What Is the Role of a Christian Woman?

A question I began asking myself long before I began this series in January. It’s loaded. That may be one answer to it agreed upon by all. That may be the one thing I know for sure about it. It’s one I wasn’t sure I would address this year. My thoughts are scattered. They change daily. Sometimes I have it all figured out and am at peace with my gender’s role in my faith and in my culture. Then I hear or read something that returns me to square one, wondering what my role is, how much of a role I have and if my opinions are even loosely based on biblical principles. Sometimes they are but I’m seeing more and more that they often aren’t.

I’m not going to answer this question in one post. That’s impossible. I have too many specific role questions: What is my role as a female in the church? What is my role as the female in a relationship? What is my role as a female in the family setting? In work? In writing? I won’t cover all of these, unless I feel extremely compelled, but I will address some.

It’s so important to understand someone’s lenses when understanding how she might address this type of question. For me, that’s a lens of a twenty-something, single, raised in the evangelical church and encouraged to pursue my wildest dreams by both my parents. My mom was a stay-at-home once she started having us. My dad has always worked. The women in my extended family are about split: some are stay-at-home moms, others work. I never felt pressured to be one thing or the other. There was always talk about “when I had a family” and there was always talk about “when I had a job in the real world.”

Basically, I was raised in a family that spans the spectrum of what the female role in society and church can look like. I’m grateful for that diverse environment. I realize that it created the freedom I have now to even explore this question. But no matter how free that environment may have been for some of us, it could never free us from cultural stigmas or expectations. The things that make us wonder about all of this. The things that make up definitions to words and phrases like “feminism,” “sex,” “separate but equal.”

I’m not sure if a more confusing message exists than that of what role women should play. What is right? What is wrong? What is sinful? What is honoring?

I’m afraid to say this, but I feel I have to: Let’s discuss.

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15 Comments

Filed under Asking the Hard Questions

15 responses to “What Is the Role of a Christian Woman?

  1. This might clear things up… I really loved it and since I saw it I’m even more proud of being a woman. I believe there’s a reason why God saved us for last (in creation) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBDQxpFBryA&feature=related

  2. denalyn

    Good question, good comments. I love learning from my daughters. Go for it!!! As long as the discussion is covered in grace it will honor God. LU

  3. Sarah

    Great questions, Andrea. When you continue to sort it out, I hope to read more.

  4. I believe that the question raised by you, is really the question that permeates throughout society in the world today. Just today, 2011.

    In the past, women had the role of housewife, mother, raising children and housekeeping.
    There are those who have accepted this role, and made a big difference in the world in which they lived.
    But times have changed, and the woman entered the labor market, but did not give up its past role.
    In short, she now seeks the balance between these two worlds.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sibelle. Yes, this is definitely a question that has surfaced more in the last half century or so. But I do believe women have been asking it for a long time. Thinking of writers and thinkers like Jane Austen. I’m sure we’ll asking it always.

  5. I wrestle with this too, Andrea! I’m the (single, female, not-yet-old) director of a Christian camp, so I’m the boss on site (answering to a board of directors). When the board hired me, one of the men quit in protest, because I’m a girl: it was surreal. It was the first time I’d ever felt like less of a person (or, like someone considered me less of a person) because of my sex. It sucked.

    Like you, I grew up with evangelical parents who encouraged me to do whatever I wanted (prayerfully hoping it would honour God). My parents both have Master’s degrees; I have a Master’s degree; my sister is in law school. My mom stayed home for part of my childhood and worked some of the time once my sister and I got into school. She was blessed enough to have that choice, because my dad had a good job. I’ve grown up believing in Jesus … and believing that I can do great things because of the gifts God has given me: gifts he wants me to put to good use.

    I have a really hard time believing that God considers me less useful, less intelligent, less capable than men, which is sometimes how the church / Christian community acts, and that leaves me a little unsure of where I stand with God sometimes. I don’t know how to reconcile “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” with “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”

    I could probably write another several hundred paragraphs about this, blog comments aren’t supposed to be essays. So, I’ll conclude how I began: I wrestle with this too.

    • Kerry, thanks so much for writing a mini essay :) I love your perspective–of someone in a leadership position who has experienced criticism for your gender. It does amaze me that still happens. I hope you keep reading and commenting on my next few posts. I value your opinion!

  6. I have wrestled continually with this, and even more lately as it’s an issue being discussed at OHC. I’m glad I’m not the only one out there that doesn’t have her doubts and isn’t quite sure exactly what the standard should be.

    I blogged about my ongoing journey years back: http://www.thethiers.com/2006/11/thanks-to-feminism.html
    http://www.thethiers.com/2008/05/thanks-to-feminism-continued.html

  7. A good thing to help you through this is a DVD called “return of the daughters”. Wonderfully thought-provoking. And, anything by Voddie Baucham’s daughter may be of help to you.

  8. Becky

    At 37 and never married, the question of a woman’s role is STILL an enigma to me. I’m not a wife and I’m not anyone’s mom so the traditional role narrative that most churches and church-goers have for good Christian women is much like trying to drive a square peg into a round hole. I feel the lack of fitting in acutely sometimes.

    And yet I return to a conversation I had with a wise friend who said, “Look around in our generation… The traditional story is changing.” I think God is doing something new with these younger generations. I guess I find myself prompted to examine how much my questions of right, wrong, sinful, and honoring draw from the cultural script that the western church has created and how much they draw from a clear understanding of a big God as evidenced in scripture. I’ll admit I don’t know the answers and a lot more study is necessary.

    I have a skill set and gifts that don’t put me in the traditional woman’s role. But what I do with that tension is probably the big question to be answered for me.

  9. Sarah Kennington

    Looking forward to this Andrea. Praying through my thoughts.

  10. Stephanie

    I can relate to you in many ways Andrea. I am twenty-something, have a boyfriend of a few months, but we are not married and grew up with parents who encouraged me to follow God and my dreams simultaneously. I have both my B.A. and my masters and recently started my first full time job. I write for a living. But I am sports writer, which as you can imagined, is male dominated.

    I think in your consideration of a biblical christian woman in modern society, you should consider Deborah, Ruth and Esther. Deborah and Esther were political/religious leaders raised up by God. Ruth was bold inspiring Boaz to fulfill his role as a man and, in that particular case, a “kinsman redeemer.” They all in some ways had regular jobs and, as far as we know, families.

    I know Kerry had a difficult time wrestling with the fact that the Bible says we are all equal in God’s eyes, but also talks about women being submissive. One thing to consider is the context of that statement. The idea of a woman learning was radical for the culture at the time (as were most of Jesus’ statements). However, freedom to do something does not mean we should show disrespect for those around us. I believe these women were being encouraged to show respect for those around them regardless and thus, in a way, show the true strength of their faith and maturity. Also, when we are learning — and adjusting to a new freedom — we should spend more time listening and less time flaunting ideas that we may not necessarily completely understand yet.

    Now we live in a culture where disallowing a women to talk is disrespectful. It’s an entire 180 degree turn. But the lesson is still the same — we should still be respectful, most especially when given a new freedom.

    My parents passed onto me a zeal for leadership, most especially in ministry. I have worked with both genders. Sometimes I am on the forefront and other times I take a supporting role. I see my parents do the same, but when working on the same project, they are a wonderful team.

    The word “submission” can be a scary one for a 21st century female and yet we are required to show that to 1) God and 2) our husband/boyfriend. So how do you do that and be a leader? It seems so contradictory, doesn’t it? A marriage/serious relationship, is after all, suppose to model that of the relation between Christ and the Church. If we can not fulfill our role in an earthly relationship, how in the world are we supposed to model it our heavenly one?

    For me, to deal with the “s” word, I don’t see it as devaluing myself or becoming any less of a leader, because I do believe that is how God made me. Instead, I see it as knowing and, then performing, my specific role to the best of my ability. I do that by first respecting God (or my boyfriend/husband here on Earth). Granted the respect for God and the respect for my other half probably varies (One is a perfect being and the other is not). But it is nonetheless a form of respect AND, more importantly, an acknowledgment that I am not equip on my own. I can only do my part and not God’s or my partner’s. I must let God fulfill his role in my life and boyfriend fulfill his role in our relationship. Hopefully, if we all do it right we all end up on the same page.

    When it comes to the earthly relationship, I do think you have to consider how much initiative or ambition your possible future boyfriend has. The term “equally-yoked” needs to be applied in terms of leadership ability as well or else there will be many a misunderstanding and/or specific insecurities will start to creep up and cause problems.

    When it comes to whether we should stay at home or have any particular sort of vocation, I also look to Romans 2 and 14. One talks about being careful to criticize others and the other talks about dealing with relationships with others that are different than you. We all have different paths and strengths and you can not compare paths sometimes. But what we can do is make sure we are on the path that God has chosen specifically for us. Somewhere within that is our role as a woman or else God would not have put us there.

    I do not know if this helps, but please take it as food for thought. I am not a philosopher nor a theologian. In many ways this is a knee-jerk reaction put together by a very tired brain.

    I would also like to at least take a moment to say is part of the reason my passion grew for writing was reading your Dad’s books in middle school. I continued to read them throughout high school and every so often in college. He is still one of my favorite authors. :)

  11. Pingback: How Do You Grieve the Non-Believer? | English Lessons

  12. kashungnao tennyson

    I want to know the role of women in the Christian society. not to comment

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