Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: Masks in church- Do I submit to my husband or my pastor?

 

Help! I feel torn between two biblical commands, and I don’t know what to do. Our church has started meeting together in person again. The leadership has strongly requested that everyone wear masks. E-mails have been sent out about it, there are signs all over the church requesting that people wear masks, etc., and though it has been mentioned a few times that they will not ask anyone to leave if he/she isn’t wearing a mask, it’s pretty obvious the powers that be want everybody wearing masks.

My husband is very anti-mask. Although he is OK with wearing them where required by law, it’s not legally required in churches where we live, and he doesn’t want me to wear a mask in church. He has explained his reasons to me for his position. I think they are wise, valid reasons, and I actually agree with him. In addition to his reasons, I struggle against anxiety attacks and claustrophobia, which masks make worse, and mentally fending off these attacks makes it extremely difficult for me to focus on anything else, like worship or the sermon.

I believe the Bible is clear that I’m to submit to my husband. However, the Bible is also clear that we’re to submit to our pastors/leaders. And what about dying to self and putting the wants/needs of others (such as my fellow church members who are fearful of catching COVID) first? I’m so confused. What should I do?

This is a really great question. It’s so encouraging to me that you want to do the godly thing in this situation.

But before I begin answering your excellent question, unfortunately, in the zeitgeist we live in that’s even affecting Christians, I’ve got to fence this discussion for all of my readers with two parameters:

1. There will be no pro-/anti- mask arguing in the comments section of this article nor on any of my social media platforms, nor will I read or answer any e-mails/private messages arguing your position on masks. Any such e-mails, messages, or comments will be deleted. The way I’ve seen many professing Christians – on both sides of the issue, mind you – comporting themselves online about masks, is, frankly, appalling, and I refuse to lend my platforms to that kind of behavior.

2. This article will deal with the biblical topic of submission in marriage. Every time I address this issue somebody brings up the “But what about abuse?” argument as if the sin and exception of abuse negates the biblical rule of submission. (Very much like when the topic of abortion comes up and people automatically bring out the “But what about rape/incest?” argument.) It doesn’t. Abuse is a sin and a separate issue from submission that must be dealt with in a biblical way. Abuse has nothing to do with biblical submission even though some abusers evilly (and abusively) try to connect the two. At any rate, abuse is not today’s topic. Today’s topic is about a woman in a healthy Christian marriage who wants to obey our Lord’s command to all Christian wives in non-abusive marriages that we are to submit to our husbands. If you’d like me to address the topic of abuse in a future edition of The Mailbag, please send in your question. And if you’re being abused, get somewhere safe immediately, and reach out to your pastor, church, or a good Christian friend for help.

 

Any Christian who studies her Bible has, no doubt, surmised that submission to authority – to God, to our husbands, to our pastors, to our governmental officials, to our employers, and children to their parents – is a big deal to God because He discusses it and instructs us on it so often in Scripture. But how do we juggle our obedience to all of those authorities, especially when obedience to one might conflict with obedience to another?

Well, the first thing we have to recognize is that there’s a hierarchy of authority in our lives. The authorities in our lives are not all on an equal plane. Some of them outrank others.

God outranks everybody. We obey Him regardless of what any mere human might say about it, and regardless of what it might cost us. Peter may have stuck his foot in his mouth a lot, but he hit it right on the nose when he told his “pastor” (the high priest), who was ordering the apostles to disobey God’s command: “We must obey God rather than men.

But what about your dilemma? You want to obey God by obeying both His command to submit to your husband and His command to submit to your pastoral leadership. Neither your husband nor your pastor is asking you to disobey God. But submitting to one would mean not submitting to the other. It’s a Catch-22, right?

Not really, because for a married woman, her husband outranks her pastor in the chain of command of authority in her life. I think we probably all get this, intuitively, but, if it helps, consider the following:

• God established the family long before He established the church. It was the very first structure of authority He set up as a unit, and is the foundation of human society and relationships.

• The assemblage of God’s people – both Old Testament (Israel) and New (the church) – is contingent upon the family in several regards: God is our Father – we are His children, Christ is the bridegroom – the church is the bride, the twelve tribes of Israel were literal family lines and their elders were heads of clans and families, only men from certain family lines could serve as priests and Levites, a pastor must be the husband of one wife and rule his home and children well or he is disqualified from the pastorate, wives are to consult their husbands at home rather than disrupt a worship service with questions, and so on. The family isn’t contingent on the church the way the church is contingent on the family.

• The bond and vow of marriage outranks your less binding relationship to your pastor and church. When you married your husband, you made a vow before God and man to be loyally and faithfully bound to him for the rest of your (or his) natural life. When you consummated your marriage, you entered into a one flesh union with your husband. That’s a much more profound commitment to your husband than the commitment you have to your pastor and church.This is why the act of pursuing a divorce is nearly always a sin, while, comparatively, the act of leaving a particular local church (though you might have sinful reasons for doing so) is not.

• And as far as loving your neighbor or putting others’ wants and needs ahead of your own – your husband is your nearest neighbor. What about loving him? What about dying to self for him? It is far more important, both because of the depth of your commitment to him, and for practical reasons of familial peace under your own roof, that his wants and needs outweigh the wants and needs of Miss Tilly in the third pew.

So, what does this mean for your mask situation? It means you need to submit to your husband. Certainly, a godly husband would be willing to talk with you about his reasons for his decision and discuss your convictions about submitting to your church’s leadership. Perhaps your husband would think it’s a good idea for him (or both of you) to discuss the matter with your pastor. One godly husband might then decide to let you decide for yourself what to do regarding masking at church. Another godly husband might, after prayerfully receiving your input, still decide it is wisest for his family not to wear masks. You respectfully give your input and then back off, praying for him as he makes the decision he believes will most honor God and for which he will have to answer to God. And when he makes that decision, you graciously abide by it.

And my guess would be that if you have a godly, doctrinally sound pastor, he would tell you basically the same thing. I can’t imagine a good pastor telling a wife who’s seeking to obey Scripture that she needs to submit to him over submitting to her husband.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Biblical Womanhood Bible Study

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 11- A Beautiful Wife

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read These Selected Scriptures

Lesson 10 focused on our role as godly daughters. In lesson 11, we’ll be examining God’s design for women who are wives.

Questions to Consider

1. In lessons 2 and 3 (links above) we took a look at some of the attributes of a godly wife that we can emulate. Because Proverbs 31 mainly zeroes in on godly character, most of that passage easily applied to most women regardless of marital status. In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for wives. Some of these instructions can also apply to unmarried women. Read over today’s passages and explain how unmarried women might apply some of these Scriptures. Why is it important for unmarried women to study passages about married women and vice versa?

2. Examine the Genesis 2 passage. What are the main points God is making about wives and marriage in this passage? What word does this passage use (18,20) to encapsulate a woman’s role in marriage? What does it mean for a woman to be a helper “fit for” or “corresponding to” her husband? Whom did God create first, man or woman? Second? Whom did God create to be the helper, man or woman? How do these two things point to and undergird male headship in marriage? Does the Genesis passage mean that all women have to marry or that the only purpose for which women were created was to be wives?

3. Look at the Ephesians and Colossians passages together. Explain how the relationship between husband and wife is a picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. Write a character sketch of a godly husband and a character sketch of a godly wife according to these passages. Why does God instruct husbands to “love” their wives, but wives to “respect” their husbands? (33) What is the difference, and why doesn’t God give the same instruction to husbands as to wives? What should motivate a wife to submit to her husband? Pretend you are discipling a newly married, newly saved woman who has never read these passages. How would you explain biblical submission to her? How is it “fitting in the Lord” (3:18) to submit to your husband?

4. Study the 1 Peter passage. In verse 1, what is the spiritual state (lost or saved?) of the wives Peter is addressing? The husbands? Imagine Peter wrote this part of his letter to answer a question he had been asked by some of the women of the church. What was the question they asked? Carefully examine the end of verse 1. Does this mean a wife should never share the gospel with her unsaved husband and that he can be saved simply by watching her good behavior? What does it mean? How is biblical submission an aspect of holiness? (5) Some women believe they only have to submit to their husbands if their husbands are saved or if their husbands are acting in a godly way. How does this passage answer that misconception?

What does “adorning” (3-4) mean? Why and how do women usually adorn themselves? How are godly women to adorn themselves? For whom? Why? Explain external adorning versus internal adorning. Which do you think is more winsome to your husband? Compare 3-4 with 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Which is more important to God, the external or internal? Why?

Explain what it means to have a “gentle and quiet spirit“. (4) Can a woman with an outgoing, vivacious personality still have a gentle and quiet spirit? How? How is your spirit different from your personality? How should a godly spirit inform a godly personality? Explain why a gentle and quiet spirit is beautiful and how that beauty is imperishable. Why is a gentle and quiet spirit precious in God’s sight?

5. Make a list, in your own words, of God’s instructions about a husband’s and wife’s sexual relationship found in the 1 Corinthians 7 passage. God considered these instructions important enough to include in the Bible. Why? How is the marriage bed a protection against sexual temptation and sin? (2) How does this passage teach and emphasize the mutuality of the sexual relationship? Is this mutuality limited to the bedroom, or does it extend to other aspects of marriage? Explain the terms “rights” (3) and “authority” (4) in the context of this passage. In our culture, we most often think of sex in terms of pleasure or recreation. Is pleasure or recreation the main concern of this passage? What adjective would you choose to describe the perspective of this passage toward sex?


Homework

Consider the concepts each of today’s passages addresses: the husband’s headship, the wife’s role as helper, respecting your husband, submitting to your husband, your marriage imaging the relationship between Christ and the church, witnessing to an unsaved husband, external adornment vs. internal adornment, the sexual relationship, etc. Pinpoint one aspect you need growth in. Repent of any sin in this area, and spend the next week praying that God will grow you to more Christlikeness in this area. You may even wish to memorize and meditate on a verse you found particularly helpful.


Suggested Memory Verse

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4

Christian women, Complementarianism

Toxic (Evangelical) Femininity

Toxic masculinity. It’s a buzzword that’s gaining momentum as it’s bandied about in pop culture like a shuttlecock over a badminton net. There’s a clinical definition of the term (which, in the ivory towers of the scholarly world is, properly, “hegemonic masculinity“):

Hegemonic masculinity is defined as a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity proposes to explain how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as “feminine” in a given society.

And then there’s the sort of similar working definition of the huddled masses: Anything a man does that others, especially women, don’t like that can, by any stretch of the imagination, be blamed on the fact that he’s a man.

If a man cuts you off in traffic, it’s not that he’s a jerk or didn’t see you, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man holds a door open for a woman, it’s not that he’s polite and helpful, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man leaves his socks on the bathroom floor, it’s not that he’s sloppy and has no home training, it’s toxic masculinity. In other words, he’s not doing these things because he’s a polite or rude or aggressive or helpful human being, it’s because he’s a man who just wants to keep women down and exercise dominance over them.

Pardon my French, but what a bunch of malarkey.

Yes, I’m sure there’s a fringe element of men out there who consciously think they’re better than women, that women shouldn’t have any rights or hold any positions of responsibility, blah, blah, blah. And you know what? They’re considered fringe kooks, and rightly so. But I’m not buying this business of these elitist gnostics telling us that every little move a man makes is a subconscious act of belittling women or exercising domination over them, and neither should you. It’s like the race-baiters who say that every single white person is racist, deep down, and this latent racism manifests itself in everything we do, from the way we tie our shoes to the breakfast cereal we buy at the store. We’re just not aware of it, supposedly.

Poppycock.

You want to know where this notion of toxic masculinity came from? It sprang from the loins of toxic feminism. Zoom out and look at the big picture. This is a manufactured concept, baptized in the (assumed) credibility of academia, designed to help women leverage power and control over men. How? By denigrating them at every turn, thereby convincing the world that men are intrinsically bad and women are good and must be elevated to prominence. Call me crazy if you want to, but it doesn’t take a prophet or the son of a prophet to look down the road and see that the feminist end game here is a matriarchal world where women rule and men drool. And there are plenty of brazen females out there who would openly and unashamedly admit this.

That, however, is not my concern. Sinners gonna sin, and God’s going to deal with them in His own way and in His own good time.

My concern is the way this attitude is fleshing (pun intended) itself out in Christian families and the visible church, and creeping into evangelical women’s (and men’s) hearts. Because, whether or not we’d like to admit it, this worldliness is advancing upon us, and we need to be aware of – and biblically approach – the facets of this issue that are already at our doorstep:

On the Top of the World Looking Down on Creation

I actually laughed out loud when reading some of the academic definitions of so-called toxic masculinity. There seemed to be an air of, “We just don’t understand it! This pattern of male dominance seems to transcend all cultures and time periods!”

Well here’s a really academic response to that: Duh.

I mean, you have to wonder if these researchers and scholars have ever said to  themselves, “I wonder if there’s a reason for that. I wonder if this tendency in men that defies time and culture can be traced back to a pinpointed source.”

There is, and it can. It’s called Creation, and God is the one responsible. God created man first and then woman. God created husbands to lead and wives to be helpers. God set up the Old Testament patriarchal society that became the nation of Israel, which was led by male tribal heads and, later, male kings. God established male leadership in the temple, and subsequently, in the church. The major and minor prophets were male, Jesus was male, the apostles were male, the writers of Scripture were male. And all of this traces back to that one moment in Genesis 2 in which God decided to create man first and hard-wire him to lead, protect, and git ‘er done. Broadly¹ speaking, the reason we see a general¹ pattern of male leadership across time and culture is because God set those wheels in motion.

As Christians, we recognize that sinful men sometimes abuse the positions of leadership God has given them, but that doesn’t negate the entire pattern and call for us to turn it on its head. We study our Bibles and embrace and submit to the way God has instructed men and women to behave in the roles He has bestowed upon us.

(Don’t) Do the Woke-Emotion

One of the components of God’s creative work that adds inexplicable beauty to this world is the tender-heartedness, passion, and empathy He built into women in a uniquely feminine way. Emotions. Feelings. God created them, and they are good. What a dreary and heartless world this would be if women didn’t bring nurturing, caring, sympathy, and love to the table. God uses us to soften the hard edges of life and make the planet pleasantly inhabitable.

But along with that good gift comes the challenge to steward it wisely and in obedience to God so that we may use it to glorify Him rather than dishonoring Him.

I see Christian women wisely stewarding their emotions to the glory of God every day as they care for their husbands and families, friends and co-workers, and serve in their churches. It is a beautiful picture of the mature fruit of biblical womanhood.

Unfortunately, I also see the exact opposite. I see (ostensibly) Christian women who scream like banshees any time their pastor preaches on the passages of Scripture dealing with women’s roles in marriage or the church. I’ve seen women who claim to believe and follow the Bible throw an everloving fit when someone points out – from Scripture – that their favorite women’s “Bible” study author is a false teacher. I see women formulating their beliefs and practices about God, worship, the Bible, their own behavior, their families, and their churches based on their own personal opinions, experiences, and feelings rather than on rightly handled Scripture.

And, just like secular feminists demand domination over men because they feel oppressed, have experienced sexism, or resent the world’s history of male dominion, I see Christian women letting their emotions rule the day as they demand unbiblical solutions to their real or perceived personal experiences with men and male leadership.

The anger, the outrage, the hurt feelings, and being offended are nearly as evident in evangelicalism as they are in society at large.

Godly women are not ruled by their feelings. We are ruled by the Bible. We make our feelings submit to and obey God’s Word. We don’t make decisions based on what we like or don’t like, or what makes us feel good about ourselves. We base our decisions on what the Bible says. When our feathers get ruffled, we take a step back and evaluate the situation with rightly handled Scripture. Maybe we’re upset because someone actually sinned against us, but maybe we’re upset because our pride or vanity was wounded, or our unbiblical notions were biblically challenged, or because God used someone to expose an idol we’re worshiping. Maybe it’s not that the other person sinned, but that we’re in sin. Those hurt feelings could be a wake up call from God to humble ourselves and repent.

Ladies, we must learn to put our feelings aside and act on the objective truth of God’s Word instead of our fickle and deceptive emotions. If we display the same sorts of fleshly emotionalism as unsaved women, how are we being salt and light in the world, pointing the way to Christ? We’re supposed to be set apart and different from the world.

Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Because – speaking of salt and light – embracing and submitting to our biblical roles in the family and in the church sets us apart from the world. Now, more than ever, we have a unique opportunity to be counter-cultural – simply by obeying God’s Word.

Women being hired as pastors and teaching and exercising authority over men in the church and leading denominations and becoming popular evangelical conference speakers with co-ed audiences – that’s what the world expects because that’s the way they do things. But a Christian woman who happily puts her foot down and refuses to teach men in the church setting or joyfully insists on submitting to her husband? That’s different. It’s against the grain, not the norm.

Remember that out of the ordinary burning bush that caught Moses’ attention and he turned aside out of curiosity to investigate? And remember how, when Moses was watching it burn, wondering what in the world was going on, that God called to him out of that fiery shrub – “Follow Me.”? God can do the same thing with our obedience to Scripture.

Lost people see this anomaly of our “weird” behavior, and they want to know what in the world is going on. Why do we act differently than they do? And that’s when we get to explain it to them. We get to share the gospel. God can call to them out of our passionate burning for Christ and His Word, “Follow Me.”.

People in darkness gravitate toward light. Salt makes people thirsty. Do we care more about giving them the Light of the World and the Living Water or our own selfish and fleshly desires for power and position? Our embrace of and obedience to the biblical roles God has laid out for us as Christian women is one gateway to sharing the gospel with the lost.

 

Toxic femininity is worldly and fleshly. It has no place in Christian homes and churches. How do we combat it? We take up the sword. We submit to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We recognize that God is the authority in our lives, not self, and that we are to obey Him at any cost – even at the cost of our convenience and pleasure. We trade our desires for His.


¹I’m well aware that there are plenty of exceptions to this generalization. I’m referring to a broad pattern across time and culture, here. There are many biblical ways women can contribute and lead in the family, society, and the church.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: I’m a female executive in the workplace. Is this OK with God?

 

Women executives and managers in the secular workplace…. I have been battling this and feel I should no longer have the position. My husband is not quite in agreement. I want to honour God. I have been in upper level management since I was 25 years old- 33 years…. About two years ago God started to deal with me here. I do not have a peace.

I’m a tad bit unclear on your question. I’m not sure whether you’re asking if you should be working outside the home at all or if you’re thinking you shouldn’t be working in an executive/management position because it places you in authority over men.

If it’s the former, the short answer is that God’s design is for a wife and mother’s primary focus to be caring for her family and her home. There are seasons in life (for example: before you have children, after they’re grown and have left the home, etc.) in which a woman can do that just fine while holding down a part-time or full-time job, and there are seasons in life in which working outside the home would cause a woman to neglect her primary responsibility of home and family (and sometimes there are emergency situations in which a woman has no choice but to work outside the home).

If your question is whether or not you should work at all, you and your husband will need to sit down, consider all the factors, pray over it, and try to reach a consensus. If you cannot, Scripture is clear that you are to submit to his final decision on the matter.

But I’m guessing your question is the latter: “Is it biblically permissible for a woman to hold a position of authority over men in the workplace?”

Technically, the answer to that question is yes. (Unless, of course, your workplace is a church and it’s a 1 Timothy 2:12 situation.) Scripture does not prohibit women from holding positions of secular authority over men in the workplace, politics, volunteer or civic positions, etc. What the Bible forbids is women preaching to, teaching Scripture to, and holding authority over men in the gathered body of Believers (the church). This command does not apply to non-church gatherings, events, or positions. (Click here for more detailed information.)

However, it’s a little more nuanced than a simple “yes, you can” or “no, you can’t”.

One of the reasons Scripture doesn’t address the issue of women holding positions of authority over men in the workplace is that this wasn’t an issue in the culture and time when Scripture was breathed out by God. Generally speaking, women of the Bible weren’t career women. At that time and in that culture, a woman’s “career” was wife and mother.

We do see women like the Proverbs 31 wife and Lydia earning money from their work, but it was an extension of their work in the home as wives and mothers (Also, in Lydia’s case, her work is mentioned before her conversion. We don’t know whether or not she continued her sales business after she got saved.) They weren’t leaving the home every day to go work in someone else’s business.

The point is, the mere fact Scripture doesn’t address a particular scenario doesn’t give us blanket permission to do whatever we want about it, nor does it mean the Bible blanketly prohibits something. We have to look further.

When Christians make decisions, we always make them by correctly handling and applying Scripture. The first thing we look at is clear cut commands and biblical principles. For example, if you were looking for a job and there was an opening for a stripper or an abortion doctor, or a job that required you to lie, or a job that said you couldn’t (even in your off time) read your Bible or share the gospel, you would know right off the bat that those jobs violate clear commands and principles of Scripture.

So the first thing you’ll want to do in your situation is sit down and think about any clear commands of Scripture or broader biblical principles that apply to your situation. Scripture does not prohibit you from working in a supervisory position over men, but it does command you to submit to your husband and to live peaceably with others (including him) as far as it depends on you.

If, “My husband is not quite in agreement,” means the two of you need to talk about this issue more, then by all means, keep discussing it until a decision is reached. (It might even be helpful to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling.) But, if it means he has stated that he wants you to continue in your position (and your job does not cause or require you to sin), you need to respect and submit to his decision. You can certainly keep praying about the situation in your personal time with the Lord. You can also revisit the issue if the situation changes (ex: an opportunity to work from home arises, you’re offered a better job or early retirement, etc.). But today, joyfully and graciously submit to your husband.

The next thing Christians need to consider when making a decision is, “Is it wise? Is it helpful?” Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Both of these verses are written in the context of setting aside your personal rights to do something non-sinful for Christ’s higher calling to serve or do good to your neighbor. And remember, your husband and family are your closest neighbors.

Ask yourself some probing questions. Will this non-sinful thing I want to do, and have a right to do, make it more difficult for me to share the gospel with someone? Is it best for my family? Will it be good in the short term, but detrimental in the long term? Is it wise stewardship of the blessings, resources, and positions of influence God has given me? Will it create unnecessary strife in my marriage? Could denying myself the right to do this thing be more impactful for the Kingdom than doing it?

Has the desire to do this non-sinful thing become an obsession you can’t let go of? Repent and determine in your heart not to be dominated by it.

One of the “wisdom questions” you and your husband might want to ponder in your situation is, “Is it difficult for me to transition from being the boss of men at work to submitting to a man at home?”. If your job is tempting you to sin against your husband or making it more difficult to obey Scripture’s command to submit to him, that’s a weighty factor to consider.

You might have noticed that I have not said anything about the necessity of “having a peace” about whatever decision you and/or your husband have reached. That’s because there’s nothing in the Bible about a peaceful easy feeling being a sign that you’ve made a godly decision. Feelings are subjective (and often deceitful and wicked). We can’t depend on them to lead us in a godly direction. Scripture is objective. We can always depend on Scripture to steer us right, regardless of our feelings.

So dig through Scripture with your husband, pray together about the situation, get some wise counsel from your pastor or other mature believers, and come to a mutual conclusion if at all possible. But in the end, make sure you’re submitting first to Christ and His Word, and second, to your husband.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism

Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

Ladies, we whine too much.

Like petulant little girls, we look at what’s off limits to us, stomp our Mary Janes on the floor and cry “Why can’t I? I want to!” instead of giddily jumping into all the opportunities God has blessed us with. Instead of being happy and thankful for what we have, our greedy little fingers stretch out to grasp what God has said we can’t have because it’s not good for us or anybody else.

God has instructed pastors – who are, in turn, to instruct us – that, in the gathered body of Believers, women are not to preach to men, instruct men in the Scriptures, or exercise authority over men. And that’s what we focus on, and whine and kick our feet about. That part – the childish rebellion and discontent with the role God has graciously placed us in – that’s on us.

But pastors, we badly need your help on this one. Many pastors do a wonderful job of rightly and biblically explaining what women are not to do (And may I take a moment to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know how difficult that can be and that you take a lot of undeserved flak for simply teaching God’s Word on this subject.), but that “no” teaching has often not been coupled with the “yes” teaching of what women must do and how they must lead in order for women, and the church, to be healthy and function properly.

You’ve loved us well to tell us not to bite at the apple from the forbidden tree, but we also desperately need you to take us on a tour of the Garden and introduce us to the all-you-can-eat buffet of pear and peach and cherry and pecan trees that we have the privilege and the responsibility to feast on.

🍊 The Other Institution 🍊

Did you ever notice that the “do” for women in the church comes before the “don’t”? We tend to totally skip over that enormous little word that kicks off 1 Timothy 2:11: “Let a woman learn…”. We have no idea of, nor appreciation for, how huge and groundbreaking it was for the Holy Spirit, through Paul, to proactively instruct pastors: “Hey, get these women in here, make sure they listen up, and train them properly in the Scriptures so they’ll be equipped to fortify their homes with biblical truth.”

We completely miss the fact that, though God installs men as the teachers and leaders in one of His foundational institutions – the church – He has very much made women the functional, boots on the ground, day to day, teachers and leaders by example – of His other foundational institution – the family. The church didn’t even exist for the first few millennia of human history, but the family has existed since Creation. And people who are members of families populate and lead the church. Raising and molding those people is a tremendous position and responsibility. A position and responsibility God has largely given to women.

Wives pray for our husbands’ growth in Christ. We build them up with Scripture. With a gentle and quiet spirit, we set a godly example for them as they observe our respectful and pure conduct. We encourage and help them in their leadership roles at church.

Moms pray for our children’s salvation. We pour the gospel into them at every turn. We train up our children in the way that they should go – in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – so that when they are old they do not depart from it. We teach them to love and serve and invest in the church both directly and by modeling these things for them.

And our single, widowed, and childless sisters work right alongside us in this labor, praying for church leaders and members, nurturing children at church whose parents are unsaved or unequipped to raise them biblically, encouraging and assisting brothers and sisters in Christ.

We grow and develop, nourish and support, exhort and sharpen the population of the body of Christ.

Men may lead the church, but women raise the church.

🍐 Woman to Woman 🍐

Essential to the health of any church is the component of women training women, whether in the formal setting of a Bible study class and structured women’s ministry programs or an impromptu “let’s get together for coffee this week” discipleship discussion.

Though we receive instruction in Scripture from our pastors, elders, and teachers, there are some counseling and teaching situations it’s not appropriate for a man to address with a woman, or that a woman understands better than a man. There are issues women face that men just don’t “get” in the same way a sister in Christ does. There are insights and perspectives a woman can use to explain Scripture to another woman that a man just doesn’t have. There are times when a woman needs someone to walk through a long term emotional journey with her that requires a personal intimacy which would be inappropriate for a man to engage in with her. And in the same way men are better equipped than women to train men to be godly husbands, fathers, and church members, women are better equipped than men to train women to be godly wives, mothers, and church members.

God knew all of this back when He breathed out the words of Titus 2:3-5…

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…and, again, 1 Timothy 2:11:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

Women must be trained properly in the Scriptures so we can take that training and pour it into other women, teaching and sharpening them into godly women, wives, mothers, and church members.

🍑 Super Models 🍑

Women instruct our brothers and sisters in the church in biblical truth when we lead by example. When we sin against someone, we go to that person and ask forgiveness. We demonstrate the importance of meeting together with the Body by being faithful in our church and Sunday School attendance. We model servanthood by serving the church and our brothers and sisters. We paint a picture of biblical compassion by ministering to the sick and others in need. We show Christians how to carry out the Great Commission by sharing the gospel. We set an example of trusting God when others see us depending on Him through difficult situations.

And one of the most important biblical concepts women have the privilege and responsibility of teaching the church through our example is submission to authority – a lesson the church is sorely in need of these days.

Because God blessed us by creating us as women, we have an opportunity to model submission to authority in a unique way that God has chosen to deny to men.

As we submit to our husbands, we teach the church what it means to submit to Christ. How to walk in humility and obey Him out of love. How to put selfishness aside. To trust Him to take care of us. To deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.

When we submit to God’s design for leadership in the church and joyfully carry out the work He has planned for us as godly women, we teach the church to submit to God’s authority and love Him by obeying His commands. We instruct our fellow church members in respecting and submitting to the pastors and elders God has placed in spiritual authority over us.

Submission to Christ, to God’s commands, and to pastors and elders is the bedrock of a healthy church. God has graciously given women the role – and the duty – of teaching these and other biblical principles to our churches in a way that men cannot -through our example as godly women.

 

Remember the series of fun little nutritional books that came out several years ago called Eat This, Not That? The idea the books centered around was, “Don’t eat that unhealthy thing. Eat this similar but healthy thing instead.”

Sadly, many Christian women have only been getting half the story. “Not that” (preaching to/teaching men and exercising authority over men) is biblically correct, but it’s not biblically complete. If all you tell someone is “Don’t eat that,” without showing her the “Eat this,” part, what she needs to eat to be healthy, she’s going to starve, and the church will be malnourished as well.

Christian women need our pastors to teach us to eat the fat of the land of being properly trained in the Scriptures and drink the sweet wine of leading and instructing the church the way God gifts us and requires us to. Only then will the Body be healthy and well nourished.