Don’t be afraid to look

We do not build from 1 Timothy 2:15 a theology that women are saved differently from men – qualifying it as we see fit. So why do we build from 1 Timothy 2:12 a theology silencing women – and qualify it as we choose?

If we accept the idea that Paul restricted women’s voices – but did not completely silence women – then we have to decide where to draw the line. Women are systematically dishonored. And a woman seeking to serve God is never quite sure which step will trip a land mine that blows up in her face.

When we silence the women eager to speak and live by the Spirit of truth and the Word of truth, we actually fan the flame of heresy that Paul sought to put out.

knotholeSeveral years ago, a professor asked me to teach one session of his college class. The topic? Women in ministry. I didn’t want to touch that subject and, until then, had successfully avoided it.

Ironically, at the time the professor approached me, I was serving in a paid, full-time ministry position. I worked with women in the churches and primarily related to women’s leaders. What I saw from that vantage point had caused a growing unrest in my spirit regarding the parameters for women that had been taught to me as “biblical.” At the same time, I saw the repercussions for publicly questioning these parameters.

One situation stands out. From the day I stepped into “full-time ministry,” I related to one woman whom I came to know as gracious and winsome, a person of integrity who loved God and genuinely cared for people. Once when we talked, her eyes filled with tears as she mentioned how badly she had been treated by other Christian leaders – “just because I’ve told little girls they can be anything God calls them to be.” It was the only time I ever saw her cry.

I marveled that she opened up to me that way. My male boss had risen up as a defender of the doctrine of limited permissions for women. This woman had spoken out to present a different view. Considering my situation, she might have counted me a member of an opposing camp. She might have treated me with hostility or distrust. She might have worried that I’d report the “weakness” of her tears. Yet, she didn’t try to win me to her “side.” She didn’t give details. She didn’t express bitterness, but rather deep grief. Briefly, poignantly, she spoke to me as a friend, from her heart.

I left the encounter deeply moved and deeply concerned over the anguish etched into her face.

Shortly after that conversation, I learned she had had a stroke. My boss heard the news the same time as I. To my shock, he laughed. Hearing details of her condition, he showed no compassion – none. He was glad she was incapacitated – and made no attempt to hide his delight.

Even more disturbing, that incident was not atypical. Again and again, I watched what happened as people tried to enforce the male-female rules we’ve designated “biblical.” Again and again, I saw such attempts produce injustice and incongruity, dishonor and downright meanness. Again and again, I felt the jarring in my spirit that signaled the Holy Spirit’s grief. I became convinced that something was very amiss with our “scriptural” views on women and the kingdom.

Still, when asked to teach about women in ministry, I hesitated. I didn’t yet know what I did believe. I did not want to dishonor the Lord, or to get sidetracked from my “primary goals” by becoming embroiled in controversy over a “side issue.” Only later did I see how crucial, to my life and to the kingdom, is the issue I was trying to dodge.

But also, I hesitated out of fear. Every time the Holy Spirit nudged me, the spirit of intimidation threatened me.  I feared speaking up, even to ask questions. I feared exposing myself to the kind of pummeling that had taken out my friend. Thankfully, I feared God more. As soon as I expressed my willingness to examine what I’d been taught, the Holy Spirit told me, “Don’t be afraid to look.”

What About Women?Turning to Scripture, I cried, “Lord, open my eyes.”

. . . . . . .

Adapted from chapter 10 of What About Women? A Spirit-to-spirit Exposé. First published as the Key Truths e-column, “Don’t Be Afraid to Look,” by Deborah Brunt, © 2009, 2013 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

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