So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
Feminism sprouted from the age old oppression and forced authority man has inflicted upon woman since the beginning of time. Since Eve disobeyed God and led her husband into sin, and received the curse upon herself that came from disobedience to a merciful, loving and benevolent God, she has been trod upon, belittled, marginalized, and lorded over. And let’s face it, that sucks.
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”
In the eyes of humanity, we were doomed from the start. Except that doesn’t really fit with God’s character, or how He has always dealt the His people. God is merciful and His love is enduring, not fickle. I believe that if we look at our place in humanity as women with God-centered eyes, knowing with confidence that God loves us as much as He loves men, we can see our place in the world as something beautiful, powerful, and of deep significance to the Kingdom of God.
The consequences of Eve’s actions, combined with the knowledge of good and evil, put us in the position to choose to act out of love for ourself or out of love for God. The choice became ours, as our hearts became self-focused instead of God-focused. From that point forward, man has had authority over women, an authority that God never, ever, ever intended. In fact, God had a completely different plan for humanity. He had a plan of equal partnership, where men and women complimented one another for the glory of the Father, and ruled over the creation that God had made together, with God himself as their partner, friend, and Lord.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
But we were never going to overcome the consequences of Eve’s sin on our own. As long as we are aware of ourselves and have the choice to choose to be selfish or put others above ourselves, we can never overcome the power that sin gained over us. Fortunately for us, God was never content with that outcome, and so, from the beginning, God promised us that He Himself would rescue us from the consequences of our sins, and restore us to a place of partnership and love with HIM.
So, what does that mean for women?
There’s a passage in the New Testament, that man has used throughout the course of Christian history since the resurrection of Jesus, to place himself solidly over his wife.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
I think man’s long-time interpretation of this passage has truly been to his detriment. And I think that Jesus might just agree with me. God has a pretty serious commission for men, actually. And it isn’t to control or lord over them.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Jesus didn’t die so that men could be saved and women oppressed. He wanted men and women to be an example of His relationship with the Church. And we are called to be joint heirs with Christ, not slaves to an unknown power. We are called to be God’s children, not his servants.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Jesus showed us this during His life on Earth. He lifted up women. He comforted them, encouraged them, and lovingly went to the cross for them, just as He did for men. He loved women as his sisters, joint heirs to all that he had been given. Look at how He honored the woman with the alabaster jar.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Women didn’t follow Jesus because He oppressed them. They followed Him because He loved them and honored them and lifted them up. And that is exactly what he wants men to do with women. Jesus considered women of equal importance as men.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 ESV
So, how do we reconcile submission to our husbands with equality? Isn’t submission the opposite of equality? Letting someone else be the boss has to mean I have no authority, right? Nope.
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
1 Peter 3:1-7
The Lord led me to this passage of scripture as a young woman, in the very early years of my marriage to a radical Muslim man. When I realized the folly of my choice to marry a man who was not a follower of Jesus just because he revered God, I repented boldly before the Lord, and asked Him to help me figure out the mess I’d made of myself and save me from it. And He did, using the passage above to give me profound hope.
Nothing I could do would change my husband. Nothing I could say would alter his total devotion to Islam. Nothing. My family and friends, who had been against my marriage from the start, told me to divorce him. But the Lord had a different plan because the Lord loves women, and He doesn’t want to see them oppressed. As I sought the Lord’s counsel he showed me true hope in His power. So, rather than stubbornly try to fight my husband into salvation, I submitted to the Lord.
And that’s the key. I submitted to the Lord. I repented and submitted. And Jesus did not use it against me, or punish me, or make me feel small. Jesus didn’t command homage or obeisance or penance. Instead, He offered me help and hope and courage. This small act of helplessness and submission to the Lord Jesus, gave me my first example of what genuine love and respect could look like. When I humbled myself to a place of complete desperation and acknowledged my inability to do anything on my own, and I turned to the Lord for help, I learned for the first time what a marriage was supposed to be. I was the bride of Christ before I was the bride of my Muslim husband. And Jesus quickly showed me how beautiful and honoring a loving husband could be in Himself.
Submitting to God’s authority over my life had brought me hope and life. It hadn’t brought me to a place of oppression. Jesus lifted me up instead of wiping His feet on me. He told me He loved me and that He was eager and always ready to help me. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like, though I’d totally screwed up, that the Lord loved me so unconditionally, that my submission to him would be honored and not exploited.
Two years later, after much submission to the Lord, and having enlisted an army of prayer warriors to the cause of praying for my husband’s salvation, my sweet husband submitted to the Lord for himself, and found the same love and forgiveness and help that I had found.
Submission to another is an act of love and trust. I put my faith and trust in the Lord to rescue me and help me. And Jesus came through. But there’s more to it than that, because God’s cool like that. He lavishes His love upon us, he doesn’t just toss us a bone now and then on a whim. My submission to the Lord became my biggest testimony of God’s pure love for me and for my husband. By my submission I showed God’s faithfulness. I became a living example of what serving and submitting to a loving God actually looked like. And it won my husband’s heart without me saying a word.
My husband and I have now been married almost 25 years. 23 of those years have been as partnered Christ followers on mission and in service to the King of Kings. And over the years, the Lord has continued to elevate me to a place of great authority and respect in His eyes. My brief willingness to admit I was helpless on my own, became a legacy of testimony about what real love is supposed to look like. It’s a glorious partnership. Being humble enough to trust in the leadership of another became my legacy.
I believe the Lord intended that for all women, from the time of Eve’s choice to serve herself instead of God, God decided that if humanity would just have faith enough to trust Him to lead them, that He would do it! The consequence of sin can bring death, or it can bring humble repentance. God is ready and willing to forgive anyone who would humble themselves enough to trust Him. And God loves to exalt the humble.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
How much more opportunity do we need as women to be exalted by the Lord of Hosts? To submit humbly to God and to our husbands, is to receive the great blessing that comes from our devoted and loving Father to exalt us and use us as the perfect conduit to show our partners what love looks like, so that they can know how to love us. That doesn’t sound anything like oppression to me! It sounds like authority in love.
Jesus has given women the chance to have great authority over the impartation of love, which is the most important gift from God that we can receive. It was love that made Jesus humble himself to take the cross. It was love that made the Lord God save His people. It was love that made God never give up on a selfish, sinful, adulterous people. It was all because of love. Therefore, as a woman, I have been given the opportunity to carry the authority of offering a testimony of love to my husband, in order that he can learn how to love me and love God. Ya, that’s right. God made women to be the forerunners of love, to show men what the bride of Christ is supposed to look like. And that’s a pretty big deal.