Equality for Women Should Start In the Church
By Emma Jarred, Relevant online Magazine, March 8, 2018
Have you ever asked God to break your heart for what breaks His? It’s a
simple prayer, but it can have radical results. I asked God this
question recently and one answer in particular hit home: the continued
struggle of girls and women, both here and across the world.
All around the world women are still treated as commodities, suffering
at the hands of their government, their kidnapper, their boss, their
partner or even their husband. There are women who are deemed unworthy
and unfit for freedom, education and for the pursuit of their own
I’d like to think the Church somehow
exists outside this realm of pain, but that is not the truth. Sadly, so
many Christians have turned a blind eye to the plight of women, both in
our own communities and abroad. Sometimes because we fear being labeled
as “feminist” if we speak up, other times because we simply do not see,
hear or understand.
I was brought up in a church which empowered women, gave them
as much authority as any man and got involved in causes to help break
the cycles of abuse and mistreatment in society. Because of this, I used
to laugh at churches with the view that women weren’t created for
ministry, that biblical submission meant the man was in charge and
somehow had ownership of his wife, and that being a wife and a mother
was a woman’s sole purpose. I thought this type of thinking was only
limited to “small backwards Churches” who were still struggling to come
out of the dark ages, and therefore it was not a problem.
Then I moved away from home and joined a Christian fellowship
which, much to my surprise, held those exact beliefs. I was introduced
to perfectly good churches where the belief that women were below men
was present throughout their teachings and ministry in a subliminal way.
I heard stories of women in domestic abuse situations whose husbands had
claimed their behavior was biblical. I heard the churches responsible
claim that this doctrine was still important to preach, in spite of the
horrible outcomes it was prone to produce.
Suddenly the situation was no longer something I could just laugh at.
Since then, I’ve become more aware of the struggle faced by our sisters
all around the world. I’ve felt sick listening to true stories of girls
being beaten and raped because they did not submit. Because they tried
to stand up for themselves. Because they believed they were worth more.
Try as I might, I can’t just move on without doing anything about
something so preventable.
But the problem is so widespread, so multifaceted, where does one
start to bring about change? During the period of the formation of the
Early Church, women were already a second-class gender. They had no
rights, no say in politics, society, philosophy or religion. Jesus had
taken the first steps of turning that around, loving women, teaching
women, sticking up for them and commissioning them to preach the Gospel
all over the world.
Paul also held women in equal standing to himself and they were
integral to his ministry. He told husbands to love their wives as Christ
loved the Church, in a time and culture where women were held
responsible for the fall of man and therefore treated horribly. He told
husbands to be the head of their wives as Christ is the head of the
church. Not in an authoritative “me over you” scenario, but rather like
headwaters of a river, the source of energy and strength in a marriage.
He told wives to submit (a Greek military term meaning “to fall in line
with”) and join together with their husbands in equal standing—as two
armies uniting against a common enemy, something that was a radically
feminist idea in Paul’s day.
Two thousand years later and we’ve gone a bit backwards, using
Scripture taken out of context for the justification of sin. We have
become tolerant and supportive of a doctrine which is inaccurate at best
and theologically dangerous at its worst. Maybe it’s not explicitly
spewed from the pulpit, maybe there aren’t women being treated badly
inside the church on a Sunday, but this theology is hurting lives where
we cannot imagine, inflicting damage we can’t see.
It can be used by abusive men as an excuse that their behavior is
condoned by God. It can nudge women with a gifting in ministry to see
their abilities as merely a watered-down version of what God gave men.
It can leave out single women and those who cannot have children. It can
silence women who want to speak up. It can constrict churches and
fellowships and movements to half the resources God gave them. It can
raise a generation on sexist ideologies. For centuries, it has been used
as justification for the mistreatment of human beings.
I want to challenge us this International Women’s Day to question
what we believe and why. Is that passage of Scripture applicable to all
things everywhere, or do I need to examine its context? Can I do more to
help the worldwide plight of my sisters in horrific circumstances,
starting with how I view the women around me? Is what I’m teaching my
church going to raise up a generation of compassionate, people-loving
Jesus-followers, or will it breed hurt, misunderstanding and
Where do we start? Let’s start by examining our hearts, minds and
motives because enormous healing is needed here, and every little bit is
one step closer to God’s Kingdom.