Image from National Catholic Reporter, July 13, 2019. Artifacts show early church women serving as clergy. “What’s a Woman of Grace Doing in the Priesthood” presented at Central Christian College of the Bible, April 5, 2018.
In Part 2 I explored God’s purpose for all humanity and concluded it is the purpose for today’s Women of Grace. We learned how ancient and counterfeit views of humanity unwittingly cause us to hold distorted views of relationships ultimately shaming and repeatedly bringing risk to females.
In this last post I propose a biblical remedy to those counterfeit and theological distortions. I share a bit of my story to show why getting our theology right matters to each one of us. I close with a fresh look at Proverbs 31 in which husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, in the church function as allies to further the Gospel message.
I. The Biblical Remedy for Women at Risk
a. The Bible presents a high view of women
- “Do you not know that you (women) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you (women). If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17).
- “Do you not know that your [female & male] body is a temple/sanctuary of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you [men & women]were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
- God values women (and men) and the Holy Spirit dwells in them as the reimagined tabernacle.
b. A Woman of Grace is FREE in Christ
- She is uniquely gifted to stand side-by-side a man of grace.
- Together men and women serve a ‘priestly’ capacity in the new Priesthood of Believers, the Body of Christ.
- Both are uniquely gifted to fulfill God’s particular and unique calling in their lives.
c. Scripture offers a corrective to ancient, erroneous views of humanity
- After putting man in the garden of Eden – the first place where God was present – to till and keep it (priestly language), God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gen 2: 15-18).
- Woman is not his inferior
- Woman is not his property
d. Partnering in the priestly work in Eden & Early NT Church
- Could this perhaps be the remedy for today: male and female functioning side-by-side?
- Acts reveals how men & women worked side by side – together “in one accord”!
- Working in one accord brought about the phenomenal success of the early church!
- Today, men and women of grace must work side by side to resolve this!
II. Why This Matters to Me: My Story
“My childhood home was broken—not by divorce, or desertion—but it was a malfunctioning home nonetheless. I share one memory because it reveals why I am passionate about rightly understanding God’s Word for women.
“The five of us were in our pre-teen, teen years by now. Dad called another meeting around the table in the kitchen where a large, green, chalkboard hung on the wall – the kind used at country school.
On this occasion, a number of expenses were tallied in a column on the board. Mom was called to give account for her poor budgeting skills. Her every response was discounted and attributed to her financial ineptitude.
The pitch continued to rise as dad circled each item – one by one – before checking them off. Ranting and raving ensued. Clearly her sin and guilt needed to be dealt with.
The only way to resolve her infractions was for her to kneel next to a kitchen chair and audibly pray for God’s forgiveness. She obligingly obeyed. She had been convinced by his teaching that as husband he was her head and supreme power source.
He demanded she pray repeatedly, and she complied – until he was satisfied her prayers revealed she was truly penitent.
I remember that day. I was fuming inside! I wondered why she didn’t challenge him – why didn’t she stand up for herself?? Or for us children? I waited to no avail.
I was plenty angry with my father, but sadly realized then and there, that I was actually angrier and ashamed of my mother.
It was at this point in my life that I discovered being female was a shameful thing. Being female meant weakness and ineptitude. I was quickly learning how easy it was to exploit SHAME in order to control another person. I knew deep in my heart this was wrong.
III. Re-imagining the Proverbs 31 Woman for Today’s Grace-Filled Woman*
a. She is a warrior:
- “A mighty-warrior, who can find her ?” (Prov 31:10)
- This woman is more than an “ideal housewife” and much more than a “meek wallflower.”
b. She prepares for battle:
- She “girds her loins with power and gives strength to her arms”
- These are images of preparing for war (Prov 31:17).
c. She covers her own shame:
- She clothes herself first, then works to cover the shame of others near and far (Prov 31: 22)
- Naked or Clothed? When a woman can barely cover her physical frame she is certainly unable to cover her spiritual shame.
- If she stands naked and exposed – there is nothing to offer those closest to her – and certainly nothing to cover the nakedness of those around the Globe.
- When a woman fears the LORD she stands covered in grace.
- She is a formidable foe ready to do God’s work, wherever she is called.
d. She and her husband are allies (Prov 31:11, 12)
- She is connected to political power and her influence reaches across the globe.
- She attends to the least and the greatest of tasks while dealing with the least and greatest members of society.
- The future holds no power over her.
- Her strength is found in the LORD, not in “vaporous beauty!” (Prov 31:29-31).
Later as a married woman I realized my mother was trapped. She had a “weak-woman” syndrome foisted on her by distorted theology, unable to tap fully into her potential as a “Woman of Grace.”
How could she break free when male church leaders – aware of her predicament – appealed to Scripture to support this distortion of male superiority.
Had she learned a truer picture of womanhood from Proverbs – had she learned from the bold women of the Old and New Testaments – perhaps she would have attempted to stand, topple, and then stand again – until she found her own voice and enough courage to bring the false teaching into submission to the true Gospel.
Instead – she and my father lived as enemies – presenting a distorted view of marriage and a distorted image of God. It has taken years to recover the true character & nature of God revealed in the Bible.
*(inspired by S. Jewell S. McGhee, “The Portrait of a Woman, Artistically Examined: Proverbs 31:10-31,” SBL conference, 3-14-2018).
Conclusion: Distorted Theology Breeds Religious Power
We are making a crucial mistake in the church by overlooking the many gifted, remarkable, and capable women who are called to full-time mission, to full-time ministries, full-time parenting, to teaching ministries, and to the pulpit!
- Distorted doctrine fosters religious power.
- Distorted doctrine reduces women to a shamed and inferior being.
- Distorted doctrine makes women easy prey to be exploited.
The Body of Christ loses when distorted doctrines prevail. Graver still – is that the Gospel story loses its power.
There is much work to be done in our churches, in our homes, in our communities.
A WOMAN OF GRACE IS FAR ABOVE RUBIES
Whether single or married, wherever she may live,
working from home or an office, in fields or in a factory,
confined to a bed or a wheelchair or teaching behind a pulpit
A woman of grace fears the LORD,
She studies the truth, she stands for truth, she preaches the truth,
She builds her home where all are welcome,
She seeks justice and salvation for humanity near and far.
“So, what are you – Woman of Grace – doing in the Priesthood?