Monday, June 28, 2010

On Being A Christian Woman

There’s a bit of a discussion going on among several Christian blogs about women working outside the home and the larger question of the role of women.  As long as I have been an adult, the majority of Evangelical churches taught that the Biblical model of the Christian family is that the wife would not work outside the home and that she would be the primary caretakers of their children while her husband worked outside the home full-time.

The problem is that this stance isn’t actually in the Bible – it’s more 1950s America than anything Jesus would recognize.  Jesus said remarkably little about sex roles.  Paul said a little bit more, although it’s really amazing how many books about male and female roles and marriage have been written based on those few passages.  This stance is based on an interpretation of a few passages of the Bible that is subject to quite a lot of argument.  But, I’m not writing tonight about the hermeneutics of Paul’s writings about women’s roles.

Instead, I want to talk about what we focus on in our own lives.  How important is my role as a woman (instead of just a Christian) if Jesus didn’t see fit to mention it?  He talked about how marriage was to be permanent.  Yet, He never comments anywhere else that I recall about what men and women do that is supposed to be different.  All of His statements are directed at everyone.

He didn’t give the Sermon on the Mount to the men in the group; He never said that the parables were just for the men.  In fact, when the people were counted in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, only the men were counted, but it is understood that the women and children were also fed.  Women were known to be part of Jesus’ ministry, but He never gives them separate sermons about how to be good wives and doesn’t give the disciples sermons on how to be good husbands.

Why is that?  I think that all of Jesus’ teaching is designed to make us more like Him, which makes us a better spouse, a better parent, a better worker, a better “whatever”.  Jesus was not a self-help guru.  He didn’t come to make us better – He came to save us.  The making us better is just part of the package.  When I become more like Jesus, by letting Him through the Holy Spirit direct my life, I will be in the roles where God wants me.  Whatever I do tomorrow, I need to be more like Jesus, and that’s not a woman’s thing or a man’s thing – it’s a Christian thing.

So, is it OK for women to work outside the home?  I believe it is, based on my understanding of the Bible.  But the Bible has so much more to say about how I should live.  I want to let Jesus live in me.  My husband and I prayed about how we should structure our family life and allowed God to help us make those decisions.  I worked for ten years as a Family Physician and it was a great place of ministry for me.  Now I’m a stay at home mom because of my illness.  If my headaches go away, we’ll pray for guidance again.  You may wonder at my statement since we homeschool and have had a stay-at-home parent since my kids were born.  I believe in both of these things pretty strongly, but that’s based on my experience and our life situation, not on a Biblical command.

I’ve spent several years trying to figure out how to be the perfect Christian woman, and this is my conclusion.  Baking bread, homeschooling (even with Sonlight), women’s Bible studies, etc. won’t do it.  There is no such thing as a perfect Christian woman.  There is a normal, struggling Christian man or woman.  Our goals are the same – to be as much like Jesus as possible.  In my stage of life, that may include educating my kids at home.  In yours, it may be going to an office every day.  In any case, it means loving Jesus and doing whatever it takes to give every single minute to him.

What do you think?  Any other ideas in the sex roles debate?


Luke said...

Well, since I grew up on Sonlight, I know there are far too many examples throughout history of God using women both in and out of the home to believe that women should only stay in the kitchen [smile]. And, speaking of Sonlight, if my mom hadn't decided to start a business, the homeschool world would look very different today. I'm very grateful for the work my mom has done. I'm also grateful that God allows us to walk our various paths. God has blessed my me and my wife so she can stay home. But should she ever get a call to do something, may we have the grace to follow where He leads.


Anonymous said...

this is a great post. i have often struggled with this. what i have been told in the church in the past contradicted what i felt God telling me and calling me to. it's been a struggle, and i like your take on it.
i just started reading a book called "What God Really Thinks of Women" by Sharon Jaynes. I've only read the first chapter but i think i'm really going to like it. it is empowering, but NOT in a feminist kind of way. it's important to see, as you said in your post, that God sees us as His child, not less of a child because we are female.