sexual equality and the church

I’m feeling very dry lately. My life has been turned upside down by God and I’m not emotionally prepared to actually write about that right now, but I do want to post things. So, here’s a thing I’ve been meaning to post for a while now. I was going to turn it into more of my normal blog style post, but I decided to just copy it exactly how I turned it in. This is an essay I wrote for Comp II, and then turned into my highest scoring speech for my Speech class too. God was all over this one. I’m reading this to myself fairly often lately to help pull some power from God’s calling even when I’m not getting any rain.
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Sexual Equality and the Church (an essay by Kaitlin Popelka)

Throughout the last century, women have come leaps and bounds in terms of receiving more equality, in ways such as reducing the wage gap, taking more leadership positions, and reducing overt sexism. While all of these things are still a problem to some extent, they are much better now thanks to the feminist movement, which focuses on empowering women. Where else do we see women’s empowerment? The Bible. While most people think that the Bible wants women to “sit down and shut up,” Jesus, His disciples, and many Old Testament books were very pro-woman. The Bible is also very clear that salvation and the gifts of the Spirit are for all who believe. Proverbs 31, arguably the most well known passage in the wisdom books, is all about strong woman. Paul himself was vocal about supporting women in the church and had female leaders. While many people unfortunately believe that Christians and the Bible are pro-man, the Bible is actually in support of gender equality.

Countless times in the New Testament, is it said that salvation and the baptism of the Spirit, and the gifts therein, are for everyone – no gender discrimination involved. John 1:12, John 3:16, and Romans 3:22, among other verses, specifically say “all who believe” (emphasis added) (New International Version). Not the men who believe, not some who believe. Females definitely fall under “all.” The Holy Spirit and His gifts are also for “all.” Acts 2:17 specifically says “sons and daughters” (emphasis added) will receive the gifts. 2 Cor. 6:18 says that “sons and daughters” will be children of God. Acts 21:9 talks about women having the gift of prophesy. I am certain that God would not give us these gifts and then not want us to use them. So why would He give women the same power and gifts as the men and then expect them not to use and share it? Why would God ever want someone not to use His gifts to edify the kingdom and church and glorify Him, especially for a reason as small as gender? Genesis 1:27 says “male and female” (emphasis added) were made in His image, so why are there those that would seek to keep spirit-filled, God-called women from using their gifts? For years, women have been kept from holding leadership positions such as pastor, and have been told that because they are female that they don’t have the right to lead or speak out in the church. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says that each of us is a part of the body of Christ, and every one of us needs the other parts of the body to function. Just as I need a heart and a head to survive, so the church needs men and women of Christ to fulfill its functions.

The Old Testament is full of strong women. Women like Rahab, whose courage saved Israel. Women like Esther, whose courage again saved the Jews. Women like Ruth, who followed God, no matter the hardships that came and then saw her reward in God’s plan. Proverbs 31 is all about a strong, godly woman. Does she sit at home and silently wait for her husband to order her about as so many people think the Bible wants women to do? No, she sold her own goods, managed her money, and was a competent mother and wife at the same time (New International Version). She was virtuous and intuitive, and everyone praised her because of it – but they would not have known she was if she was silent and still all the time. Even in the Old Testament days, women were still looked up to at times.

There is a point where using the Bible to focus on women’s empowerment can go too far. In the 1970s, a pastor who saw that his female members wanted more female symbols “discovered” the goddess “Sophia” in the Bible and started worshiping her along with God in his church(“Does” par. 2). This has spread into other churches and is starting to affect their worship of Jesus by replacing Him with this “Sophia” (Holstein par. 3). This is taking things too far, and is not Biblical. God is the trinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and the Bible is clear on that. While it is sad that people have taken the Bible and twisted it to promote women’s empowerment alone, we cannot let that keep us from embracing the incredible, strong, and wise women seen throughout the Bible.

Paul was very pro-woman for his day and age. Many people like to take 1 Corinthians 14 out of context and think that he’s saying that women shouldn’t be active in the church. In an interview with Christianity Today, Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, says, “Many scholars believe that in their new-found freedom, a group of Christian women were disrupting the meeting with questions. Paul was asking them to learn in quietness and talk it over at home with their husbands.” (Beaty 2) She goes on to elaborate that the fact that Paul was telling them to even ask their husbands questions and continue learning about Christ was a huge deal in that time. Paul had women in leadership positions in the churches he helped shepherd, too. Priscilla was teaching Apollos. Sarah Bessey says later in the interview, “I believe that knowing how these passages have been misused would break Paul’s heart,” and, “Interpreting Paul as offering more freedom to women makes everything else in the Scriptures makes sense.” (Beaty 2)

The misrepresentation of Paul’s ideas is a sad thing, and has caused heartache for countless women. However, when we take a closer look at the context and the rest of his ministry, we can see that Paul was all for women being very active in the church. This reflects the fact that Christ was pro-woman and His truth and salvation are for all who believe. Even before the gospel, the Old Testament is full of powerful women that we can look to. It is time we threw off those old misconceptions of what Paul meant and how the older generations chose to see women’s roles, and instead see what the Bible is really saying – and that is that women are strong, powerful, and wonderful parts of the Body of Christ. It’s time we made things equal again.

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Sources:

Beaty, Katelyn. “‘I’m a Feminist Because I Love Jesus So Much'” ChristianityToday. N.p., 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
“Does the Bible Teach That Sophia Is the Goddess of Wisdom?” Got Questions. Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
Holstein, Joanne “Sophia, the false goddess of wisdom.” Becker Bible Studies Library. May 2011. 25 Web. September 2014
New International Version Bible. Bible Gateway.  Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.

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5 Comments

  1. Great thoughts, Kait! I agree 100%. The only thing I would add is that we have to remember as we conduct ourselves in the kingdom and as we seek equality, to continue to keep a humble and strong, yet gentle spirit. To remember that we are not fighting against our brothers. To remember to fight with love. And to remember that the last shall be first, and the first shall be first. Not to say that these are reminders or underhanded comments for you personally, but this is for all women who have this on their heart. I’ve seen the fight for equality sometimes take arrogant, aggressive, even hostile turns. All women, myself included, need to remember not to grow cynical or jaded, or take on a sense of entitlement as we seek equality, but to fight for it with love and humility. 🙂

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    1. Yes! Great thoughts. I’m very picky about when I call myself “feminist” because there is so much of an aggressive, hostile nature to the present movement. I’m just in support of women getting to follow their callings how God intended it. 😉

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  2. Kait,
    Without disputing your conclusion, I wonder your thoughts on Eph 5:22ff? Not disputing, just adding thought to the discussion. I think the overall biblical record related to equality agrees with you on equality in worth and ability (and certainly in God’s unfailing love) but perhaps not necessarily in role. This passage in Ephesians 5 really has an interesting comparison between husband and wife and the uniqueness of their roles toward one another. Is this relevant in the discussion on gender? I’m interested in your thoughts?

    Chris

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    1. I actually just spent this last semester pouring over that passage with my Hermeneutics class! The most important thing to remember is that the focus of that passage is not on marriage, it’s on our relationship with Christ. It’s also important to note that when you look in the original Greek text, the word for “submit” doesn’t appear anywhere in verse 22. It actually is found in verse 21, which says “submitting to one another.” It’s very unfortunate to me that they chopped that sentence in half and separated it in a new section. The purpose of submission there too isn’t to “put women into their place” or to view them as lower or lesser, from the man’s side. Rather it’s a choice in the woman’s heart for herself to yield to her husband in most things to respect him. It wasn’t meant to state that the woman was lower. And if you choose to look at the passage as talking about our marriages, look what the man is told to do: sanctify her, cleanse her, present her to himself in splendor, view her without spot or wrinkle and as holy and blameless. That’s crazy sacrificial love to me, and if a husband is loving like that it would be super easy to yield to him and respect him as much as I could. That creates a positive spiral of love and respect, which is the goal in marriage and is what this passage is trying to show.
      But again, verse 22 – if it’s ever brought up or you choose to study it again, remember that the verb is from 21 its original focus was on submitting to each other!

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