We moved last summer and our two minute commute to school is now twenty minutes, or thirty during snowbird season (if you don’t live in Florida – that’s a real thing). One of the blessings of this change is that my girls and I read Scripture together every morning. We started in Philippians and have just worked our way through, a section at a time. The challenge and beauty of reading the Bible this way is that you come across some tough passages that lead to heavy conversations.
I’ve worked with the girls on how to treat such passages:
- Do I need to understand more about the context around the verse?
- What does the rest of the Bible say about this idea?
- Do I need to adjust my thinking?
Today’s passage was 1 Peter 3:1-7. This is a beautiful passage, full of truth I want my twelve year old, ten year old, and five year old to have in their hearts. But there were also some words that my very passionate, very independent, very strong daughters weren’t sure what to do with. Their questions were thoughtful and amazing, and also opened my eyes to how important these conversations are in light of controversies swirling in today’s culture.
I want my girls to grow up believing and living by the Bible. I want them to truly think Biblically, and that type of thinking must include Beth Moore’s description via twitter: “the tension glaringly present in the NT regarding women.” In a following tweet she explained, “The tension I mean is in regard to texts like 1 Tim 2 & 1Cor 14 alongside Christ’s elevation of women in the Gospels & how women served with Paul.” It is my job to help my daughters live in that tension and figure out how it truly applies to their lives.
I’m not a radical feminist. I avoid political debates like the plague. I am a female minister in a church in a denomination that has a long tradition of being very conservative in regards to women in leadership. I have voiced very few opinions about that, publicly or privately. I have trusted the leadership that I have served under, I have lived out my calling, and I have been extremely blessed to serve in churches that have let me do what God has called me to do with much freedom. For that I am very grateful.
But not all women have had those blessings. Both in leadership and in the congregation, I believe many of our churches have failed many women by focusing only on one end of the tension. In the early days of the #churchtoo hashtag, I cried as I read of woman after woman who had reached out for help and was mistreated and shamed by her church leadership. In a day and time when the treatment of women is front page news, we can not ignore how this impacts our kids and how our teaching of what is Biblical is more important than ever.
In our discussion, my girls questioned two things that I just can’t get over.
“Well, I don’t like that the boys all say they’re better than us and that this verse would prove it.” This was the response from my ten year old upon reading verse 7 where Paul refers to wives as the weaker partner. This sweet child has no idea that what she described doesn’t just happen on the playground. In many contexts and unfortunately in many churches, the teaching of the unique roles that God has given men and women gets communicated in a way that little girls hear “boys are better.” I am not saying this is anyone’s intent. I’m just saying that if we aren’t really careful and if we don’t help our kids rightly divide the word of truth, we create a viewpoint that is damaging, unbiblical and potentially dangerous.
So, how did I address this with my ten year old who really just wants to run faster at all the boys and outscore them in baseball?
- God made men and women differently. And, yes, there are some ways that we are weaker than men. It is rare that a grown woman is physically stronger than her husband. That is not bad, it is just reality. There are things that God made women better at. Differences are not bad – they are just different.
- The end of that passage says that we are “co-heirs of the grace of life.” God has created us differently, but in the big picture there is no difference. “There is neither… male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). We are all equally important to God, regardless of our gender.
- There are many places in Scripture where God elevates women beyond cultural norms and where He uses strong women to do amazing things. My favorite to point to is that Mary was the very first one to share the gospel. She was the one who Jesus told to go and tell all of the disciples that He was alive. Women are critical to sharing the gospel with the world and in leading in our churches.
“How does someone submit to a husband if he does bad things?” This question came from my twelve year old as I shared with the girls what submitting to your husband looks like. Oh, sweet girl, if you only knew the debate in Southern Baptist circles right now. These were the basic thoughts I shared:
- Submit means to put yourself under the authority of another. I’m not a Greek scholar, but according to the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, when used as a non-military term, the word means “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” Submission is something we choose to do. God sets up authority in every part of our life and calls us to “voluntarily cooperate” with that authority.
- Submission does not mean enabling and condoning sin. Submission does not mean saying any kind of abuse, adultery or other sin that is harmful to the spouse or the children is in any way ok. Godly submission does not equal being a doormat who just survives awful, sinful behavior.
- God does not like divorce. No one does. God allows for divorce in situations of adultery and abandonment. In my opinion, abuse is abandonment even if the abuser still lives in the house. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin and when we intentionally or unintentionally communicate that it is, we run the risk of putting women in really bad situations.
- These instructions are for wives to submit to their husbands. They are not saying all women submit to all men. The Bible does not say boys are always to be the leader on the playground or that that you should submit to the wrong thing the older boy in the youth group is asking you to do.
- Ephesians 5:21 instructs us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Marriage is a continual submitting to each other. Both husband and wife have to volunteer to cooperate and to put the other first. A truly Godly marriage will not be a husband ruling over his wife like a dictator, but rather operating from Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Mamas and daddies, let me encourage you to help your girls walk out this Biblical tension. Help them know that they are precious in the sight of God and they are powerful and important in the kingdom of God. Help them see the places where God calls us to submit to be places of honor and respect, not shackles. Help them to see that submission is for God’s glory and never to enable sin and harm. Help them know that their worth comes from a Creator who adores them more than any husband ever will.
And let’s pray for this generation of girls to rise up to serve God in a mighty way.