In today’s modern world it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern what it means to be a strong Godly woman.
Have you ever wondered :
- What is required to be a strong woman?
- What is my role as a woman?
- What about women’s rights?
- Do I have to give up my femininity to be strong?
- What is my relevance as a woman?
As a woman you need to understand how these issues affect you. As a man you need to understand how to respond to and nurture the woman in your life. Join me now as I explore these issues deeper to find out what the Bible really teaches on these and other issues surrounding womanhood, in the 21st century.
If we look at recent history it’s not difficult to find many examples of strong women in society.
We see people like Margaret Thatcher, the one time prime minister of theUK. She was first called the “Iron Lady” by non other than the Russians. When a Russian calls you an Iron Lady you know that you’re dealing with a strong woman. At the height of her power she exuded an air of invincibility and only slept four hours a night because that’s all she needed. She went on special elocution lessons to train her voice to be deep and powerful. She reasoned that this gave her voice more impact and respect in high powered politics of the day. She was a phenomenal lady of her time.
Another example of a strong woman might be Hillary Clinton, the wife of exUSpresident Bill Clinton. As First Lady she stood strong during the infidelity scandal that rocked her husband’s presidency and then later she herself decided to run for president. She is now the first former First Lady to serve in the United States Cabinet and was recently appointed to the top level post of Secretary of State. It is suggested by many that she will be a top contender for the nextUSpresidential race.
Many would consider Oprah Winfrey to be a good example of a strong woman. Oprah was born into an underprivileged home and came through abuse as a child to become possibly one of the most influential and powerful women on the planet today, through her media empire.
As we look at these examples of so called strong women we need to ask ourselves the following question.
What is required to become a strong woman?
Do you need to be built like a Russian tank? Do you need to grow hair under your arms and have veins that pop up on your forearms? Do you have to wear a suit and have your hair pulled back in a bun so tight that your eyes make you look like a member of the Gestapo? Do you need a voice that sounds like Margaret Thatcher? Do you have to become masculine to become strong? Do you have to lose your femininity? Do you have to become aggressive to become strong?
What is it to be a strong woman?
Does the Bible speak about this?
Before going further I would like to deal with the issue of women’s rights.
In some countries women’s rights are so firmly ensconced, that as a man you daren’t even stand up if a woman enters the room because offence will be taken. I’ve been in a situation where I stopped to open a doorway for a pastor’s wife to allow her through ahead of me. She stopped me and said, “Don’t you think I can come through the door myself?”
In many Western countries now, it is a so called privilege for a woman to show that she is as strong as a man and can stand up for herself.
What are women’s rights? In recent history we had the suffragettes who campaigned admirably for the women’s vote. In the ’60s at the height of the feminist movement, women burned their bra’s and campaigned in the streets for their rights. Today the topic of women’s rights is still a very heated and touchy subject, especially in this country.
Here inSouth Africaour lawmakers have been particularly careful to be sensitive towards women’s rights issues when drawing up our new constitution. There have been some great strides forward in this respect and our constitution now provides protection for women in many admirable ways which were previously ignored. Recently aConstitutional Courtruling made it possible for a woman to cash in on her husband’s life insurance policies, where previously, only men could collect. There have been great strides forward by lawmakers to provide protection for abused women and the ability to deal with abusive men. In recent years the lawmakers have made it possible for men who renege on child maintenance payments to be dealt with by the courts of law. There has even been provision made for an equality court by a new act passed in the year 2000.
The lawmakers have thus done their best to try and look after women’s rights.
However, having said that, I would like to make the following point.
I do not believe that just because it is legal, it is right.
It’s quite legal for you to hate your brother. Does that make it right?
It’s quite legal for you to harbour unforgiveness in your heart against somebody. Does that make it right?
Just because something is legal doesn’t necessarily make it right. Our lawmakers in this country have made some great laws, but I’m going to give you two illustrations, namely marriage and children, where I think our law is in big trouble.
The first issue is that of polygamy. Our country is putting forward that it’s OK for a man to have multiple legal marriage contracts with multiple women. Some would boast that our country is going in the direction of becoming one of the most enlightened countries in the world. It would then surely be argued that very soon a woman could have the same right. She too could have multiple legal marriage contracts with men. That’s the obvious conclusion of where it’s going.
So where do we stand when a man, who has various marriage contracts, marries a woman who also has various marriage contracts. There is only one way to describe a scenario such as this – a mess! Who do the children belong to? Where do they live? Our lawmakers are very confused on this front right now.
On the aspect of children, the Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996 states that it is legal in this country for any woman, to kill the baby inside of her, as long as the baby is less than 12 weeks old. It can still happen right up to 20 weeks provided a doctor gives his consent and even up to full term if the doctor says it’s going to be dangerous for the mother or baby.
Just because the law puts it in place doesn’t make it right.
What does the Bible say about strong women?
What does the Bible say about the rights of women?
Just because it’s in the constitution or in the law books doesn’t mean God is smiling at it.
What does God say about these things?
NCFChurchwelcomes and encourages strong ladies. We notice that in the Bible, Phillip had 3 daughters, and that these daughters prophesied. So we encourage the ladies in our church to prophesy. We also notice that there are women evangelists in the Bible. There was a woman who went to the well and met Jesus there, in John 4. She went into the village and pulled out the entire village to meet Jesus. So we encourage women to invite people to meet Jesus and to be evangelists. We notice that Paul had a lot of traveling companions who were women, so we encourage women to go on apostolic journeys because we see it in the Bible. In addition, we see that Priscilla taught Apollos, and we see other examples in the Bible of women teaching, so we suggest that women can teach in various contexts. We also see women like Tabitha and others who have a maternal spirit and a way of discipling, caring and ministering to people – so we encourage women to do all these things.
But at the same time you will notice that in our church there are many strong men. These men protect and provide for their families and love and serve their wives. You will see a definite clarity of roles here. You may ask where we get this from. We see this in scripture where we find that strong men and strong women are not at odds with one another. We see that these roles are in fact in harmony with one another.
Strong men and strong women are not at war with one another.
The first thing that we need to note in scripture about men and women is this.
Men and women are equally valuable in God’s sight.
Galatians 3:27-29 says : “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
If you are a believer in Jesus then you are equally valuable before the throne of God. Nelson Mandela and the orphan – neither are more important before the throne room of heaven. Barack Obama and the homeless man – neither is more valuable before the throne room. We are all equally important.
Gender is irrelevant when it comes to value before the throne of God.
To find the first community that we know of, we can go right back to Genesis and look at the Trinity – God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Deuteronomy 6 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
When we look at the Holy Spirit he is not less important than God the Father. When we see Jesus alone, he is not less important than the Holy Spirit or God the Father. The fundamental doctrinal statement of the Christian Church is that the Godhead is co-equal.
There is equality and equal value in the Godhead.
This principle cascades down into things like marriage. In Gen 1:27 God says let us, the trinity, make man in our image and so male and female he created them. Male and female standing alone before the throne are equally valuable in God’s sight. There is equality in personhood. The value in your being is equally valuable before the throne of heaven As God the Father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit are equally valuable, so too are the husband and wife, equally valuable in God’s sight.
Some people may say that they don’t really feel equal. We may sometimes feel that someone else’s ministry is more important than our own. Some people may feel that they have sinned greatly and therefore God must love them less than Mother Teresa. No, the truth, is that God loves us all equally. God values each of us so much that he gave himself for you. When God looks at the world he sees that the whole world is dirty with sin and in desperate need of him. Even though we may think that some are darker with sin and look more in need than others, God says, “They all need me, none of them deserve me, but I love them and I’m going to fetch them.”
Now that we understand that we are all equal in God’s sight, the next vital point we must recognise is the following.
Just because we are equally valuable doesn’t mean we are identical.
God didn’t just clone all our spirits and identities.
Your sex is determined biologically but your gender goes far deeper than your anatomy.
Your masculinity or your femininity is an identity given to you by God. As you work out your roles, your life and God’s given purpose for you, you will walk tall in your femininity and walk tall in your masculinity. It’s far deeper than your anatomy.
Both male and female are equally important – they are just different.
Just because there is equality between male and female before the throne of heaven doesn’t mean they are functionally identical. They have different roles. Just because I am as valuable as my wife, doesn’t mean that I should be entitled to carry a child. Just because my wife is co-equal with me before the throne, doesn’t mean that she must now go to the gym, bulk up her muscles and get ready to defend me from attackers in the dead of night. No – we have different roles, with neither role more superior than the other.
You may ask where I get this from biblically. If we look at the Trinity, they have different roles. The Father sent the Son, the Son didn’t send the Father. The Bible says that the Father eternally begets the Son. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father right now, whilst the Holy Spirit moves on earth amongst us today. It doesn’t mean that the Son is more important than the Spirit, but they certainly do have different roles.
There is headship in the Trinity.
Jesus said I don’t do anything unless I first see my Father do it. Does headship in the Trinity mean there is superiority in the Trinity? No, it doesn’t. There is equality in the Trinity but again, just different roles. These principles cascade into marriage.
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23. These two scriptures send the suffragettes running to check their constitutions and the feminists running to burn their bra’s and the egalitarians running to re-write the Bible. Essentially this is because we have a fallen view of headship and authority. What it means to be head has become so distorted that it has driven men and women to fight each other. These texts are definitely politically incorrect but they are full of truth.
1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
Then to back this up, Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”
The reason these verses elicit so much hatred and political animosity, is because we are conditioned to believe that the president is more valuable than the pauper. We are conditioned to view the boss position, and any position of authority, as the top of a pyramid that we are trying to climb. This is a fallen view of leadership. If this is your view of leadership then these verses will make no sense to you. But this is not God’s view of leadership.
How is man supposed to be leading his wife? He should lead exactly as Christ leads the Church. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” What is the nature of this love? It means husbands should be using their strength and leadership to surrender their lives. They should be getting on their knees to serve. They should be willing to have their beards plucked out and beaten on the head with a frying pan if needs be. They should be willing to have their backs ripped open and to be spat on. That’s how Jesus’ bride treated him. Jesus didn’t climb onto a lofty temple and dominate his Church. He fell on his knees and he served her. That’s real leadership. It’s using your strength as a man, to create space for your lady to become strong. It’s about using your strength to create space for her to become beautiful and to become everything that God has required her to be.
As long as our view of leadership is fallen, we will have a war between men and women. The root of the feminist movement is not with the suffragettes or the bra’ burning hippies of the ’60s, but goes right back to the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden, sin entered into the heart of man, and part of the curse is that men would rule over women. Part of the curse that Eve endured was that she would want to manipulate the husband. Part of the curse is that the man would have little cooperation from his wife and also from his work. He would be frustrated. A war between the sexes is how it’s manifested and has been with us since the beginning of the age.
God’s intention is for men to lay down their lives and create space for strong women to thrive. Instead we have men in their fallen state creating rules and regulations and using their authority to dominate. Even though it’s a noble cause, every movement of feminism and egalitarianism tries to rectify what happened in the Garden of Eden. The difficulty with the war of the sexes is that the problem is not an outward behavior, it’s in the fallen heart and the war is doomed to failure because it’s trying to adjust the activity, rather than adjust the heart.
When men have Jesus crash into their hearts, it so transforms them that they can begin to love women as Jesus loved the Church. It takes the sting out of the fight and the fight becomes irrelevant. It becomes redundant because men are sacrificing themselves and laying down their lives. We are not talking about men merely standing back at doorways; we are talking about men laying down their lives. That’s how men are called to lead. A man is called to use his strength to allow a woman to walk in her dignity, to prophesy, to evangelise, to teach and to go on apostolic journeys as we see in the Bible.
Sadly, what vast sections of the church have done, because things are obviously not working, is to say that everything Paul was saying was only relevant for 2000 years ago. Liberal theologians will say that Paul’s words are not God’s plan. They will argue that these scriptures were meant only for that community, in that context, at that time. The problem with this thinking is that if you try to make women live with the same roles and the same mandate as men, you reduce their femininity. You tell them to stay up and fight in the trenches with the men and you tell them to reduce the resonance in their voices like Margaret Thatcher tried to do.
Conversely, the movements that try and “level the playing fields” are emasculating men. Men now have to paint their toenails. Men have to giggle a lot and pretend they are not strong. It strips men of their God given strengths.
There is another abuse that the church has taken. In a fallen heart, they have taken these scriptures of Paul and Peter and the words of Jesus and they have used them to abuse women and to hold them down. In doing so they have rendered women less than children.
I have heard people quote 1Tim 2:12 when Paul says that he does not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, to mean that a woman must never ever speak in a church context. The context of this scripture was that Paul was saying that he didn’t want a woman to teach with governmental authority and to bring direction. That is very different to an outright banning of teaching.
If we follow this logic, then are we saying that when my wife walks down the street and meets a male beggar, that she should be led by him? Are we saying that my wife should be lead by my 7 year old son? That’s what this path of logic implies.
We can play with the peripheries but the real issue with the battle of the sexes that has raged over thousands of years, is in a fallen heart.
What’s needed is Jesus bringing access to God and changing a heart, so that a man can stand before God and have the courage to lead like Jesus lead. What’s needed is for a woman to have the courage to take her identity not from her role or some egalitarian feminist agenda but from God. What’s needed is for her to say, “God, I am secure in you. I can be one with my husband and as I am one with him we can lead the world. As I am one with those you put around me, I am able to stand and be all you have called me to be.” The solution is not an adjustment of behavior, the solution is falling before the throne room of heaven and saying, “God, I am equal in value to every person on this planet, but you have given me a specific role and purpose in life!”
I have had some people ask me, “But what about Deborah?”
If we look in Judges 4:1 that deals with Deborah, it says, “After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” We see that the context of chapter 4 and 5 which is the reign of Deborah, that Israel was doing evil. So it’s not really the place we want to copy or hold up as being a good example to follow. Eventually God handed the Israelites over into slavery because of their evil behavior.
Judges 4:4-7 continues, “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’ “
Here we see a married woman, a prophetess, and someone who was speaking God’s heart leading Israelat the time. “That’s a little governmental isn’t it?”, you may say. This is true, but Israelis in sin and desperate times call for desperate measures. Here we have a Godly woman leading because the men are sinning.
Deborah finds the strongest man she can find, a man called Barak, and asks him to get ten thousand men ready to go to war. Barak responds by saying the following in Judges 4:8, “Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
Here’s a woman, a wife, a prophetess, asking one of the strongest men and leaders in the land to take ten thousand men and to go to war. All he can muster is, “I’m not going to go unless you come with me.” The men around Deborah are in sin and are seriously devoid of leadership and strength.
Deborah looks sadly at Barak and says in Judges 4:9, “Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.”
She is sick of these men! They are not leading, but none the less she eventually wins the battle, culminating with a woman driving a stake through the king’s head and she sings a song in chapter 5.
The first words from Deborah’s lips during her song in Judges 5:2 are, “On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,”
This is the first thing on her heart. “When are the princes going to take the lead?” she cries.
Then in verse 7 she says, “Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.”
The normal functioning of things had ceased. The men of those times had handed over their delegated authority in sin. I need to emphasise this to all the men out there. Men, if you don’t do your finances in a godly way, Deborah’s will stand up and lead, and they must. Men, if you don’t lead your families in the righteousness of the way of God, Deborah’s will stand up and lead and God will bless it. Men, if you wimp out and run behind their skirts, women will stand up and lead and God will bless it, because village life must continue. Men, if you are not going to raise your children in the ways of God, Deborah’s will stand up and do it for you. Village life must continue.
The example in Deborah is in the context of sin and an out of order home life. In her heart Deborah cries, “Oh, when are these men going to stand up and lead!”
Late in the song she rebukes them and says, “Why are you men hanging around your camp fires and merchant ships of the sea instead of standing up and leading?”
Men, you’ve become too involved in sport, you’ve become too involved in commerce. It’s time to stand up and lead.
We should thus not use the example of Deborah to show us that woman and men should be absolutely equal in their roles? This example portrays something borne out of sin and God is clearly showing us that there is a higher standard to follow.
When our hearts are still at the cross of Jesus and we get security from him, we can live out our different roles in the glory of God, to the glory of God, serving each other without fighting each other.
I am certainly not against the feminist tide. I really do understand it because I know that they are trying to sort out the sin of the fall, in the best way they know how. But the solution is not in campaigning and the burning of bra’s and demanding that women be in the exact same roles as men. The solution is simple.
The solution is to have your hearts before the throne of heaven, to glory in the roles that God has given you.
Once you come to grips with this truth, you can fully understand what it means to be a strong woman and live out your role in God’s glory!