“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34
In more ways than you can imagine, this tiny little verse, plucked from the Bible, gets in the way of me doing what God has both gifted and called me to do. Over the years, I have learned, that it is not just my voice that is being silenced, but the voices of countless numbers of women. Both in and outside of the church.
Sometimes this one Bible verse, threatens to derail, not just my calling…but my faith.
Especially when it is taken out of the context of Christ’s very gracious, and merciful love. Yet, to Bible believing religious leaders (including myself), Jesus challenges their way of life, and their way of interpreting scripture. This includes men, who are given a power and authority, which can be demanded and taken advantage of, or that power can be laid down and humbled, like Jesus Christ did. Jesus throws a wrench into the plans of the religious leaders, their way of life, their way of power and authority, and their very livelihood by saying things like:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40.
Jesus condemns religious leaders for “binding burdens” on people that are too heavy to carry, while doing nothing at all to help lift their burdens. What He is saying, in essence, is that one can study the scriptures, become one of the greatest religious leaders, and yet still miss the awesome changing power of Christ’s love. We can study the scriptures, and still miss the opportunity that we are given to love our neighbor, as we love ourselves. In case you might be thinking that I am wrong. Consider Matthew 7:22 where Jesus says:
“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Jesus is stating that we can do many things in His name, and yet miss the mark of love that His law commands of us. We can prophesy what the Bible says, and even be right and speak the truth, and yet do it without the love of Christ. We can be right and not helpful.
It is possible to read the Bible, speak the truth, and bind burdens on people that are too heavy to carry. One of those ways is suggesting that women should remain silent in the church. Or simply refusing to give women a voice at the table. I have seen many women, even myself, who have suffered in this silence. Because women are taught within churches to be silent, and that silence seeps into our culture and turns into violence against women because women are taught to stay silent. Today, women are still not given the chance to vocalize, and use their gifts, so when it counts the most, they have no voice.
Some women are allowed to teach when there are no qualified men available. Some women are allowed to teach women and children only. Some women are allowed to teach women’s bible studies. Some women are allowed to be pastor’s, but can only preach four times a year. And only under the condition that the whole congregation is informed first, so that men (and women bound under their authority) can choose not to subject themselves under the teaching of a woman. Or perhaps they are already pastors, but under a lesser title of coordinator or administrator, while performing the same work as their male counter-parts.
Some women are still not allowed to teach or speak at all. Some still have no voice. Though the same Spirit of God works in and through women, as well as men. Some churches give an appearance of God-like love, but deny the power of God’s love working in and through the voices of women, in one form or another.
I am here to say, as a woman. I am weary, warn down, and tired of it. I am tired of the abuse. I am tired of having my voice stolen. I am tired of my light being put out. I am tired of being told to be silent through actions and words. I am tired of pleasing men and not God. I am tired of being told to be submissive, or submit to the authority of men. Because I learned it as a little girl, in the church. No, this scripture was never preached to me with words. But it was preached to me by the actions of countless churches, and the people within, who have perpetuated one version or another, of the same oppressing of women. Churches that, with their actions, taught me to stay silent instead of speaking up, saying no, and using my God given gifts and talents. Churches that taught me to take abuse and submit to it, rather than fighting back or speaking against it. Rather than relying on the Holy Spirit, and God given authority that God has given me. Submit. So I have done. And in so doing, I have lost my voice. My choice. My ability to speak and use my God-given gifts. But I am done.
Submit one to one another, that I will do. Mutual free submission.
But submitting to someone who lord’s their power and authority over me, that I will no longer do! Submitting to someone who binds burdens on me that are too heavy to carry, and does nothing to help lift that burden, I will no longer submit to. I will no longer drink that kool-aide. And I do not believe God wants us submitting to that kind of authority. Consider 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
“For men will be lovers of themselves…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Women (and men) were never meant to be captives! The truth that so many men and women miss, including myself, is that we were never meant to be so loaded down with sin, so loaded down by the burdens others put on us, that we lose our voice, choice, freedom, gifts, and calling. We lose our ability to go and do anything at all. We were never meant to be so burdened at the prospect of submitting that we lose our voice, our ability to speak up, to say no, to do, to go, or to simply say that we do not agree. Even with a long standing church philosophy or tradition. To do so, is to take abuse. To be captive. To live in bondage. And to simply not know or understand the freedom in Christ.
This is dangerous stuff.
Physical abuse, rarely starts out physical. It starts out non-verbal, then verbal, then physical. Violence starts with silence. But it does not have to be this way. The church can stop the violence. The church can stop binding burdens on women that are too heavy to carry. The church can help lift the burden of women, by simply giving them a voice and a chance to use their gifts and calling. The church can do something. In homes. In churches. In communities. Simply by giving women a voice. An actual voice at the table. One where bible verses are not “lorded” over us, as an abuser would treat his abused. No. No one has to listen to that. No one has to stand for that.
Violence starts with silence.
Silencing the voices of those who are oppressed, abused, forgotten, and shoved to the side. Violence starts by dismissing and ignoring. That is abuse. Yet, it does not have to be this way!
There is hope, in Jesus Christ.
There is a better way. There is a way where we can lift the burdens of women, instead of compounding them. There is a way by giving women a voice at the table, an opportunity to speak, and a chance to use their gifts and talents. There is a way where we all are finally free in Christ. Some of you already do this, and to you, I am truly grateful. Through the Holy Spirit, we all have the authority to speak, and prophesy the truth of Christ’s love. Both men and women. If the Son has set both men and women free, we are free indeed!
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” Joel 2:28
“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36