I recently connected with a young woman whom I’ve known for a couple years. I watched her enter the Black Campus Ministries group at her school as a freshmen and step into leadership as a sophomore and junior. She has been a critical part of helping the group at her school grow. She is an passionate and gifted leader. We started chatting about a variety of things and at one point the conversation turned to the verse “ the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” ( 1 Peter 3: 4) She had been reflecting on the verse and what it meant for her as a woman.
My first thought when I heard it was, “Sure, I agree.” Cause that verse is in the Bible. And I believe that the Bible is true. What troubled me however, was how this young woman was drawing on this verse as some sort of definition of being a woman. It had been offered to her as a definition of being a good Christian woman. I felt that inner feisty part of me wake up- and when I came home I just had to sit and write.
I don’t have a problem with cultivating a gentle and quiet spirit. Well actually I do at times. But my point is that I don’t have a problem with encouraging this as AN aspect of following Jesus and AN aspect of being a woman. But what bothers me is when this is presented as the only qualities that a woman can possess and be a good Christian woman. It’s the kind of lame hermeneutics that gets Christians fixated on ten verses that address homosexuality- but brutally ignorant and silent in regards to over 2,000 verses on poverty and justice.
Why aren’t women taught a full picture of what Scripture teaches about women?
What does it do to an intelligent gifted leaderly young woman when the only picture of womahood she is handed is – it’s good to be quiet and gentle- and bad to speak up in church.
When Mary sits at Jesus’ feet along with his disciples. She isn’t being lazy. Martha isn’t just a busy body. Martha is extending culturally appropriate hospitality to her guests. But Mary is crossing a cultural boundary and sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning- just like the men. And Jesus doesn’t stop her. When you think that even today in some parts of the Middle East, men and woman do not socialize or study in the same room- this picture of Mary is powerful and countercultural. So let me add to gentle and quiet spirit- a spirit that is so hungry to learn from the teachings of Jesus that a woman is willing to break through cultural norms and learn alongside men.
What about the Samaritan woman? She drinks from the living water of Jesus and becomes a bold evangelist that impacts her entire village with the gospel. So add to quiet and gentle spirit- a spirit so radically transformed by Jesus that she is willing to break all cultural expectations and boldly proclaim her testimony, become an evangelist, and partner with Jesus in reaching her entire town.
What about the fact the Jesus appears first to Mary after his resurrection and entrusts her with the responsibility of informing the apostles of His resurrection. At a time when women were not respected enough to testify in a court of law- Mary was entrusted with testifying of Jesus’ resurrection. So add to gentle and quiet spirit- a spirit so trustworthy and courageous that Jesus entrusted her some of the most important news in the world.
And what about teachings that are instructive to all believers?
Go and make disciples of all nations
Lose life to gain it
If your hand makes you sin cut it off
Be servant of all
Give away your possessions
Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you
Obeying these teachings requires an obedient, courageous, disciplined, and counter cultural spirit.
It upsets me to my core when intelligent, courageous, gifted young women are given a picture of being a woman that essentially sounds like a version of a Disney movie. You are waiting to be told you’re beautiful, rescued by Jesus, after which you will sit quietly near a candle with your journal, and your spirituality will be analogous to a spa experience at all times.
I don’t need a spa like spirituality. I am out there everyday trying to help the next generation love Jesus, love the Bible, engage cross culturally, and experience deep inner healing from almost incompressible sins committed against them. I am preaching counter culturally against consumerism, materialism, and upward mobility- a prophetic gospel of downward mobility and sacrificial love for the poor. In response to Jesus’ love and in the name of Jesus, I am preaching, leading, training, praying, and pleading with the body of Christ to engage cross culturally. My spirituality is rigorous, vigorous, rough and tumble, and requires courage, love, passion, and vision. I need to go to the spa when I’m done kicking ass for the Kingdom.
There is a place for gentleness and quietness. And there is a place for so much more.
I’m fierce in my love for truth.
I’m passionate in my commitment to my students and staff.
I’m honest and bold in my struggles with Jesus.
And I believe that that is also of great worth in God’s sight.
We paint such a dishonest picture when we tell women that all that is valued about them is quietness and gentleness. And the church is notorious for grasping at outdated and stereotypical images of feminity and womanhood.
We truly misrepresent Scripture, Jesus, and the Kingdom of God when we present a narrow and edited definition of Christian womanhood that clings to an old school Western archetype of what is feminine. It is glorious to be made in the image of God. Let his glory be reflected in its fullness.