Dear One, thank you for taking this journey with me. My sincere hope is that this last post will provide you with a few words to hold onto when you feel that your femaleness is not enough.
In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of holding Paul’s declaration of submission against how Jesus treated women. We looked into the cultural context of the letters Paul wrote and finally asked- “why are we telling women to submit to anything other than God?”
Part I can be found here
The second installment continued with two reasons my husband and I find no place for female submission in our marriage. Expanding on translation issues and the imbalance of power that can be harmful to men as well as women.
Part II can be found here
This final post highlights the revolutionary way Jesus loved women.
King of my heart, you paved the way for us all.
Freedom in Christ / Submission in Marriage: Why I don’t submit to my husband
A Man Like No Other
In the Gospel of John chapter 20, we witness the creation of the Christian church. And it starts with one woman, Mary Magdalene, and one man, Jesus.
Days after the crucifixion Mary weeps outside Jesus’ empty tomb. She is mourning the most important man she has ever known. A leader who treated women as equals, the only man in her life who spoke to her with respect and love. He was a man who never made women uncomfortable with his gaze. He stood up for a woman accused of adultery and honored women giving their last coins and perfume.
A man who loved women in a culture that disregarded them.
A man like no other.
In the middle of her heartbreak, she is asked: “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she says, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turns and sees a man, but overcome with grief she does not recognize him.
With one intimate word, Jesus calls to her.
And at the sound of her name from His lips, she recognizes Him. She sees the man who promised a new hope for the world, and for women. Throwing her arms around him she cries out “Teacher!”
And right there, for just a few moments in all of human history, the Church was just Jesus and a woman who loved him fiercely.*
They have taken my Lord away
My heart breaks for women in Christianity.
How have we gone so far off course?
We learn from a male pastor about a male God who charges men to be fishers of men, while we are charged with serving coffee and biscuits.
We hear message after message about “God’s plan” for marriage where Paul’s doctrine is grossly taken out of time and context, and willing submission is extolled as the highest virtue.
Our voices of righteous anger and prophetic protests are met with disdain (and bad theology.)
My heart breaks.
They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put Him.
Freedom in Christ
Today, when women can vote, drive, and go to school, we miss the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ relationship with women. It’s easy to read the story of the “woman at the well” or “Mary and Martha”, and miss Jesus’ countercultural love for women. We are so far removed from that ancient time that we can’t appreciate the way Jesus treated women as radical, progressive, and ultimately… freeing.
But the status of women in Jesus’ time was decidedly inferior. Think about the progress women have made in the last 100 years alone, and we’re talking 2,000 years ago for the New Testament. Women were not allowed to study the Torah and were forbidden to recite prayers. A man’s daily prayer included this measure of gratitude: “praise be to God that he has not created me a Gentile; praise be to God that he has not created me a woman.”
And yet- we see a man who completely ignored all cultural customs and saw women as people deserving of respect. He did not patronize them, or see them as weak. He called them only to submit to God. You see, female submission was never God’s intention for marriage, for the church, or humanity. Jesus treated the women and men around him equally, completely loved and set free.
Jesus treated the women and men around him equally, completely loved and set free. Click To Tweet
In His time it was unheard of to consider the spiritual development of a woman. There were no rabbi’s teaching women, no women’s study groups, or female leaders. Women were not considered to have faith or religion at all- religion was a man’s domain.
But Jesus spent time developing the intellectual and spiritual life of women alongside men. Even calling them out of their typically female role.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42 NIV
In public spaces, women were overlooked. Along with slaves and children, they were not allowed to recite prayers publicly. No teacher was listening to their questions or healing their broken bodies. Men were taught to avoid talking to a woman in public at all, even one’s own wife or daughter.
But when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well He didn’t ignore her or treat her with disdain. He startled her by engaging her in conversation- the longest personal conversation recorded in the Gospels. A deeply theological and personal discussion, and a conversation in which he reveals for the first time that He is the Messiah. This nameless woman, colored by her past, inferior in her culture, becomes the first evangelist.
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” John 4:25-26 NIV
Every interaction Jesus had with women was completely revolutionary. At a time when women expected to be ignored by religious figures, Jesus felt even the smallest touch on the hem of his garment.
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, …and he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace. Luke 8:43-48 ESV
Speaking to a woman who was bleeding, and therefore unclean, would have been enough. But Jesus is not a Lord of “enough” he is a God of abundance. Jesus saw her need, acknowledged her faith, and claimed her as a Daughter.
My Lord raised women up and brought them into the fold of the family of Abraham. While teaching in a Synagogue on the Sabbath Jesus saw a women bent over from a disability. Stopping mid-sermon, and ignoring all customs, He called over to her:
…and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. Luke 13:12-14 ESV
He saw her. He called to her. Publicly, in full view of all who were there, Jesus healed her. And when His actioned were questioned He countered:
And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke 13:16-17 ESV
This is the first time the honorific “Daughter of Abraham” was ever used. Sure “Son of Abraham” was commonplace, but women were not part of this family. Not until Jesus.
At best, other spiritual leaders of this time overlooked women, and at worst they had complete disdain for the female sex.
At the birth of a boy all are joyful, but at the birth of a girl all are sad. When a boy comes into the world, peace comes into the world: when a girl comes, nothing comes. (Talmud bNiddah 31b)
But Glory be, Jesus’ relationship with women is so mind-blowingly progressive that we can read His words 2,000 years later without thinking them archaic. I can’t even watch a TV show from 10 years ago without picking up on outdated patriarchal themes. But I can read every single word a man from 2,000 years ago said to women, and about women, with nothing but awe and reverence.
Let that sink in for a moment.
At a time when women were invisible in literature, in culture, and in religion- Jesus affirms and supports women, lifting them out of bondage and into the light. He is a champion of womanhood- if He had done this alone, he would have been one of the most revolutionary teachers of all time.
Oh, how great Thou Art.Jesus’ relationship with women is so mind-blowingly progressive that we can read His words 2,000 years later without thinking them archaic Click To Tweet
Submission in Marriage / Freedom in Christ
When presented with a handful of verses written by Paul to specific people, in a specific time and place, I can’t help but compare them to the way Jesus loved women.
And the difference is striking.
I think we got lost somewhere. I think well-meaning leaders with good intentions teach harmful theology. I think both wives and husbands can benefit from mutual submission and not one-sided obedience.
There was no room for inferiority, submission, or patriarchy in Jesus’ message. There is no place for it in the Kingdom of God. If female submission in marriage and male headship was a vital part of the Kingdom of God, wouldn’t Jesus have said so?
I don’t submit to my husband because nowhere in Christ’s teachings am I told to do so. There is no evidence in the Gospels for female submission.
In fact, when reading the words of Christ all I see is a man who freed women from cultural bondage and sinful patriarchy.
I serve a God who calls me a Daughter of Abraham.
I, along with my husband, sit at the feet of God.
I pray to a God who hears my questions and heals my broken heart.
I serve the Divine made flesh, who appeared first to women in all his resurrected glory, and told them to spread the message.
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