As a follow up to a Facebook post I published yesterday on the outrage I feel over the sexism and misogyny on our Christian churches, I wanted to share a few verses that demonstrate the equality we all have through Jesus Christ.
Let’s begin with how Jesus treated women with utmost respect and honor which was radically counter-cultural:
In the first century of Judaism, Roman and Greek culture, women lived in subservient roles to men. They had few rights and were wholly dependent on husbands for economic livelihood. The lives and worth of women were viewed through the lens of sexist patriarchy. Then Jesus enters the scene and flips the narrative through his teachings, interactions with women, and his inclusion of women as important leaders and contributors to humanity.
Jesus taught that, “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matt. 19:4; Gen. 1:27). Women and men are both made in the image of God, God is genderless, but for the sake of the illustration, He is both female and male, and for those who say that women are the “weaker sex” or need the authority of men to rule them, why would God make an image of himself that wasn’t perfect or required monitoring by imperfect men?
Jesus’s Treatment of Women-
Jesus spoke to women directly which was unusual, (John 4:27) and treated them with the same respect and courtesy he offered men. He treated women with dignity. This was shocking to everyone who witnessed his interactions, including the disciples. When he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4:7-26) he engaged in conversation with someone who was used to being invisible, he saw her, and by recognizing her dignity and value, he affected her deeply and she shared her experience.
When the woman with the bleeding disorder that plagued her for years touched him, he stopped in his tracks, and compassionately spoke to her, “Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you”. She had been ostracized for her condition for years, she was alone. Her culture discarded her for being “dirty” and men wouldn’t even walk near her on her path. Can you imagine how this woman felt when Jesus noticed her, and took time for her, tenderly calling her God’s daughter? He didn’t shame her like the men in her culture did, he elevated her. (Luke 8:48; cf. Matt. 9:22; Mark 5:34)
When Jesus spoke to women, they were drawn to him because for the first time, they felt seen for the person that they were, not the afflicted gender, they felt respected, valued, and loved. A radical contrast to how women were treated by their church and culture of that day.
And when Jesus travelled, he was accompanied by women who loved and served him and were entrusted to be the first to spread the good news that He Is Risen. Mary Magdalene had a special relationship with Jesus, she was always by his side.
And what about women in leadership?
Jesus was the ceiling breaker of his day. Under his new covenant, there was no hierarchy to limit the role of women. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). Since Jesus himself destroyed the hierarchy that man created to suppress some people and gain power and control, why is our church continuing to suppress women’s value and equality? Why aren’t women leading pastors in more churches?
Women as Apostles-
Paul mentioned Junia and Androccus (probably married) as an outstanding apostle among them all. They were relatives. In Romans 16:7, Junia receives this high honor commendation from Paul, who himself was an honored apostle. Anna was led by the Holy Spirit to speak about Jesus “to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2: 38). During Pentecost Mary, Jesus’ mother and other women prophesied (Acts 1:14); Luke 2:17).
Women as Prophets-
In Acts 21:9, we read that Mark had four daughters who were prophets. Even though they weren’t mentioned much beyond this verse, the fourth century historian Eusebius mentioned them as “mighty luminaries”. There were also Mieiam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chron. 34:22).
Women as Evangelists-
Euodia and Syntyche of Philippi were coworkers of Paul and he wrote that these women “have struggled together with me in the ministry of the gospel (Phil. 4:2-3).
In Romans 16:1-2, Paul described Phoebe as both a diakonos and a prostatis, meaning that she was either a minister or teacher or deacon.
Women Pastors or Teachers-
There was Pricilla, a coworker of Paul (Acts 18:24-36), Mark’s mother who opened her home for teaching, and following list is of first-century women ministers and church leaders mentioned in the New Testament: Philip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Rom. 16:3-5, etc.), Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2), Junia (Rom. 16:7), possibly Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2-3), Nympha (Col. 4:15), Apphia (Phlm. 2), “the chosen lady” (2 John 1), “the chosen sister” (2 John 13), and probably Lydia (Acts 16:40), etc.
It’s time for the Christian Church to follow Jesus’s own teachings regarding the equality of women and their right to leadership in the church.
I am tired of listening to different male pastors warming up the congregation with the anecdotes of how their wives are back-seat drivers, they are perpetuating the stereotype of the “nagging” wife.
I am tired of male pastors publicly shaming young women about their lack of purity and placing blame on them for their naïve natures, excusing young men because “boy will be boys”. Are women to blame for believing what men tell them? This is dangerous doctrine, it is too similar to blaming and shaming women for being raped. Preach to the men and place the responsibility on them for pursuing these women for sex.
I am tired of hearing that women must be submissive to their husbands and their husbands have authority over them. Why is this the verse most pastors hang onto? It was written in the context of Paul trying to yield to Greek misogynistic culture in order to help the gospel be more acceptable and spread in that area. But the God-given autonomy and value of women were sacrificed in the process! Where are the sermons about women as leaders? Why isn’t the history of women who contributed to the spread of Christianity and of Christ’s work more discussed in church? Why are women hidden?
Where did Jesus teach or demonstrated that women require a hierarchy to live out their God given purpose and life?
I have heard a pastor recently say that the reason Adam did nothing to protect his partner Eve when she was tempted by the serpent was because that’s what happens when men give up their authority and let women drive! Really? That was one of the most egregious comments I have ever heard in my 30 years of following Jesus.
Maybe Adam was just curious like Eve and failed to protect her as he should have. Maybe he wanted her to experience the outcome while his curiosity was satisfied hiding in the shrubs. But that story wouldn’t give the church the scapegoat that patriarchy required.
In summary, the Christian church must change its sexist stance on women in leadership as well as respecting the equal worth of women, as Jesus modelled for us. What I am angry as well as heart-broken over is how many women believe that they have less worth and value in Christ than men do. This is dangerous, as it creates a space for victimization, it is also a lie.
How many women have left their faith because of these false teachings of misogyny? How many more will?