When God asked me to use my writing talents for Him through blogging, I knew He would ask me to be painfully transparent. Today, I feel led to write about a topic that I approach with apprehension and insecurity: women, and how God relates to them. The spotlight has been bright on issues of gender lately, with cultural phenomena such as the #MeToo movement. As such, there is no way to write about gender without the possibility of stepping into controversy, something I have always carefully avoided.
On topics of gender and my faith, I usually feel that I have more questions than answers. But that’s why I need to write this. I’m not the only one who has struggled to understand her place in the world as a woman, and more importantly, her place in the kingdom of God. So to the young woman who has questions, doubts, or has been hurt by the church: this is for you.
The church’s historical treatment of women was often ambivalent at best. I know many women that have felt slighted and hurt by legalistic treatment of biblical gender roles. For smart, modern, independent women, it can be difficult to reconcile that treatment with our faith. But the more I study the Bible and the early church, the more I feel empowered as a woman by my faith.
Wendy Alsup, whose book Is the Bible Good for Women? has become a favorite of mine on this topic, wrote:
“Is God then a feminist by (Gloria Steinem’s) definition? If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist. God created woman in his image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man. By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.”
Interesting to note too, is that God did not feel He was finished creating until He created woman. He felt that this new world, that this new creature He called man, needed… something. That something was woman, another image-bearer made to be His ezer kenegdo (in the original language). Those words are usually translated as “help meet” or “help mate,” which has long evoked images of a dutiful, subordinate housewife who must never speak unless spoken to.
This is actually far from what either word means. The word ezer means “strong” or “powerful,” and indicates a saving power. The same word is used to describe what God is to mankind several times in the Old Testament. It’s modifier, kenegdo, best means “equal” or “suitable.” God created women to be a strong, equal partner with men. The different strengths and different roles of men and women do not negate their inherent equality.
Also empowering to study are Jesus’ interactions with women during his Earthly ministry. He never condescended to them, nor did He sexualize them. They were not objects or property as they were to many of His contemporaries; they were people.
Every time a woman is the star of a passage of the gospels, it is a Pharisee shaming her and Jesus defending her. He refused to stone the adulterous woman; “You who is without sin may cast the first stone.” He defended the woman who anointed Him at Bethany. He not only publicly spoke to the town slut at the Well, but lovingly forgave her of her sin and freed her from it: “go and sin no more.” His first appearance after the resurrection was to women, whose testimonies were not legally recognized at the time.
The Apostle Paul recognizes several women in his epistles that aided in his ministry, also a countercultural move at the time. He commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His church, giving himself up for her, in a time when wives were counted as property like livestock. Jesus and His most faithful followers were decidedly pro-woman.
There are many other passages of scripture that empowers me as a woman and affirms my equal standing in God’s eyes. But I know that there are several passages that are troubling to the modern reader. Admittedly, some I still struggle to understand. Some days questions are overwhelming. But I fall back on a trust that whether or not I understand, God is good. He is my holy, loving heavenly father who gives good things. He is faithful to reveal the truth, in His timing, to those who seek it.
There is no way I can cover every gender-related issue from a Biblical standpoint in one post. So I urge you, reader, not to shy away from studying passages that trouble you. (Historical context and original language wording will be your friend, as you saw above.) Dive into it with the assurance that God is good, and His heart for you is good too. Know in all humility that God’s ways are higher and better than our ways, and therefore He is good whether or not we understand. Woman: you are valued. You are validated. You are radically loved.
“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.” Galatians 3:28
Want to talk this issue out further? Hit me up: firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook Messenger: Madison Janae Harris
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