I looked up and saw her running. Her denim skirt was clear to the floor and her face was lifted up as she smiled brightly. She wasn’t even school age yet, perhaps on the brink of it, but not quite there. I saw her and couldn’t help but smile. She was full of life and future and her shirt declared it as the monogrammed long-sleeved tee read, “this girl can do anything.” I looked again at the floor length skirt and caught a glimpse of the rest of the women around her all in floor length skirts and before I finished reading the words of her shirt for a second time, out of my mouth came drips of sarcasm, “yeh, anything but wear pants.”
I had just finished reading the background of Joan of Arc. Did you know that the conviction that sent Joan of Arc to the stake to be burned alive was that she wore what the church deemed as masculine clothing? Joan wore pants. She wore pants on the battlefield for obvious reasons and she wore pants when imprisoned because it better protected her from being raped by the guards. Joan wore pants and this was the conviction that was upheld by the church to see that she was burned at the stake. The church basically gave her the choice to be raped or be burned at the stake. She chose the stake.
This year has been filled with social media posts about the rights of women. We are facing another election year which always brings high focus to women’s rights because of abortion, health care, and equal pay issues. This year also came with women being highlighted in the social media world due to the uncovering of abuse in the Southern Baptist Church as well as whether or not a woman has the authority to teach in the church, especially behind a pulpit on a Sunday.
The passage most used by the men (and women) of christendom to keep women out from behind the pulpit or podium is from 1 Timothy 2:9-15, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.”
When we look at this passage of Scripture we have to remember that it’s important to know the original language that it was written as well as the context of the time and place it was written to. The Greek words used for man and woman in this passage denotes a husband and wife, not men and women in general. The Greek word used for woman is guné and means, a woman, wife, my lady, probably from the base of ginomai; a woman; specially, a wife. The Greek word used for man in this passage is anér and means, a male human being; a man, husband, as a husband.
We also must notice that the example that Paul uses here to enforce his stance is that of Adam and Eve, two that had become one flesh, a husband and a wife. This point is backed up in other places of Scripture as the order of a family is put in place with the husband being the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. However, the interpretation that this passage is to force all women to be in submission and silence before all men is NOT supported anywhere else in Scripture. Paul never makes a statement like this in any other letter, but actually commends the women in the church who are speaking, teaching, and leading. Therefore the most plausible interpretation of the passage in 1 Timothy 2 would be that man and woman should be interpreted as husband and wife. This interpretation also fits into the context of the time and place that this particular letter was written.
Now as a Southern Baptist raised female I do recognize that all passages discussing overseers and elders point to that position being held by a man. However, there is a big difference in preaching the Word and pastoring a church. We (every born again believer) are ALL called to preach the Word. To tell a woman she cannot teach or speak simply because she is a woman is to try and force her to disobey the very clear commands of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within her. We are all salt of the earth and lights to the world. We are all called to be a holy priesthood. We are all living stones. We are all ambassadors of Christ. We have all been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are all the church that is to say “Come!” There is not a list of spiritual gifts for men and then another list for women. The list is given to us ALL. We are ALL commanded to carry out our own individual gifts for the edification and equipping of the church.
I simply don’t understand how learned men of God can take a single passage and interpret it in a way that would negate, annul, and contradict the clear interpretation of a plethora of other Scriptures in every book of the Bible and hold that interpretation to the point that they are willing to destroy fruitful ministries over their interpretation of that single passage? Now, in this same letter from Paul to Timothy I did also read 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Whatever shall we do with this one? Will we choose to interpret this one in light of other Scriptures and in the context of the time and place or shall we as Southern Baptist start offering wine to our pastors at meal time?
I truly don’t understand how people can’t see that the Word of God is eternally recorded from the mouths of women in the Scriptures and men (and women) study the Word of God from the mouths of these women everyday to get their theology degrees as well as to preach to their congregations. The teachings of Hannah, of Miriam, of Mary, the words of Elizabeth, Anna, Ruth, Esther, Deborah and on and on. All of these women are clearly used by God to speak and teach the eternally recorded inerrant Word of God from their own mouths with His authority. Yet, we have many today who have the audacity to tell other women they have no right to teach because the Word of God is supposed to come from a male voice?
Men also sit under the proclaiming of the Word of God most every Sunday from the mouths of women as they proclaim the Word, teaching and preaching through song, but these women are then told they do not have the right to pray or read, “Thus says the LORD” standing in that very same place. They can sing it, but they can’t simply say it. How easily we forget that it was Elizabeth who spoke the command of God while God shut Zacharias’ mouth (Luke 1:18-79) and it was not until the moment that he publicly supported the word of God coming from the mouth of Elizabeth that his mouth was opened and he was once again able to speak.
I often wonder what would happen to the churches that believe a woman should sit in the back, be quiet, and teach her own children at home if she really did choose to do just that. How long would our churches last without their women? I am thankful beyond measure that I am blessed with a husband that encourages and supports me. I am thankful beyond measure that I was blessed with a Daddy that encouraged and supported me. I am blessed beyond measure that I was able to sit under Pastors who were not threatened by me, but encouraged me to preach and teach. They even allowed me to do so on a Sunday from the pulpit, because they knew I did so under their authority and in complete respect for their authority, but more so in complete respect for the Word of God.
In my years as a female in ministry I have experienced the ugly of many who believed differently and it’s a sad, sad, sad thing to see. I have stood in a middle school library as a young girl proclaimed before her peers in a public school that she knew the Lord had called her to preach and I pray so hard for her. I pray that the Lord will protect her heart from the many men and women who will pat her on the head and say “that’s really sweet dear, now go sit down and be quiet, you are to be seen but not heard” It baffles me really the chains that we purposefully put on people to stifle the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and are actually able to convince ourselves that we are holy in our doing so. How arrogant is it really to look at someone, anyone, and tell them that they have no right to proclaim the name of Jesus and preach the gospel, Jesus specifically taught against this (Mark 9:38-41) and even the Pharisees knew better than this (Acts 5:33-39).
Galatians 3:27-29 says, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” As the angel Gabriel talked with Mary about Jesus and about Elizabeth with John he stated in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” In Philippians 4:13 Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Therefore to the little girls everywhere wearing the t-shirt “This Girl Can Do Anything” let me shout loud and clear, “YES, You Can!”. In pants or a skirt, with long hair or short, wearing earrings and make-up or not, if God Almighty calls you to it you can indeed do it. May the love of Christ compel you to it and your faith in Christ empower you in it and the Spirit of God carry you through it.
Dear daughters of God and women of the church, this female believes that in the congregation, as a woman, I sit under the authority and protection of Jesus, the Good Shepherd alone, then under the authority and protection of Christ and with respect for my husband, I choose to submit to him out of his love for me and our family and the honor due him as he serves as the head of our home, and then in the church body I willingly submit to the authority and hopefully protection of the hired shepherd of my congregation out of respect for the position they have been called to serve. I do not ever sit under the authority of every ram in the fold. Let’s remember men of the church that in the body of Christ, you are my brother not my husband. In the body of Christ He alone is the bridegroom and we are all equally the bride. In the body there is one head and that head is Christ,
“but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Dear church, let us never forget that we are supposed to be one. We are in this together as brothers and sisters fighting for the souls of the sons and daughters of God. We have the entire kingdom of darkness to face, all the spiritual forces of wickedness to deal with, and the gates of hell to prevail against. We don’t have time to fight about who gets to sit at the big boy table.
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
Dear church, let us be very careful that we not be guilty of picking up where the Pharisees and scribes left off. It was, after all, Jesus Himself who said, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:6-12).
Finally, with all due respect, dear men and women of the church that are making such a fuss about that Sunday pulpit, the bottom line simply is, if you want your pulpit that bad, if you want your seat of honor that bad, please have it. My calling has never needed a pulpit or a podium to carry it out. Trust me, I’ve never wanted or needed your seat of honor. My Jesus has given me open access to His (Ephesians 2:6). I’m seated with HIM in heavenly places, I’m seeking the things above, my mind is set on Him (Colossians 3:1). He’s the One I serve. It’s His church and His kingdom I’m seeking to grow, not yours.