Opinions are plenty in our current landscape about women, our roles and how the Bible says we should act. Reading through social media over the past couple of weeks have stirred up a few feelings, to say the least, along with some questions and memories regarding the stories I’ve read. Right before my feeds exploded with hot takes on a woman’s submissive role, I sat through a workshop with a leader I admire about the Greatest Commandment and how we, as women, can love God with our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and pondered her question, “How do men and women who are following Jesus do strength and submission well?” Isn’t that something we’re both called to?
After taking a deep dive into scripture, I was so encouraged to hear God’s heart for men and women to love him wholly. Our assumed default positions of guys sticking with mind and strength while we resign to heart and soul might be comfortable, but They’re not optimal. There’s another way. The Greatest Commandment isn’t gender specific. It is a call for every Christ follower to be all in.
In order to understand our roles through God’s eyes, we first have to remember the key characters in this story. Let’s start with God. He is our Rescuer, Love, Strength, He is With Us, Encourager, Hope, Refuge, Helper, Shield and He is Righteous (just to name a few). Second, we have to understand who we are. We are God’s created, beloved, chosen people – men and women. We are given the same commands: Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). The best part is, we are each incredibly unique so that command will play out in a billion different ways through the obedient use of individual gifts.
Too often I believe the lie that, to be a good Christian, I need to fit into a pretty box – to remain balanced, mild and agreeable. In fact, as I entered the room where the workshop was being held that day, I felt emotion rising up – you know the cry for no reason kind, although you know from experience that God is already at work. Before she finished her intro, I was fighting back tears and I couldn’t even tell you why at the time. I don’t recall ever hearing an explicit message in my life that I was limited in my pursuit of loving God and others strictly because I was female. However, every single day of my life I notice subtle hints confirming that I’m either too much or not enough. Honestly, I’ve spent far too much time hoping to please people instead of living confidently in my true identity in Christ. You see, Jesus never questioned his value or purpose on this earth. On the contrary, he was fully submitted to His Father’s will, boldly dedicated to his assignment, incredibly strong and the wisest, most loving peace-keeper the world has ever known, all at the same time.
So, if we are called to be disciples of Jesus, just like our male friends, what does that look like? How do we deal with the tension between submission and strength? Let’s dig in.
- God is strength. Being strong isn’t something we muster up or are inherently granted because of our gender. We are reminded again and again in scripture to recognize God’s strength, His gift of strength in us. He loves to display it and I see no gender qualifiers as to when he will. The only time we are told to be strong is in loving God. 2 Chronicles 16:9, Mark 12:30-31, Psalm 28:7, 2 Samuel 22:33, Nehemiah 8:10
- God chose the week to shame the strong – His is an upside down kingdom. God has a heart for the underdog, the meek, broken-hearted, and poor. He is close to them and strengthens them. Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 40:30-31
- Our need for strength is closely tied to service to God and others. He strengthens us to serve. 1 Peter 4:11
- Submission is closely associated with peace-keeping and wisdom. James 3:17-18
- Submission is more than demeanor or an act, it is a posture of our heart in which we surrender ourselves to God, trusting and relying on Him. James 4:7
- In marriage, submission is cyclical in that, wives should respect their husbands and husbands should love their wives. If that breaks down on either end, the equation isn’t working as designed. God’s design for submission in relationship is to promote peace and to strengthen and unify the whole as a result. There’s no evidence to say that this should ever happen at the expense of either person. Instead, God uses this image as a picture of how we are to submit to him and in that posture of surrender, he shows up in us and in our relationships in big ways. Ephesians 5:21 – 33
Submission and strength go hand in hand and I’m becoming convinced that you can’t have one without the other. So what good are strong women? We are vital to the body of Christ. Without women who are fully surrendered disciples, wives, teachers, leaders, mothers and mentors, the church and the world will never be as strong as it could be.