This article is part of the 5 Myths series.
Myth #1: Being a Christian woman means that my husband or the elders at my church answer to God on my behalf and I don’t answer to God directly.
In some circles, I have occasionally spoken with women (and men!) who believe that a husband or the elders of the church act as an intermediary between a woman and God. These women believe that they are covered by the men in authority over them in such a way that they are not responsible for their own acquiescence to sinful behavior. So, for instance, if a husband were to lead his wife into a sinful action, they hold that she would not be accountable for it, but her husband would be. The clear teaching of Scripture is that it is never okay to submit to sin (Gal. 5:1; Col. 2:20). Every one of us will stand before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). There is only one mediator between God and humanity, and that is the one Man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).
Therefore, every woman must reckon with God himself. She will not be excused on the basis of her husband’s sinfulness or righteousness. Nor will she be let off the hook because of the godly leadership of her elders or the ungodly leadership of her elders. When Miriam sinned against Moses, God did not spare her the punishment for her sin because she was a woman and didn’t know better. Miriam had to reckon with her sin before the Lord himself (Num. 12).
Christian women are not called to cultivate a virtue that cannot be located in God himself—Christian women are called to Christlikeness.
Myth #2: Being a Christian woman means that, because I’m accountable to God directly and Christ is my Mediator, my husband or the elders at my church have no significant authority over me or role in my spiritual growth and formation.
Understanding that each of us, men and women, have the agency to sin and the accountability to reckon with that sin before God makes the truth of the Gospel precious to men and women alike. Jesus is our Savior, brother, and friend (John 15:15). We are coheirs of the grace of Christ (Gal. 3:29; 1 Pet. 3:7).
Yet, God has ordered his world to reflect his nature, and that means he has not equally apportioned authority to men and women. He made us in a certain order: Adam, then Eve (1 Tim. 2:13). Just as he has created our bodies with different purposes and abilities, he has also made our authority to correspond with our different bodies. It is not incidental or arbitrary that women’s bodies are “weaker” (1 Pet. 3:7). It is part of why we are given the gift of the very practical protection and authority of our elders, and, if we’re married, our husband.
Obeying the leaders God has placed in our life is an advantage to us and to them. We receive the benefit of their watchfulness and care that points us to the True Overseer of souls and they receive the joy of shepherding others to the Good Shepherd that has so tenderly shepherded them (Heb. 13:17). We need the God-given authority of the men God has put in our particular lives. It is an advantage to us to submit to them and will bring us into deeper communion with our Savior.
Myth #3: Being a Christian woman means I am cultivating feminine virtues that are different from the virtues found in God.
Every now and then I’ll hear a talk on Biblical womanhood that sounds as though women are a different species than men. In these sorts of talks, the emphasis on what is different about men and women is so ultimate, that it’s easy to get the idea that becoming a godly woman looks nothing like becoming a godly man. But what’s more concerning is that rather than trace the source of virtue to God himself, these sorts of talks try to find a Perfect Woman who is the source of these womanly virtues. This can lead to the Proverbs 31 woman being asked to bear a burden she was never made to bear—we expect her to be the ultimate role model for women.
This just won’t do. It actually leads to resentment toward the dear wise woman of Proverbs, because she can’t offer us propitiation for our sins. But I have good news! Every virtue and godly characteristic in the universe finds its origin in God himself—and God himself made a way for us to walk in righteousness through the blood of his Son.
Christian women are not called to cultivate a virtue that cannot be located in God himself—Christian women are called to Christlikeness. And when we see women in the Bible or in our lives who are Christlike, we should take note and seek to imitate them as they imitate Christ. We don’t have to resent the incredible vision of the Proverbs 31 woman, rather, we are freed to be thankful for her and to walk in the holiness Christ has purchased for us.
Myth #4: Being a Christian woman means that my value comes from being a wife and mom.
Everything in the universe has derivative value. That is, everything derives its value from the one who made it. The same is true for women. We are valuable because God made us, and, in his perfect assessment of things, he called what he made: good and very good.
Now, we might wonder if our functionality has something to do with our value, and it does. But not in the way we often conceive of it. We might think that we have been given a womb, therefore, what good is our womanhood if that womb isn’t put to use? Does my value diminish if my body isn’t utilized to its full potential? Or, if it’s unable to work properly? The good news of God’s design is that it points to bigger, more lasting realities, so God never withholds the deeper purposes of womanhood from us, whether we’re single or barren.
Why do we have wombs? So that babies could grow in them, but also, so that we know we are made for nurturing and protecting people smaller than us, spiritually mothering all whom God gives to us into his family. Why are we made to fit together with a man? So that we could be intimate, make love, and conceive children, but also, so that we would know that the mystery of marriage points to Christ and his church and the consummation that is to come. Why are homes important? So that families have a place for fellowship and growth and life together, but also, because we are part of the family of God and we are called to make home in Christ for every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
Our value comes from God and he has good purposes for every role and circumstance he puts us in.
Myth #5: Being a Christian woman means that I don’t need to understand or appreciate any differences between male and female, because we are all one in Christ.
This may be the most problematic myth of my lifetime. I know some Christian women who tolerate the teaching of the Bible in regard to the differences between men and women. Indeed, I have been such a woman. They don’t really like it, but God says it, and they aren’t willing to contradict him directly. When we do this, we put our experiences alongside God’s word and created world and give them equal footing in our heart, if not in our action. But we must hold fast to the truth that God is never arbitrary or capricious. If he has made something a certain way, there is an imprint of his glory to be seen in it. And this is where we really get down to brass tacks about whose word we believe: our own or God’s.
The mark of a Christian is that she sees and loves the goodness, beauty, and holiness in everything God says and does. When we encounter something in God’s word or design that we don’t like or we think is bit off, a Christian labors to keep looking and begging God for the spiritual sight needed until she or he can say with all their might, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Ps. 18:30).
If we aren’t willing to do that—to come under God’s word and fear him—if instead, we bend his words to suit our perceptions or experiences, then the myth of the Christian woman is something far worse than anything I’ve said above. The myth is thinking that we belong to him when we refuse hallow his name and trust his Word.
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