Many conservative Christians today are stressing the return of women to God’s intended role as designated in the Scriptures. However, when one looks at how these women are representing that role, there seems to be a serious lack of vibrancy and strength. Women who are following God’s plan as defined in God’s Word are seen as little cheerleaders on the sidelines of their husband’s ministries and meek keepers at home. When the term “role” is used, it is defined as the plan God had for women when He designed them. In terms of “value” it is understood as value or worth in God’s eyes. The Biblical role and value of womanhood is sometimes inadvertently misrepresented by Christians and misunderstood by feminists due to the failure of some Christians to read and study God’s Word as a whole to thereby be able to accurately portray Biblical womanhood according to the whole context of the Scriptures. By consulting with God’s Word in its entirety, one can see that many of the disagreements between conservative Christian women and feminists can be nullified, or at least bring them to a place of understanding.
In reality, feminists and conservative Christian women have similar problems. Both are to some extent misunderstood by the other, and both display a certain degree of discomfort or hostility towards the other. Feminists feel conservative Christian women restrict natural vision and passion as well as reduce them to a demeaning place of servitude beneath men through their commitment to follow the Lord by becoming a keeper at home and living in submission to their husbands. Understandingly this portrayal of constant servitude and humbling before men many times causes feminists to shun Christianity and God’s Word altogether. In turn, conservative Christian women feel that feminists are desecrating their natural role through the feminist’s constant quest for equal rights with men and opportunities to grow in knowledge and influence. Because of a few of the more prominent immoderate feminists, conservative Christian women tend to feel that all feminists have an agenda to trample God’s specific design for women and to try to be more masculine in everything they do. The original goals of feminists were to bring them up from the purely domesticated and unprotected place they had fallen to in the mid-19th century. In the Old Testament, there were laws in place that helped protect women, and throughout the New Testament many commands were given to men that would demonstrate respect, honor and protection for the women in their lives. As history progressed, the emphasis began to be placed more on the domestic role of women versus the practical role of women, and more about the role than the value of women resulting in the general feeling of segregation between men and women.
According to God’s Word everyone is equal in God’s eyes, male and female alike, and nothing demonstrates this better than God sending His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die for the sins of the whole world. There are countless passages in Scripture that address the issue of salvation for “all,” “the world,” “whosoever,” and many others. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Bible, Galatians 3:26-28, personal emphasis). Even in judgment God never discriminates between male and female “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Bible, Colossians 3:25, personal emphasis).
From the very beginning of Scripture God clearly defined the roles of both man and woman. Adam was first formed, then Eve. An interesting aspect to note is that God created woman from the side of man, not the hand or the foot (Bible, Genesis 2:21-22). This in itself symbolizes that a woman’s place is to be at the side of man, not above or beneath. While God created man and woman as equal in value, He designed them to have very different roles. Throughout Scripture the role of women is often interpreted as a purely domestic role, while the men are seemingly made more important by their authoritative position. Men and women were created as two very different beings, though both human. Women are naturally physically weaker and more emotional, and this is not a bad thing. They also tend to be more visionary and better planners than men. Men on the other hand are for the most part physically stronger, and are more systematic and cautious. This can cause them to be hesitant and slow at times, but again, this is not a bad thing. God created men and women physically and emotionally different to better perform the duties He planned for them.
For example, one of the most beautiful aspects of a biblical woman is motherhood. The grave importance of being a mother is often looked on as a low position, when in reality, there is often more done to change the world by being a good mother. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (Wallace). Even throughout the records of the kings in the Old Testament, when there was a good king, his mother was almost always mentioned. Being a mother is one of the most challenging and difficult tasks given to mankind, and no one is more capable and qualified for this than a woman.
There are times when Christian women, particularly conservative Christian women,
tend to go past the Biblical role of womanhood by over-emphasizing the aspects of meekness and staying at home to the point of having no other purpose in life than to keep house and have babies. While these are a vital part of God’s design for women, true Biblical womanhood is so much more broad and valuable than that. When looking at the whole context of God’s Word one can see His design for women being one of great strength and passion, a role so great and precious He esteems their worth higher than rubies – the most precious of all gems and metals found in the whole of God’s Word (Bible, Proverbs 31:10) . Just one portion of God’s Word represents a truly virtuous woman as one who prompts trust from others, takes responsibility for the food and clothing of the household, is a strong and diligent worker, a business woman, attentive to the needy, is very wise, industrious, and is known in prominent places of the city for her virtue and assiduity (Bible, Proverbs 31:10-31).
Many times convictions and conclusions are based from small portions of Scripture and, whether unintentional or not, the rest of the passages are overlooked or not viewed in relation to the passage chosen.
For example, one scripture that is most often viewed with disagreement by feminists are portions from 1 Peter 3:1 and 6. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands…Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (Bible, King James Version). Looking only at these verses, the Bible seems to portray the role of womanhood as a demeaning place of servitude. However, if one were to look at the entire context of this passage, a slightly different story would emerge. Not only does this passage give instruction to the women, but in verse 7 it also states an equivalent responsibility for the men. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (Bible, King James Version). Just as the wife is to submit to her husband, the husband is to honor his wife. Each is given a challenge that is equally difficult for them to accomplish. The end of the verse also very clearly states their equality in God’s eyes by reminding the husband that they are “heirs together of the grace of life” (Bible, King James Version). Continuing further on in the passage, God continues to give instruction to both the husband and wife combined, “Finally, be ye all of one mind” (Bible, 1 Peter 3:8) and later goes even so far as to include the young and old alike, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourself unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility…”(Bible, 1 Peter 5:5). Another important aspect of this passage that is overlooked comes right after the command to “be in subjection to your own husbands”, and that is “that, if any (husbands) obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (righteous living) of the wives” (Bible, 1 Peter 3:1). This verse clearly states the power of influence a good woman has on a man. Simply by living in godly submission she can cause her husband to recognize his own shortcomings and repent of his wrong. When anyone is constantly living with someone who is doing what is right, what will be seen in themselves but the wrong they are doing?
In order to relieve some of the tension between conservative Christians and feminists, it would be wise to awaken both sides to the realization that obeying God’s Word in His plan for women will in no way demean or make them of lesser value. If anything, it will give them even greater worth and purpose. If conservative Christians are made aware of how feminists may be reading their words and actions in relation to Biblical womanhood, they would become more open to becoming more fully informed and to discussing differences in order to clear up misunderstandings with the feminists around them. Likewise, giving feminists an accurate portrayal of Biblical womanhood could not only assist them in their understanding and cooperation with conservative Christians, but perhaps assist in opening their minds more to the truths of God’s Word and Christianity as a whole.