showed that He wants to use women in His ministry.
There are men of this world today who would not be able to hear a testimony from another man. A woman’s softer tone tends to be more empathetic, which could be needed over another man’s harsher, more direct approach. (Please do not accuse me of being sexist. I know both genders could fall on either side of the coin.)
I guess what I am saying with all of this is I don’t think God will get offended by a woman preaching in church or teaching a man about God.
If the intent of Timothy’s direction is to prevent men and women from crossing inappropriate boundaries, that is a different conversation. Preventing women from speaking about God, in my humble opinion, is not what God intended. And after reading the verse again, it says, “I do not allow women…” Is that direction coming from Timothy, Paul or God?
Women have their stories to share, their perspectives to be heard, their teachings to be taught.
What female teachers have made an impact on your faith? Which passionate humble leaders do you follow and what makes them so special to you? I would love to hear your thoughts.