In today’s church, it is perplexing that just as much immorality takes place within the church at large as compared to the rest of the world. It would seem that Christians shouldn’t struggle in the same way, since they have been “set free.” Issues like sex outside of marriage, pornography use, affairs, and abortion are some of the big ones, but the fact of the matter is, sin is as much of a struggle for Christians as it is for non-believers. The abuse of women—the abandonment and the objectification—is the same.
Why does the “church” struggle with sexual immorality and perversion as much as the rest of the world? Why are women just as likely to be hurt by men within the church as outside of the church? If the church is supposed to behave and look differently than the rest of the world, what has gone wrong? Why do Christian men abuse, mistreat, and use women for their own satisfaction at the same rate as the non-Christ-follower?
It all goes back to the beginning—back to Genesis. Back to God stirring up the dust and breathing ruach into it. Back to God reaching into the man and taking out his DNA and forming another human who was just like Adam and yet different.
We must take a look at our basic premise of the value that God placed on men and women. If believers in Jesus are taught that Genesis shows woman-kind as “less than,” then mankind will treat women differently than they do men. They will see women as a thing they can manipulate, use, consume, and throw away.
So, who was woman? Woman was called man’s ‘ezer k neged. The word ‘ezer is a word that means ‘a helper who is capable, powerful, intelligent.’ It is the same word that is used to describe God in the Old Testament when He came to the aid of people in need. It denotes great strength and power. And yet we don’t assume that God became weaker or in some way less able than man when He stepped in to “help”.
The word k neged denotes an equal partner, a corresponding equal, and adequate helper. God did not give Adam a liability. He gave Adam exactly what Adam needed, a co-equal partner, one who was on the same level as he was, who would walk alongside him.
When our church leaders teach anything different, they set women up to be taken advantage of. As soon as respect for the equality of another human being is removed, it is easy to justify all of the ways by which we leverage our superiority over one another. It is true that physiologically, men are usually stronger and larger than women. Their body strength gives them automatic advantage over women. It can be a very easy step for men to abuse their strength to bully or force a woman to do what they want. Men can (and have) used their strength to capture women, to hold them in bondage, to torture them, and to sell their bodies. Unfortunately, these terrible actions have even been perpetrated by fathers against their daughters! The Bible itself shows us situations where women were sold or “given in marriage” by their fathers.
Physiologically men and women are different. They have different hormones, which causes a plethora of differences! Just because men are more prone to risk taking, are more muscular and hairy, that doesn’t mean they are automatically superior to women. What it does mean is that they need to use their power to honor God and to show the true heart of our Lord by serving others, meeting the needs of the weak, lifting up the oppressed, advocating for those who have no voice. In God’s eyes that is true strength.
A quick study of the Bible shows time and again that God’s heart is for the oppressed, for the downtrodden, for those who have been pushed to the outside of his kingdom. Proverbs 31:8-9 (ESV) says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Isaiah 1:17 reads, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
The church at large needs to get a grip on an accurate teaching of the value of women, starting with Genesis.
There are many Christian men who are not abusers, who would never use their strength to hurt a woman, and who love the women in their life in a gentle and protective way. And yet some of those same men still have deep-seated erroneous beliefs that women are inherently of less value and that they are not seen equally by God. They may not ever vocalize those beliefs, but these insidious belief systems are deeply rooted in the Christian psyche. Most women experience it in subtle forms on a daily basis.
It can be seen when a woman is standing with her husband, and another man walks up to introduce himself and make casual conversation. Imagine how it feels to the woman to not have the new acquaintance enquire after her line of work, or to ask what she enjoys doing in her free time. Imagine what it is like to stand there and smile benignly while being ignored. It can also be seen when a Christian man only makes eye contact with a woman’s husband, but never makes solid eye contact with the woman. It can occur when the opinion of a man is asked in a meeting, but the woman is not given the same deference.
It’s not enough for Christian men to talk about women being co-equal partners. It’s not enough for well-meaning men to sympathize and feel regret for how women are treated. Men must make room at the table. They must invite spiritually gifted women to be on the church board, to be elders, deacons, and pastors. Because the patriarchal system is so entrenched, women need men who are not only willing to invite them into leadership, but who are excited and willing to leverage their power positions to see women using their God-given gifts for leading, teaching and preaching.
Note: There are many great books that can help Christians coming from a patriarchal background to begin to break away from the lies that Satan has used to keep the Church in bondage.
Why Not Woman by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Who Said Women Can’t Teach by Charles Trombley
What Paul Really Said About Women by John Temple Bristow
Half the Church by Caroline Custis James