Someone said to me that she did not have a bone of “women’s lib” in her body, apparently in response to the fact that I do things like preaching. This just got me thinking, and a brief preamble before my main point…
The women’s lib movement was in the 1960s to 1980s, and much of this was based on secular – not Christian – philosophies and values. While there were positive freedoms for women that resulted, much was not-so-good, even harmful to women. I think the comment said to me was meant to be taken in a more general sense, that she was not out to do something more typically associated with men.
So the point I wanted to get to…I will copy part of my review of Dorothy Sayer’s brilliant book Are Women Human? below. Sayer’s main concern is that women:
♦ are viewed as women FIRST, and as human beings SECOND. Thus the book’s title: Are women human? “What is repugnant to every human being is being reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.” – Yes! Yes! Yes! Sayers has critique on both sides here. This is not only about Christians or conservatives backing women into small corners. Certain types of secular feminists can fall into the same problem, in that they want to do whatever a man can do. That is not the point. Doing something that does not fit you as an individual, just to prove something, is not what this is about. This is about letting human beings be human beings! If a woman is mechanically inclined or has a knack for engineering, she should be able to fulfill her potential in this area. If a woman has more stereotypical female proclivities, great, she can pursue that. This applies to men as well. The best human being for the job should do it!
Do you begin to sense my point in regards to the women’s lib comment? I don’t think this is about “women’s lib” but simply about women being able to utilize their spiritual gifts and other God-given abilities within the church and society. (Of course, we also need to honor, respect, and support a woman’s ability to bear children. That would go in another direction. Rest assured, I am very pro-life.)
A woman and man can have the same spiritual gifts or abilities. Each will “display” them in a different way as they reflect their nature as a woman or man made in the image of God, and as a unique individual. This is exactly why we need both women and men serving and leading in the church. We need each other!
A woman who preaches or teaches adults (etc) is utilizing her spiritual gifts and other abilities. Why would we want to hinder or even forbid such? We need all hands on deck – the time is late and the days are evil – and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ needs to go forth using all of God’s people in the ways they are gifted and able.
Of course, if a woman is doing such things “just because she can” or to topple men or to prove something (and could not even be gifted in said ways!) – that is a problem. I see that as more like “women’s lib.” I don’t do things like teach adults and preach for such reasons; rather I’m simply using the spiritual gifts that God gave me. I feel alive when I do such things, being who God made me to be. That’s my motivation. I’m reminded of Eric Liddell’s (Chariots of Fire) comment: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
It can be painful and frustrating to have your spiritual gifts or other God-given abilities discouraged, suppressed, hindered because you are not the “right” sex. That includes limiting such gifts to a very narrow area of potential usage. Instead of “all hands on deck” women can be told to limit their gifts to the cargo hold or below deck.
And, by the way, I have in years past tried more stereotypical areas of service for women and I felt the opposite of alive. True women’s liberation is when women are seen first as human beings, that is as individuals, and able to freely serve with whatever spiritual gifts and abilities were given to them by God.
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