March 16, 2015

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

When my daughter lived in upstate New York, I had the opportunity to check out the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, along with her and my husband.

The first thing you see when you enter is “The First Wave,” life-size bronze statues of the five women–Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt— who planned the first Women’s Rights Convention, as well as a few of the men who supported them (including Frederick Douglass). We also watched the park film and walked through the exhibits detailing the Women’s Rights Movement through the early 1990s. Next door are the rehabilitated remains of the Wesleyan Chapel, the site of that first convention.

Last December, President Obama signed legislation to begin the long process of erecting a National Women’s History Museum on or near the National Mall. A bipartisan congressional committee is now forming to study and produce a plan for the building, which will be privately funded. The museum, founded in 1996, is currently only online.

In one sense it’s kind of sad that we have to have a separate museum just for our country’s women, as well as ones for American Indians and African Americans (now located on the second floor of the National Museum of American History, but scheduled to open in its own building on the Mall later this year). It’s all U.S. history! But if that’s what it takes to open our eyes to the injustices, trials and triumphs of underrepresented people groups, then so be it.

Many feel the Bible opposes equal rights for women, based on certain passages. Renowned Bible expositor John MacArthur explains the issue, which continues to confuse both Christians and non-believers alike:

“[W]ithout making one inferior to the other, God calls upon both men and women to fulfill the roles and responsibilities specifically designed for them, a pattern that can be seen even in the Godhead [God the Father, God the Son—Jesus—and God the Spirit] (1 Cor. 11:3)….Of course, the Bible teaches divinely ordained role distinctions between men and women—many of which are perfectly evident from the circumstances of creation alone. For example, women have a unique and vital role in childbearing and the nurture of little ones. Women themselves also have a particular need for support and protection, because physically they are “weaker vessels” (1 Peter 3:7). Scripture establishes the proper order in the family and in the church accordingly, assigning the duties of headship and protection in the home to husbands (Ephesians 5:23) and appointing men in the church to the teaching and leadership roles (1 Timothy 2:11-15)…”

Unfortunately, some men believe these verses award them the God-given right to tell women when to jump and how high. I’ve seen it, and gotten angry watching these husbands and church leaders lord it over their female “subjects” (and squirmed with discomfort for my sisters who either unwittingly or from lack of true biblical knowledge put up with it). I’m happy to say that in most cases I’ve eventually seen this heretical use of power checked, often by another man and by women not afraid to speak up—like me!

Extracting out parts of the Bible without taking into account the whole is often what leads to such arrogant behavior. MacArthur again:

“From the very first chapter of the Bible, we are taught that women, like men, bear the stamp of God’s own image (Genesis 1:27, 5:1-2)—men and women were created equal. Women play prominent roles in many key biblical narratives. Wives are seen as venerated partners and cherished companions to their husbands, not merely slaves or pieces of household furniture (Genesis 2:20-14; Proverbs 19:14; Ecclesiastes 9:9)…

“Christianity, born at the intersection of East and West, elevated the status of women to an unprecedented height. Jesus’ disciples included several women (Luke 8:1-3), a practice almost unheard of among the rabbis of His day. Not only that, He encouraged their discipleship by portraying it as something more needful than domestic service (Luke 10:38-42)…He always treated women with the utmost dignity—even women who might otherwise be regarded as outcasts (Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:37-50; John 4:7-27)…

“It is no surprise therefore that women became prominent in the ministry of the early church (Acts 12:12-15; 1 Corinthians 11:11-15). On the day of Pentecost, when the New Testament church was born, women were there with the chief disciples, praying (Acts 1:12-14). Some were renowned for their good deeds (Acts 9:36); others for their hospitality (Acts 12:12; 16:14-15); still others for their understanding of sound doctrine and their spiritual giftedness (Acts 18:26; 21:8-9). John’s second epistle was addressed to a prominent woman in one of the churches under his oversight. Even the apostle Paul, sometimes falsely caricatured by critics of Scripture as a male chauvinist, regularly ministered alongside women (Philippians 4:3). He recognized and applauded their faithfulness and giftedness (Romans 16:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:5)…

“Wherever the gospel has spread, the social, legal, and spiritual status of women has, as a rule, been elevated. When the gospel has been eclipsed (whether by repression, false religion, secularism, humanistic philosophy, or spiritual decay within the church), the status of women has declined accordingly…”

The bottom line? “[W]omen are by no means marginalized or relegated to any second-class status [in Scripture].”

And might I add an oft-overlooked fact—God gave women the most phenomenal position of all. None of us would be here if it weren’t for women—the mothers who gave us birth (thanks, Mom!).

Something to think about during Women’s History Month.

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