Amy was a Fortune 500 executive with a powerful story of conversion. In a series of dreams, Jesus stretched out his hand and invited her to follow him. She realized God was calling her into a life of Christian discipleship. She went willingly, giving her life to Christ and committing herself to serve those in need.
Excited about this new turn her life had taken, Amy began talking about it with friends and family. But one reaction shocked her.
“You know the Bible is against women, right?” Amy’s former college roommate was appalled by her decision to follow Christ and determined to challenge her new commitment. “It tells women not to speak and says the only way you can be saved is by having children.”
Amy’s friend referred to various Scriptures that seemed to limit her new freedom in Christ. After some time, discouragement began to set in. Had she signed up to participate in her own oppression? Did she have to give up her leadership roles in order to be true to her newfound faith?
There are women like Amy all over the world. In every denomination, church, country, community, and family, God is drawing women into faith and using them to bless others. Whether they speak from the pulpit or lead from the pew, whether they are single or married, older or younger, women around the world are serving and leading God’s people like never before.
And yet women who lead face unique challenges when it comes to engaging in the Bible for themselves. In the marketplace and in various organizations, they are encouraged to reach for their fullest potential. Women who lead in the home are applauded for exercising the full range of gifts required. Yet, when it comes to the church, these same women are often discouraged from following the full calling of God. As a result, many struggle to believe that the Bible was written with them in mind. Even the most influential Christian women are subject to notions that the Bible was not meant for them, that it is outdated, and that it denies the fullness of who they were meant to be.
Source of division
Where have these ideas come from? Sadly, from all sides.
The perception that the Bible is oppressive to women comes from centuries of teaching that made women the source of sin. Eve was seen only as a deceiver. Warnings were quoted from Proverbs against women as temptresses, while the personifications of Wisdom as a woman—in the same book—were largely ignored. The call for Christian submission was applied more to women than to men and the impact of women in the ministry of Jesus was generally overlooked.
No wonder, then, that when movements inside and outside of the church came along to empower women in the marketplace and in the home, they were often pitted against churches that held different views. While varying views on the roles of women are often rooted in biblical principles, the differences can create confusion for women who simply want to serve and live for God.
This division is tragic, because the Bible is full of meaningful accounts that prove God’s love toward all people, women included. From Hagar and Rahab to Ruth and Deborah in the Old Testament, from Mary and Phoebe to Priscilla and Lydia in the New Testament, God pours out examples of calling, purpose, and intention for women who serve—and lead.
Promise of freedom
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 ESV)
This is good news! Jesus came, died, rose, and is coming again. This truth sets believers free from false constructs of the cultures in which we live. By encouraging women leaders to engage with the truth of God’s Word, we encourage them to take another look at their freedom in Christ. The cross of Christ sets us free from cultural divisions and calls into question any earthly “rule” that keeps us bound.
When Amy began to engage the Bible for herself, she did not find the narrative of oppression, but one of freedom instead. She recognized that in Christ, she was not defined by what she did in the world, but by who she is in God. With the freedom of the gospel, Amy discovered that every woman is a daughter of the King. No matter what role she plays, no matter what value she is assigned on earth, every woman is a priceless treasure in God’s kingdom.
As we encourage women to engage in God’s Word, we encourage them to lead and live out their fullest potential in Christ. The Bible can unleash women from perceptions of bondage to a reality of freedom in every area of our lives, just as it did for Amy.