Lydia’s Pioneering Leadership: The Influence of Early Church Women and the Gospel Spread

Women were central to spreading the gospel and building early Christian communities. Take Lydia, for example — a savvy businesswoman who turned her home into one of the first house churches in Philippi. However, despite the apostles supporting women’s roles in church leadership, today’s churches often hold women back from similar positions. By revisiting Lydia’s story, we can recognize the vital contributions of women to Christianity and rethink current views on female leadership in the church.

Who Is Lydia in the Bible, and What Did She Do?

Lydia is a notable figure in the New Testament, specifically mentioned in Acts 16. She was a businesswoman from the city of Thyatira, known for dealing in purple cloth, a luxury item (Acts 16:14). Lydia is described as a “God-fearer,” meaning she worshiped God but was not fully converted to Christianity.

 

The Apostle Paul encountered Lydia during his second missionary journey when he visited Philippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia. On the Sabbath, Paul spoke to a group of women gathered by the river for prayer, and Lydia was among them. 

 

As the story goes, “Lydia, who, impressed by the preaching of Paul, is baptised along with her household into Christianity and then becomes the head of a house where a Christian community meets in Philippi. Before dedicated church buildings were built, Christians met up in houses that also offered hospitality to travelling missionaries. Lydia was, therefore, the head of a house church” (Jesus and Women, p. 119).

 

Lydia’s story is a testament to the transformative power of faith and the pivotal role women can play in spiritual leadership. Her example challenges contemporary practices and invites us to reimagine how inclusive and dynamic church communities can be when all members are empowered to lead. As we reflect on Lydia’s contributions, we are called to foster environments that recognize and celebrate the diverse gifts and callings within our faith communities.

What Can We Learn from Lydia in the Bible?

Lydia’s story highlights her conversion, baptism, and the establishment of a house church in Philippi. While there are many takeaways from this story, let’s focus on what we learn about the essential contributions of women in the spread of the gospel.

 

By opening her home for gatherings, Lydia played a pivotal role in establishing one of the first Christian communities in Europe. This underscores the potential for women to lead and nurture spiritual communities.

 

Lydia’s prominent role also challenges contemporary views that often limit women’s leadership in the church. Her story encourages reevaluating and embracing the diverse gifts and callings of women in spiritual leadership.

Applying Lessons from Lydia to the Church Today

Learning about Lydia in the Bible makes it clear that women significantly impacted the spreading of the gospel and building of the early church. The question becomes, if the apostles thought women could do church leadership, why do we try to suppress or discourage women from these roles today? 

 

Despite the clear examples of female leadership in the early church, many modern denominational practices and cultural contexts continue to limit women’s roles within church leadership. This was recently highlighted in the SBC controversy about women as pastors.

 

This suppression often stems from traditional interpretations of biblical texts and long-standing patriarchal structures within religious institutions. As a result, women are frequently excluded from key decision-making positions and denied the opportunity to fully exercise their spiritual gifts and leadership abilities. This not only stifles the potential contributions of half the church population but also contradicts the inclusive spirit demonstrated by early Christian communities like Lydia’s.

Using Lydia as an example can profoundly transform current attitudes toward women in leadership roles within the church. By championing her story and highlighting her contributions, churches today can embrace the diverse talents and perspectives that women bring to ministry. Encouraging and empowering women to take on leadership roles can lead to more dynamic and inclusive church communities, ultimately strengthening the spread of the gospel. Lydia’s legacy serves as a powerful reminder that effective church leadership relies on the active participation and recognition of all its members, regardless of gender.

 

If you would like to dive deeper into these ideas, I encourage you to read my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore the influence of women on the Early Church and a path forward for restoring their rightful place in church leadership.

 

Purchase your copy of Jesus and Women today!

The Fall, Patriarchy, and Jesus’ Treatment of Women

Did you know that patriarchy — the social system in which men hold positions of dominance and privilege — is a result of the Fall of Man? It was never God’s intended design for relationships. Keep reading as we dive into a compelling exploration of how the events following Eden have influenced gender dynamics throughout history and how Jesus’ time on Earth modeled the intended relationship between man and woman. 

What Happened During the Fall in the Bible?

The Fall, as described in the Bible, specifically within the chapters of Genesis 1–3, narrates a pivotal moment in human history. Adam and Eve, the first humans created by God, disobeyed Him by eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which they were explicitly instructed to avoid. This act of rebellion, attributed to the temptation by a serpent (interpreted as Satan), marked the transition from a state of innocence and direct fellowship with God to one of sin and separation. 

 

The implications of this event were profound and far-reaching. It introduced sin into the human experience, leading to a cascade of consequences: suffering, mortality, and a fractured relationship with each other and the Creator. This foundational story encapsulates themes of temptation, disobedience, and the loss of paradise, setting the stage for the subsequent narrative of redemption and salvation that unfolds throughout the rest of the Bible.

Why Does Patriarchy Exist?

Most people think patriarchy is a natural outcome of biological differences or a result of historical necessities for survival and social organization. While those elements do play a role, the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden was a catalyst for the patriarchal system.

 

God’s design was for men and women to have equal dominion on earth. But when sin entered the Garden, everything changed. “The loss of this joint dominion means that the human species is deficient in lacking the complementary gifts of men and women. Over time, relations between the sexes became tragically characterised by lust, domination, and the subordination of women. This was not the will of God, who intended that men and women should live in mutual and self-giving love for one another” (Jesus and Women, p. 3-4). 

The Evolution of Patriarchy

Understanding the roots of patriarchy requires a look at the Fall and into our evolutionary past, where certain aggressive and dominant behaviors were selected for survival advantages. “It is generally accepted by evolutionary biologists and psychologists that the evolution of patriarchy was driven mainly by sexual rather than natural selection” (Jesus and Women, p. 5). 

 

As an example, one of Charles Darwin’s arguments was that “our earliest human forebears would have been a gentler and more affectionate species while the powers of reason were new. Back then, our male forebears would have been guided more by affectionate instincts than by foresight and reason” (Jesus and Women, p. 7).

 

Darwin unknowingly touched upon a concept that mirrors a modern interpretation of the Fall’s effect on human nature. The spiritual misdemeanour of the first humans would have impacted on the course of evolution. Within the framework of evolution, behaviors often labeled as sinful by Christians may be traced back to the development of patriarchal systems. These systems evolved due to evolutionary pressures favoring aggression and dominance over more peaceful and cooperative traits.

How to Dismantle Patriarchy by Following the Teachings and Examples of Jesus

While the Fall and evolutionary biology developed patriarchy, it wasn’t God’s original plan. The actions and teachings of Jesus modeled the egalitarian relationship between men and women that was intended from the beginning. Jesus’ example serves as a blueprint for restoring the balance and harmony that was lost.

1. Jesus’ Interactions with Women in Public

Going against the societal norms of His time, Jesus freely engaged with women in public, treating them with respect and dignity. A notable example is His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26). Despite cultural taboos against speaking with a Samaritan and a woman, Jesus breaks these barriers, offering her “living water” and acknowledging her worth. This act subverts patriarchal norms by valuing women’s participation in theological discussions and recognizing their right to spiritual enlightenment.

2. Elevating the Status of Women Through Parables and Teachings

Jesus used parables and teachings that featured women in prominent roles, which was revolutionary. The parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), for instance, places a woman at the center of a spiritual lesson about value and redemption. By doing so, Jesus challenges the gender biases of His time, illustrating that the kingdom of God is inclusive of all, regardless of gender, thereby undermining the patriarchal notion that women are secondary or lesser beings.

3. Defending and Protecting Women

Jesus often stepped in to defend women from societal judgment and punishment, showcasing His radical departure from patriarchal values. The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) highlights this, as Jesus intervenes to prevent her stoning, emphasizing mercy and forgiveness over condemnation. This not only challenges the double standards applied to women but also calls into question the power structures that sought to control and punish women more harshly than men.

4. Including Women Among His Followers and Witnesses

Jesus welcomed women as disciples and witnesses to His life, death, and resurrection, a radical inclusion given the context of the times. Women like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (Luke 8:1-3) were integral to Jesus’ ministry, providing support and witnessing crucial events. By appearing first to women after His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10), Jesus affirms their role as credible witnesses, challenging the patriarchal dismissal of women’s testimonies and elevating their status within the community of believers.

5. Promoting Equality in Marriage and Relationships

Jesus addressed the issue of divorce in a way that protected the rights and dignity of women, challenging the patriarchal norms that allowed men to easily discard their wives (Matthew 19:3-9). By stating that marriage is a sacred union not to be dissolved casually and highlighting the equal accountability of men in upholding this covenant, Jesus advocates for a mutual, respectful partnership that dismantles the patriarchal idea of women as property or secondary partners in marriage.

Jesus is Our Path Toward Equality Between the Sexes

Through these actions and teachings, Jesus modeled a way of life that directly confronts and dismantles the foundations of patriarchy, showing us a path toward a more just society where men and women are valued equally. If you would like to dive deeper into these ideas, I encourage you to read my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore the radical ways in which Jesus interacted with women, challenging the societal norms of His time and setting a precedent for gender equality. 

 

Purchase your copy of Jesus and Women today!

 

Why Is There Sexism in the Bible?

Are you curious about the existence of sexism in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testament? Read on to learn why God allowed gender inequality and how Jesus’ life on earth began the process of restoring harmony between the sexes. 

What is Sexism?

Sexism is a form of discrimination based on a person’s gender. It is often linked to the belief that one gender is inherently superior to another. Sexism can affect anyone, but it primarily affects women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles and may include the belief that men are more suited to certain types of jobs or that women should be caregivers. This discrimination can manifest in various ways, including in the workplace, educational settings, and societal expectations and norms. It can also lead to harmful practices such as sexual harassment and violence. Sexism is a global problem that was present in biblical times. 

What are Biblical Examples of Sexism in History?

Sexism in biblical times was largely tied to the cultural norms and societal structures of the period. Women were typically regarded as inferior to men and were often excluded from public life. They were not allowed to be taught the Torah publicly and were restricted from orally communicating it, indicating a clear gender-based division in religious practices. The story of Eve in Genesis has been cited as having a profound negative impact on women’s perceptions throughout history. However, interpretations of sexism in the Bible can vary, with some scholars arguing that there is evidence of gender balance in the scriptures and others suggesting that it’s not the God of the Bible who is sexist but rather people interpreting it. Nevertheless, the dominant patriarchal culture of the time often overshadowed these nuances, resulting in widespread gender discrimination.

Why Is There Sexism in the Bible?

The presence of sexism in the Bible reflects the societal norms and cultural context of the times in which it was written. It’s important to understand that “God must work within the parameters of human freedom and bring out the best good possible in humanly limited circumstances” (Jesus and Women, p. 35). Therefore, the sexism present in the Bible is a reflection of the patriarchal societies of those times, not a divine endorsement of gender inequality.

 

When Jesus arrived on the scene, he challenged these societal norms and worked to overcome the prevailing sexism. He treated women with respect and dignity, breaking with the societal conventions of his time. For example, Jesus spoke openly with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-26), a radical act given that Samaritans were looked down upon and men did not typically engage in public conversation with women. He also had female followers, such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, who played significant roles in his ministry (Luke 8:1-3).

 

Jesus’ interactions with women demonstrated a break from traditional norms and highlighted the intrinsic value and worth of women. His actions serve as a reminder that while the Bible may contain instances of sexism due to the cultural context of its time, its fundamental message is one of love, equality, and respect for all people, regardless of gender.

What About Sexism in the New Testament?

Again, we have to remember that God operates within the constraints of human free will and the societal structures that humans have created. New Testament believers were not perfect. However, there are several instances where gender equality is evident, particularly in the Early Church. This was a significant departure from the patriarchal norms prevalent in society at that time.

 

One of the most cited examples comes from Galatians 3:28, where the apostle Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This verse emphasizes the spiritual equality of all believers, irrespective of their gender, race, or social status.

 

Furthermore, women played crucial roles in the Early Church, as seen in the book of Acts. For example, Lydia, a seller of purple goods, was one of the first converts to Christianity in Europe and offered her home as a meeting place for the church (Acts 16:14-15). Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, instructed Apollos about the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).

 

Moreover, Romans 16 provides a lengthy list of people whom Paul commends for their work in the Early Church, and it’s notable that many of them are women. Phoebe, for instance, is recognized as a deacon of the church in Cenchreae (Romans 16:1), while Junia is noted as being “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7).

 

While it’s true that the Early Church was not perfect and had its share of challenges, these examples demonstrate that there were strides towards gender equality in the New Testament era, reflecting the teachings of Jesus and challenging the societal norms of the time.

So, What Happened? Why Is Sexism Still Prevalent Today?

“The revolutionary attitude of Jesus towards women is in stark contrast to that of the institutional Church, transcending time and place to such a degree that it provides further evidence for his divinity. As we have also seen, in the Early Church, women and men were equally involved in church ministries. With its change of status into the state religion of the Roman Empire, however, it became highly patriarchal and developed attributes common to religion, in general, that are at odds with the ministry of its founder” (Jesus and Women, p. 129). This underscores the transformative impact that Jesus had on society and the importance of returning to his teachings and practices.

The Way Forward for Women

So, what is the way forward for women within the Church? “The new historical phase of Christianity, facilitated by science, will require an egalitarian, non-hierarchical Church, in which the focus will be on encouraging and providing Christian individuals with the means to develop close relationships of loving kindness with God. So how should the roles of women be defined in this future Church? In order to clarify the optimum use of female gifts in assigning roles to them in a new Church order, let us remind ourselves of Paul’s description of the Early Church community: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues’ (1 Corinthians 12:27-29).”

 

If you would like to dive deeper into the topic of sexism in the Bible and the way forward for women, I encourage you to read my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore the revolutionary approach Jesus had toward women, how this differed from societal norms of His time, and how it contrasts with the attitudes of the institutional Church. I also explore the roles and significance of women in the Early Church, highlighting their active participation in church ministries. Lastly, I discuss the shift towards patriarchy that occurred when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. In all, the book provides a comprehensive analysis of gender relations within the historical and cultural context of the Bible and proposes a path forward based on Jesus’s teachings and practices of gender equality.

 

Purchase your copy of Jesus and Women today!

Honoring Moms: The Key to Church Growth

It’s a sight that’s familiar in churches across the globe: Moms, with children in tow, fill the pews on a Sunday morning. They are the ones who shepherd their families to church, instill the values of faith, and foster a sense of community. In many ways, moms are the backbone of the church, and honoring them can play a significant role in church growth.

Moms: The Pillars of Faith

From a young age, it is often our mothers who introduce us to the concept of faith. They hold our hands as we say our first prayers, guide us through our first Bible stories, and teach us about love, compassion, and kindness. They are our first teachers, shaping our understanding of faith and God.

 

In Proverbs 31:26-28, it is said, ​​”She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” This passage beautifully encapsulates the critical role mothers play in nurturing spiritual growth within their families.

The Power of a Mother’s Influence

Mothers have a profound influence on their children’s lives, including their spiritual journey. According to a study by the Barna Group, a mother’s role is influential in shaping a child’s religious beliefs and practices. The study found that mothers are more likely than fathers to be responsible for their children’s religious experiences.

 

This influence extends beyond childhood. As children grow into adults, they carry their mother’s teachings with them. They are more likely to attend church regularly, engage in religious activities, and pass down their faith to the next generation. As it’s said in Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

What the Bible Says About the Role of a Mother

The power of a mother’s influence isn’t just scientific but biblical. In the Bible, mothers hold a special place, and their role is seen as significant. Here are a few scriptural references to support this:

2 Timothy 1:5

In this passage, Paul acknowledges the role of Timothy’s mother and grandmother in shaping his faith, saying, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” This shows the influential role a mother plays in nurturing faith in her children.

Exodus 2:1-10

In this passage, the story of Moses’ mother, Jochebed, demonstrates the sacrificial love and courage of a mother. Despite the decree to kill all Hebrew boys, Jochebed hid Moses for three months and then placed him in a basket in the Nile, where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as her own. Jochebed’s actions saved Moses, who would grow up to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Luke 1:38

In this verse, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is highlighted as another powerful example of a mother’s faith. When the angel Gabriel told her that she would conceive the Son of God, Mary responded, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her willingness to accept God’s plan shows a mother’s faith and obedience.

Growing the Church by Honoring Moms

If mothers are such vital players in fostering faith and filling the churches, it stands to reason that honoring them can significantly contribute to church growth.

 

Honoring moms goes beyond celebrating them on Mother’s Day. It means acknowledging their efforts year-round, supporting them in their spiritual journey, and creating an environment where they feel valued and loved.

 

Churches can honor moms by providing resources and support for their parenting journeys, such as parenting classes or support groups. Churches can also create programs that cater to children and youth, making it easier for mothers to bring their families to church.

 

Moreover, churches can acknowledge the hard work of mothers in their congregation by giving them roles in church leadership. By seeing mothers in positions of authority, others in the church are reminded of the essential role that women play in spiritual growth and community building.

The Strength of the Church Rests with Mothers

Honoring moms is more than a nice sentiment; it’s a strategic move for church growth. Moms are often the ones who bring their families to church, influence their children’s spiritual growth, and foster a sense of community. By recognizing their contributions and supporting them in their spiritual journey, churches can create a more welcoming and inclusive environment. This, in turn, can attract more families, leading to church growth.

 

As we move forward, let us remember the words from Proverbs 31:28, “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Let us ensure that our churches echo this sentiment, honoring the mothers among us, acknowledging their impact, and, in doing so, growing our congregations in faith and numbers. 

 

How Women Can Regain Their Early Church Status

Women have been marginalized and oppressed for far too long, denied equal status and opportunities in society and even within religious institutions. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a rich history of women’s leadership and active participation in the early Church that we can look to as a model for moving forward.

Jesus’ Treatment of Women as an Example for the Church Today

If we examine the Gospel accounts, we see that Jesus himself treated women with respect and dignity, often going against the prevailing cultural norms of His time. He spoke to them directly, engaged them in theological discussions, and welcomed them as disciples. In fact, some of Jesus’ closest followers and supporters were women, including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. These women played an active role in Jesus’ ministry, traveling with Him and supporting Him financially.

 

“In the earliest years of the Church, the love and respect shown to women by Jesus during his lifetime, together with his acceptance of them as his disciples and proclaimers, spilled over into the aftermath of his passion, death and resurrection, ensuring a positive place for them in the ministry of the earliest churches” (Jesus and Women, p. 119).

Women’s Leadership Roles in the Early Church as an Example for the Church Today

In the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection, women continued to play a critical role in the early Church. They were leaders, preachers, teachers, and prophets, and their contributions helped shape the direction and theology of the early Christian movement. Women like Phoebe, Junia, and Priscilla are mentioned by name in the New Testament as respected leaders.

 

For example, “When Paul founds the church in Corinth, he meets Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, who become important co-workers involved in a teaching ministry for converts and who also run a notably warm house church (Acts 18:2 and 26; 1 Corinthians 16:19)” (Jesus and Women, p. 119). 

How Medieval Women Mystics Paved the Way for Women in the Church Today

During the time when Thomas Aquinas formulated the doctrine of transubstantiation, which established the necessity of priestly mediation for access to God, many women mystics were asserting the availability of direct access to God, describing their mystical experiences of encountering God without the need for priestly intervention or mediation.

 

One such mystic was Marguerite Porete, whose book The Mirror of Simple Souls “declares that all people, whether male or female, rich or poor, professionally religious or members of the laity, can have equal access to a mystical relationship with God” (Jesus and Women, p. 125).

 

Writings such as this challenged the patriarchal structures of the Church, which limited women’s participation in religious life and restricted their access to spiritual authority. By claiming their direct access to God, women mystics were subverting the idea that only priests had the power to mediate between God and humanity. Therefore, “I would argue that the way forward for women in the Church can be inspired by the lifestyles and courage of the medieval women mystics” (Jesus and Women, p. 143). 

A Vision for the Future Church

Jesus treated women equally, and women were active participants in the early Church. So why, then, have women been excluded from leadership roles and relegated to second-class status in many churches throughout history? The answer is complex and involves a range of social, cultural, and historical factors. But what’s clear is that this is not the way it was meant to be. We need to look to the example of the early Church and reclaim women’s rightful place as leaders and co-laborers in the Gospel.

 

This means creating space for women’s voices to be heard, recognizing and affirming their gifts and talents, and actively working to dismantle patriarchal structures that oppress and silence women. “In the future Church, an important pastoral duty should also be the discernment and encouragement of the charisms of individuals in the community. Women’s abilities for empathetic and compassionate service, as well as serving at the individual level, would have a great contribution to make to the ordained pastoral ministry” (Jesus and Women, p. 147). 

 

This also means looking to the example of Jesus, who saw women as fully human and deserving of respect and dignity. It means embracing a vision of gender equality that is grounded in love, justice, and compassion.

 

“The new historical phase of Christianity, facilitated by science, will require an egalitarian, non-hierarchical Church, in which the focus will be on encouraging and providing Christian individuals with the means to develop close relationships of loving kindness with God. So how should the roles of women be defined in this future Church? In order to clarify the optimum use of female gifts in assigning roles to them in a new Church order, let us remind ourselves of Paul’s description of the Early Church community: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues” (Jesus and Women, p. 144). 

 

To continue this work, we must actively dismantle oppressive structures within the Church and create space for women’s voices to be heard and affirmed. If you are interested in exploring this topic further, I encourage you to read my book, Jesus and Women, for a deeper dive into the rich history of women’s leadership in the Church and how women can use these truths to regain their early church status in the Church today.

The Dignity and Personhood of Women Through the Eyes of Jesus

 

Have you ever wondered how Jesus perceived and treated women during His time on Earth? In a society where women were often marginalized and viewed through the lens of patriarchal norms, Jesus’ approach was markedly different. Keep reading to explore the revolutionary way in which Jesus acknowledged the dignity and personhood of women, setting a precedent that challenges us to reevaluate our own attitudes today.

A Revolutionary Perspective

During a time when women were marginalized and limited by societal norms and double standards, Jesus’ approach was revolutionary. He saw women not as lesser beings but as individuals of worth, affirming their dignity and personhood.

 

One striking example of this is found in John 4:1-42 with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. During this time, cultural norms dictated that Jews did not associate with Samaritans, let alone a woman. Yet, Jesus not only spoke to her but engaged in theological discussions, acknowledging her capacity for deep understanding. He saw past her societal labels–a woman, a Samaritan, and someone with multiple marriages–and recognized her inherent worth.

 

Another example is Mary Magdalene, who is often perceived as a repentant prostitute in popular culture. The Bible, however, paints a different picture. Mary Magdalene was a devoted follower of Jesus, present at His crucifixion when most of His disciples had fled. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, entrusting her with the message of His resurrection to the other disciples (John 20:1-18). This act defied societal norms, as women’s testimonies were not considered reliable during that time. Jesus, however, saw Mary’s faithfulness and entrusted her with this crucial message, affirming her personhood and dignity.

 

These examples are just two that illustrate Jesus’ radical departure from the societal norms of His time. This approach was not only revolutionary but continues to be a powerful message for gender equality today.

“Do You See This Woman?”

Another example of how Jesus perceived and treated all women in the fullness of their dignity and personhood comes from a significant event in the Bible found in Luke 7:36-50

 

In this passage, one of the Pharisees invites Jesus to his home for a meal. While they are at the table, a woman enters the house uninvited. “Such an entrance would have created an immediate stir: it was highly inappropriate, to say the least, for a woman who was a known ‘sinner’ to come into the house of a respected Pharisee” (Jesus and Women, p. 70).

 

Overcome by emotion, the woman stands by Jesus at his feet, weeping. Her tears fall on his feet, and she wipes them away with her hair. Then, she kisses Jesus’ feet and anoints them with perfume from her jar. “Meanwhile, the Pharisee is dismayed to see that Jesus allows himself to be touched by a sinful woman” (Jesus and Women, p. 70)

 

While the Pharisee’s attitude toward the woman who is a “sinner” is legally correct, Jesus tells him a parable of two people who owed money to a certain moneylender–one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave both debts. Jesus then asks the Pharisee which of them will love the moneylender more. The Pharisee replies that he supposes it would be the one who had the larger debt forgiven.

 

“Before teasing out the full implications of the contrast he has made between the two debtors, Jesus forces [the Pharisee] to take notice of the weeping woman by asking: ‘Do you see this woman?’ (Luke 7:44). To the Pharisee she is something to be ignored, something less than human” (Jesus and Women, p. 70).

 

Jesus then points out the ways in which the woman has shown him hospitality and love–she wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed them with perfume. In contrast, the Pharisee offered no water for his feet, no kiss of greeting, and no oil for his head.

 

“For the dinner guests the woman’s courage and tenderness are irrelevant, negated by her shameful occupation. However, Jesus sees her in her totality as a person” (Jesus and Women, p. 74). This story exemplifies Jesus’ transformative perception of women. He saw beyond her status as a “sinner” and a woman, instead recognizing her repentance and faith. This is a powerful testament to Jesus’ recognition of the full personhood of women, regardless of their societal standing.

A Call to See Women as Jesus Did

Throughout His ministry on Earth, Jesus never patronized or dismissed women. Instead, he acknowledged their full personhood and valued their contributions. The recognition of the inherent value and dignity of all women, regardless of their societal status, is a strong theme in Jesus’ teachings and actions. It’s a theme crucially important in today’s world, where women still face inequality and marginalization, especially in the church. 

 

By understanding this, we can challenge the societal norms that continue to limit women and work toward a world where every woman is recognized for her full personhood, even in the church, just as Jesus did. If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend reading my book, Jesus and Women, in which I discuss the full implication of Jesus’ treatment of women and what it means for the restoration of harmony between the sexes. Purchase your copy today!

 

PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF JESUS AND WOMEN

 

Princess Diana and Mother Teresa: A Testament to Female Solidarity, Love, and Compassion

In a world where women are often categorized as either “good” girls or “bad” girls, two iconic figures stood tall, embodying the essence of love, compassion, and female solidarity. These two women were none other than Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. Their close relationship serves as a testament that the strength of women, grounded in love and compassion, can shatter stereotypes and end the polarisation of the female sex, even in the Church.

The Unlikely Companionship Between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa

The iconic relationship between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, two of the most influential women of their time, offers a compelling narrative on the sexual double standard that pervaded society. Princess Diana, despite her unwavering Christian devotion to charitable works, was often maligned by the male-dominated political and religious establishments. This criticism was largely rooted in the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles, an event precipitated by his adulterous affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Yet, interestingly, the same establishments that chastised Diana remained silent about Charles’s infidelity.

 

In stark contrast stood Mother Teresa, a beacon of “good girl” virtue within the Roman Catholic Church. Her status was not just anchored in her selfless, Jesus-focused charitable work but also her commitment to a life of celibacy. As a Roman Catholic nun, she represented the epitome of moral purity within the Church’s framework.

 

Mother Teresa’s relationship with Diana was marked by a deep sense of maternal support, particularly during Diana’s search for a new partner and the ensuing backlash from society. She recognized and appreciated Diana’s Christian charitable works, seeing them as a reflection of her own mission.

 

The relationship between these two women serves as a potent symbol of the polarizing portrayal of women in Proverbs. It highlights the societal tendency to categorize women into binary extremes – the “bad” girl and the “good” girl. Yet, through their bond, Diana and Mother Teresa challenged this dichotomy, demonstrating that women could embody a spectrum of virtues and attributes. Their friendship underscores the need to move beyond reductive stereotypes toward a more nuanced understanding of womanhood.

Defeating the Double Standard

Their friendship challenged the double standards imposed on women. Princess Diana, despite her royal status, was often subjected to public scrutiny and judgment. Mother Teresa, though revered for her work, also faced criticism. Despite these challenges, they remained undeterred, continuing their efforts to make the world a better place. Their actions sent a powerful message–that women are not just “good” or “bad.”

 

This double standard was also evident in the Old Testament. A clear example of this is the depiction of The Bad Girl: Jezebel and The Good Girl: Ruth. “The name Jezebel became laden with connotations that link normal female behaviour, such as self-adornment and the application of make-up, with great evil, facilitating the common biblical characterisation of women as either ‘good’ girls or ‘bad’ girls” (Jesus and Women, p. 45). Then you have Ruth, who, “like Jezebel, was a foreign woman and yet is a beloved biblical character” (Jesus and Women, p. 45).

 

As the narrative goes, Naomi and her husband Elimelech, along with their two sons, left Bethlehem due to a severe famine and settled in Moab. After Elimelech’s death, the two sons married Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah. However, tragedy struck again when both sons also died, leaving Naomi and her daughters-in-law widowed.

 

Deciding to return to Bethlehem, Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to stay in Moab and remarry. Orpah reluctantly stayed, but Ruth famously pledged her loyalty to Naomi, saying, “​​Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

 

Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Ruth began to gather grain in the fields of a wealthy relative of Naomi’s, a man named Boaz. Learning of Boaz’s kindness, Naomi instructed Ruth to request Boaz to be her kinsman-redeemer (a close relative who could marry a widow to continue her deceased husband’s lineage according to Jewish law). 

 

“When Naomi hears of Boaz’s kind and noble treatment of Ruth, she speculates that he could be a potential husband for her and begins to devise a plan of seduction. She tells Ruth to wash and perfume herself and put on her best clothes. Once she is all dressed up, she is to go to the threshing floor where Boaz will be working and bide her time until she discovers where he will sleep for the night. When he is asleep, she is to creep under his blanket” (Jesus and Women, p. 46).

 

Fortunately, Boaz was already planning to marry Ruth before this act of seduction. And when they did, they had a son named Obed, who became the grandfather of King David, thus placing Ruth in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. However, “while Ruth is traditionally considered to be the star of the story, I would argue that its ending elevates Naomi to an even higher level than that of her daughter-in-law” (Jesus and Women, p. 47).

What We Learn from Ruth and Naomi’s Friendship

The story of Naomi and Ruth in the Bible is admired and celebrated, despite Naomi’s cunning and Ruth’s seductive actions. This acceptance stems from their pure intentions, the genuine love between Ruth and Boaz, and the deep bond between Ruth and Naomi. 

 

“The fact that love conquers all is evident in the way they are portrayed as exemplars for all women, while allowing them the fullness of their femininity. The outcome of their loving relationship also highlights what women are capable of achieving when they work together and also how the sight of it can elicit solidarity from other women, as is evidenced in the pleasure the women of the town take in Naomi’s good fortune. I believe that the story of Naomi and Ruth exemplifies the power of female solidarity in defeating the double standard and generating joy and harmony” (Jesus and Women, p. 49). 

 

Similar to the friendship between Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, Ruth and Naomi’s relationship highlights how female solidarity, grounded in the gifts of love and compassion, can defeat the double standard and create space for women to exist, not just as “good” girls or “bad” girls, but in the fullness of their femininity. 

What This Means for the Restoration of Harmony Between the Sexes and the Church

When it comes to Princess Diana and Mother Teresa’s relationship, “it is clear that their shared qualities of love, compassion, and empathy enabled both women to cross the boundaries of their lives… The fact that it was the saintly Mother Teresa who instigated their unique and loving relationship is an important indication that a Christian context of grace will be necessary for the achievement of the feminist ideal of ‘the sisterhood’, a situation of female solidarity that remains to be achieved despite decades of feminist campaigning” (Jesus and Women, p. 158). 

 

“Their relationship also illuminates the way forward for the achievement of harmony and cohesion among the female sex, the achievement of which will be closely linked with the restoration of harmony between the sexes” (Jesus and Women, p. 158).

 

Women’s voices, often sidelined, are vitally important in fostering an environment of love, compassion, and understanding. Recognizing and valuing these feminine gifts can lead to a more inclusive, empathetic, and balanced society and transform the Church to God’s original intent in which there is harmony between the sexes. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa’s “greatest legacy… may well be their demonstrations of how female solidarity grounded in the female gifts of love and compassion can defeat the double standard and end the polarisation of the female sex” (Jesus and Women, p. 161).

 

Should this topic pique your curiosity, I’d highly recommend delving into my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore how Jesus’ life on Earth exemplifies the value of the female sex and how it’s essential to the restoration of harmony between the sexes and the Church. Purchase your copy today!

The Truth Behind the SBC Controversy About Women as Pastors

The role of women in religious leadership has always been a subject of intense debate and controversy. The topic has sparked conversations and divisions within various religious communities, including the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which recently made headlines by deciding to expel churches with women as pastors. This decision has ignited a fresh wave of discussions around the inclusion and recognition of women in religious leadership roles. In this blog post, I dive into the SBC controversy surrounding women preachers and pastors, exploring what the Bible really says about women in leadership roles and the implications of the SBC’s decision.

The “Women as Pastors” Debate and Its Historical Context

The controversy around women preachers and pastors stems from long-standing traditions and interpretations of religious texts, particularly within conservative and evangelical circles. Some argue that certain biblical passages restrict women from holding positions of authority within the church, citing verses such as 1 Timothy 2:12, which states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” This perspective views male leadership as the ordained order of God, rejecting the notion of women assuming pastoral roles.

 

Additionally, “the fact that Jesus did not send any of his female followers out to proclaim him is often cited by church authorities as justification for the non-ordination of women. It needs to be acknowledged that he could not have sent them out to proclaim him publicly in his lifetime as it would have been culturally impossible, an argument that no longer holds” (Jesus and Women, p. 144-145). 

What the Bible Says About Women in Leadership Roles

When it comes to women and the Church, the only “argument” that holds any ground is what the Bible says. And there is “scriptural, theological, and pastoral justification for female ministry and authority in all Christian denominations” (Jesus and Women, p. 118). Multiple passages highlight that women played significant roles in the Early Church. When biblical passages are viewed within their historical and cultural contexts, we see the spiritual gifts and calling of women encourage their active participation in preaching and pastoral roles.

Lydia’s Leadership Role in the Bible

Lydia is a clear example of how God used women in the Early Church and still wants to use them in leadership roles today. “In Acts 16:15-15 and 40, we are told about a prominent female Christian called Lydia, who, impressed by the preaching of Paul, is baptized along with her household into Christianity and then becomes the head of a house where a Christian community meets in Philippi” (Jesus and Women, p. 119). 

 

In Lydia’s era, there were no dedicated church buildings as we have today. Instead, Christians would come together in homes to engage in fellowship. Consequently, it can be inferred that Lydia served as the leader of a house church, akin to what we now refer to as a “pastor” or “religious leader.”

More Examples of Women Leaders in the Bible

Lydia wasn’t the only female “house church” leader in the Bible. In Acts and Corinthians, we learn of many people whose service involved leading house churches, either independently or as co-workers with their husbands.

 

In Acts 18:2 and 26, we learn that Paul stayed and traveled with Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. In 1 Corinthians 16:19, we hear of this couple again: “The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” 

 

These examples make it clear that “in the Early Church, women and men were equally involved in church ministries. With its change of status into the state religion of the Roman Empire, however, it became highly patriarchal and developed attributes common to religion, in general, that are at odds with the ministry of its founder” (Jesus and Women, p. 129). 

The SBC Controversy and Its Implications

The historical, cultural, and religious obstacles women face in contemporary churches contrast significantly with biblical teachings about female leadership. Still, some denominations, like the Southern Baptist Convention, continue to exclude women as pastors and exclude churches with women pastors, like Saddleback Church. By taking this step, the SBC has sent a clear message that it aligns with a more conservative interpretation of biblical teachings on gender roles.

 

However, this decision has not gone uncontested. Many within and outside the SBC express concerns about excluding women as pastors, questioning the denomination’s commitment to equality and its impact on women’s leadership within the church. Critics argue that such exclusions marginalize talented and qualified women, hindering the growth and diversity of the denomination. They point to examples of successful women preachers and pastors who have made significant contributions to their communities, emphasizing the need for an inclusive and representative leadership structure.

Understanding Women as Pastors in the Bible

Women served in leadership positions in the Early Church. Therefore, there is evidence that God intends for women to lead in some capacity today. Personally, I believe “women’s abilities for empathetic and compassionate service, as well as serving at an individual level, would have a great contribution to make to the ordained pastoral ministry” (Jesus and Women, p. 147). 

 

Should this topic pique your curiosity, I’d highly recommend delving into my book, Jesus and Women. In it, I explore the historical importance of religion’s evolution concerning women’s rights, roles, and the vital relationship between women and the Church. Purchase your copy today!

What Two Marys in the Bible Tell Us About the Portrayal of Women

 

There are a few different Marys in the Bible. To understand the portrayal of women in Biblical times and its impact today, we’ll need to focus on the two Marys in the Bible who seem to be in contrast to each other: Mary Magdalene, the “sinful woman” turned one of Jesus’ closest followers; and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit.

Mary Magdalene

“In Roman Catholicism, until the 1960s Mary Magdalene was officially a ‘sinful woman’” (Jesus and Women, p. 75). Her name was finally cleared after Vatican II, but still, many Christians confuse her with the unnamed prostitute discussed in Luke 7:36-50. Because of this, “the image of Mary Magdalene projected by the Roman Catholic Church until the very recent past is a complete travesty of her role as portrayed in the Gospels” (Jesus and Women, p. 75). 

 

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ closest women disciples, as indicated by the fact that her name is mentioned first in any list of women–a pattern we see with the male disciples, with Peter named first. “It can be deduced from this that she should be seen as a disciple who is on equal terms with Peter, despite the fact that Peter receives so much more attention in the texts” (Jesus and Women, p. 76). In this way, Mary was the “leader” of the women disciples, as Peter was the leader of the men.

Mary Ever Virgin

By the sixth-century Pope Gregory’s papacy, Mother Mary’s “virginal conception of Jesus had been extended to encompass a perpetual virginity” (Jesus and Women, p. 80). At the same time, the promotion of celibacy in the Church was strong, even to the point that it devalued marriage to a lesser status than that of a virgin. Even with the mention of Jesus’ brothers and sisters in the Gospel text, the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity “gave rise to a disgust for the human body in the Early Church and a belief that Christian virtue must be grounded first and foremost in control of the body” (Jesus and Women, p. 81). 

 

As you can imagine, this view was challenging for Roman Catholic women who saw Mary as celibate yet also a wife and mother. “The doctrine of her perpetual virginity is preached in such a way as to place her in a different category to all other women and leads even to faithful wives and mothers being tainted with sin since they cannot conceive without sexual interaction” (Jesus and Women, p. 81). 

Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ Unique Relationship

Throughout history, both Marys have been viewed in different ways, each impacting how women are portrayed in Biblical times and the role and expectation of women today. However, to understand these women’s roles in restoring harmony between the sexes, we must consider Mary Magdalene’s unique relationship with Jesus.   

 

A story that captures this bond beautifully is found in John 20 when Mary visits Jesus’ tomb after his crucifixion, and his body is not there. Mary is weeping when she’s approached by someone she does not recognize. 

 

“He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’” (20:15-16).

 

When Mary sees Jesus but doesn’t recognize him, “he speaks her name in a tone of voice that instantly evokes for her the essence of their relationship… This must have been a relationship of great depth and intimacy” (Jesus and Women, p. 77). Yet, we know this was a platonic relationship because of Mary’s use of the Hebrew word “Rabbouni,” which means teacher or master. 

 

Furthermore, “the joyful tenderness of their post-Resurrection encounter implies that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were extraordinarily close; the fact that it was Mary to whom Jesus first appeared and not his mother, or Peter, or ‘the beloved disciple’ would seem to suggest that she had been more sensitive towards him during his ministry than anyone else” (Jesus and Women, p. 77). Not only that, but it also has symbolic significance beyond their personal relationship. It is evident throughout scripture that Jesus’ female disciples loyally stood by him, while his male disciples abandoned and denie

 

d him. 

The Connection Between the Two Marys in the Bible and Restoring Harmony Between the Sexes

“From the fourth century onwards the doctrine of [Mother Mary’s] perpetual virginity became a defining feature of Mary’s categorisation as the new Eve and, hence, a stick with which to beat all non-virginal women” (Jesus and Women, p. 85). However, there is no mention of this in the New Testament. There is, however, mention of Jesus as the new Adam, who redeems humanity, as well as a correlation between Mary Magdalene and the first Eve. 

 

The most significant similarity includes Mary Magdalene’s presumption that Jesus must be the gardener when she didn’t recognize him. “The young man, Jesus, meeting the young woman, Mary, in the garden immediately after he has redeemed humanity from the sin of Adam calls to mind the Garden of Eden in which the sin occurred” (Jesus and Women, p. 86). In a way, Jesus is “the garde

 

ner.” 

 

Therefore, it can be viewed as a symbolic representation of a redemptive version of what occurred in Genesis, where “the loving and harmonious relationship between the two can be interpreted as a crucial first step on the path to the restoration of a healthy state of harmony between the sexes” (Jesus and Women, p. 86).

 

Would you like to gain a better understanding of Jesus’ unique and unconditional love toward women in the Bible? If so, I encourage you to read Jesus and Women, where I dive deep into even more relationships that point to Jesus’ aim to redeem harmony between the sexes during his ministry on earth and how women play a central role.

The Role of Evolutionary Biology and Gender Inequality in the Bible

Whereas Christians once rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution because it seemed to present a seismic challenge to the creation account, such is no longer the case. “Most Christian denominations now accept that God creates through natural processes” (Jesus and Women, p. 5). This understanding has become known as “evolutionary creationism.” 

 

Discerning how human beings evolved is essential to understanding gender inequality in the Bible, as well as God’s original design for harmony between the sexes. By diving into the evolution of patriarchy, we can uncover how sexual selection and the Fall of humanity work together to produce a lack of equality and the prevalence of sexual coercion in the Bible and today

Patriarchy Wasn’t God’s Original Plan 

It is no secret that patriarchy was present in the Bible and, in some ways, still exists today. The systemic belief and acceptance of men holding the power and women being largely excluded from it–even abused and taken advantage of by it–is highlighted in the past through the double standards presented in the Bible and the present by the #MeToo movement. 

 

The question is, where did patriarchy come from because it wasn’t God’s original design? We must look into the evolution or development of male dominance over women to answer this. Most evolutionary biologists and psychologists accept that “the evolution of patriarchy was driven mainly by sexual rather than natural selection… the former results specifically from the differential abilities of individuals to acquire mates” (Jesus and Women, p. 5). 

 

However, “due to their primary role in caring for offspring, females must generally have chosen males who were not merely attractive, but also capable of defending and supporting them. The most attractive males would have evolved to be both attractive and hard-working, combining the effects of both natural and sexual selection” (Jesus and Women, p. 6).  

 

The process of this sexual selection, Darwin argues, has a peaceful, charming, and beautiful side–like the courtship of birds and how the males perform dances, sing songs, and show vibrant colors to attract a female. However, it is evident that today, and in Biblical times, a more aggressive sexual selection process seems to occur. So, what happened?

The Fall of Humanity and Evolutionary Biology 

In his writings, Darwin suggested that our earliest human ancestors were a gentler and more affectionate species because reason and foresight were new traits. He believed that, at that time, men would have been guided more by affectionate instincts than reason. In comparison to the hunter-gatherer tribes that Darwin observed, there would have been no licentiousness, mistreatment of wives, or infanticide. 

 

Darwin was not aware that his ideas were similar to an updated version of the Biblical story of the Fall and its impact on human nature. However, “now that evolution is accepted in mainstream Christianity, the findings of evolutionary biology and psychology on the impact of selection on human nature enable much greater understanding of what, in Christian terms, is described as sin. The spiritual misdemeanour of the first humans would have impacted on the course of evolution” (Jesus and Women, p. 7). 

 

From an evolutionary perspective, many behaviors considered sinful by Christians can be attributed to the development of patriarchy, which resulted from the aggressive form of selection being more dominant than the peaceful and charming type. 

 

While the gentle and beautiful type of sexual selection still exists, it is not as widespread as it could have been, although it can be highly advanced at the individual level. At the group and species level, however, the power-seeking, aggressive type dominates. It is interesting to note that the #MeToo movement brought attention to this phenomenon to an unprecedented extent, although it was also a reality in Biblical times and throughout history. 

The Evolution of Patriarchy Is Not the End of the Story

What I’ve shared here is the beginning of a larger conversation about the role of evolutionary biology and gender inequality. To gain deeper insights into the evolution of patriarchal cultures, it’s essential to consider male aggression and female choice, the role of male parental investment, and the issue of sexual coercion and the impact sexual selection has on the female sex. 

 

I unpack these topics and more in my book, Jesus and Women, where I explore the role of women in the Bible and the impact of patriarchy on their representation. I look at how women were treated and portrayed in the Bible and how cultural and societal factors, including the evolution of patriarchy, shaped their status and roles. 

 

Most importantly, I examine the life and teachings of Jesus and how they offer a different perspective on women and their place in society. I also show how they hold the potential to greatly enrich our understanding of His divinity. Through an exploration of evolutionary biology and feminist theory, “Jesus and Women” provides a thought-provoking analysis of the Bible and the ways in which it has influenced our understanding of gender and power dynamics. I encourage you to read it today.