What we talk about when we talk about women in church: part three

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We hear sermons about the 12 disciples quite regularly. In my experience, Paul, too, seems to surface often during the Sunday morning sermon, instructing churches in the way of the gospel. Abraham was called to father a nation, Moses was called to deliver that nation, David was called—despite his sin—to lead that nation, paving the way for the eventual life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

This is our story, the story of our Redemption. But in truth, it's not the whole story. Vital characters are often missing. If one were to sit in our church services on Sunday morning, one might conclude that women are at best of marginal value in the Kingdom of God.

And sisters and brothers, this ought not so to be. 

So I was at Walmart the other day, looking for a magazine to buy, when I stumbled across this.

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And I visibly winced. Rolled my eyes. I may even have uttered a loud sigh.

I'm not proud of my reaction (my husband came over to see what was the matter), but I admit that everything inside me said: Welcome to a piece that will probably trivialize the women of the Bible, avoiding hard parts of their stories, sexualizing them and making them incidental, holding up the "best" version of womanhood as one where a woman shrinks and settles for a cultural notion of 'biblical womanhood.'"

Either I have a colorful imagination or I've experienced places where women are viewed as less than. OK, both things are true.

But when I opened the pages of this American Bible Society publication, I was surprised and a bit transfixed.

While not diminishing the patriarchal culture the women of the Bible inhabited, Extraordinary Women of the Bible: Heroines and the Lessons They Can Still Teach Us highlights the ways in which biblical women broke the mold. I'm sure I would have written the stories a bit differently, especially the story of Eve (highlighting Christ's redemptive work), but I've not found a resource that introduces female characters in a short, honest and uplifting way. You could read much of it to an eight-year-old or have them read it themselves (being aware of some of the difficult situations and wrong choices that are made in the section on Four Women Who Embraced Evil, which is wonderfully instructive in its own way.) Pictures of culturally and ethnically diverse women fill its pages.

And so it is that brief stories of Hagar, and Rachel and Deborah and Jael, Huldah, Athaliah and Dorcas and more spring to life, often forgotten in our teachings and our sermons, but remembered by a God who calls things as not as though they were.

Let them not remain hidden in a magazine in Walmart, but preached on, studied as the great spiritual biographies they are, uncovered through focused energy and scholarship and the simple effort of making room for the women of the Bible.

And may this truth be known far and wide, speaking gospel liberating truth into places and spaces that dehumanize women: selling them, subordinating them, and abusing them as they see fit. Jesus has already set women free. And the stories of Bible women can illustrate the ways of this new Kingdom, shattering the shackles that bind.

Great places to start:

  • Watch these two-minute video shorts on how the women of the New Testament who were set free through the gospel. Then share them on your social networks.
  • This just in: the Reclaiming Eve DVD Discussion Guide is now available here and here. Order it now for your book club or fall Bible study (it includes a deeper Bible study for groups) and encourage women in your life to be set free through the power of the gospel.

Who is your favorite woman of the Bible? And why?

On #ReclaimingEve: “Reclaiming Eve offers an insightful walk from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane. Sprinkled with personal stories from three authors of varying ages, women at every stage of life will gain valuable perspective and practical ways to reclaim their identity in Christ. Whether you’re looking for a book to read individually or one you can discuss with a group, Reclaiming Eve stirs up great food for reflection and discussion.” —Marian V. Liautaud, editor of Today’s Christian Woman and author of The War on Women: The World’s Worst Holocaust, and How Christians Are Saving One Girl at a Time