Women and Evangelism

I can’t imagine that I’m the first woman ever to have encountered 1 Timothy 2:11-12 et seq and experienced a profound sense of despair.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

To put it very mildly, for me that was the closest I came to abandoning my spiritual quest entirely before I ever became a Christian.

I had already been through a previous, “hating God for having made me female” stage of life, not to mention “hating myself for being female,” and just plain, “hating myself,” and I didn’t want to go there again. It’s hard enough for women to avoid perceiving ourselves as inferior to men without having the Bible hit us over the head with that same devastating message.

Fortunately this time the Holy Spirit was at my side quietly urging me to, “Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it later,” and I was at a place in my life where I was able to accept that message.

So now is “later.”

I am finding myself totally inspired by Jesus’ own attitudes and behaviors toward women. He assigned women critical roles in His ministry on Earth – speaking roles, even!

Take, for example, the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:1-42) Not only did Jesus reveal to her as much as he’d revealed to his male disciples. He also knew full well that she was about to become the first Evangelical Christian. (John 4:28-30) Jesus did not warn her to speak only to women and children, and only to do that quietly and in private. She went back to her village with His blessing to shout the Good News from the rooftops.

For another obvious example, (John 20:17) he selected a woman, Mary Magdalene, whom he specifically instructed to go tell his male disciples the (arguably) most important news in the history of Christianity, His own resurrection.

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 

John 20:17

Jesus did not tell women to shut up, keep having babies (as sentenced following The Fall) and leave the public teaching and evangelism to men. He assigned women critically important testimony, evangelism and teaching roles in the development of the new church, the new relationship between God and His People.

Today I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding me to put that very important question (for me anyway) aside temporarily while I opened my heart to more information.

But I do see a critical need for finding ways to bring the Good News to women and girls (and probably to men and boys too) that don’t risk inadvertently conveying a misunderstanding of women as inferior to men in God’s eyes. I can even think of a number of critical Bible passages (1 Corinthians 12 comes to mind) that maybe need to be emphasized as anchors, along with focusing early and often on Jesus’ well-documented actual teaching, instructions, assignments, commissions, and interactions with women during his life on Earth.

Women shouldn’t need to keep wondering whether they are supposed to forget or ignore or just be depressed or ashamed about the fact that they are women in order to read the Bible or commit to following Jesus.

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