Another reason I look forward to the weekend is the topic I get to speak on during breakout sessions tomorrow afternoon ~ biblical womanhood. If you know me at all, you know it's one of my very favorite subjects. Tomorrow's breakout session is called "The Romans 16 Woman." I was asked to lead a seminar for women that would encourage and empower them in ministry, and though I always feel inadequate to truly communicate the high, high value of women in and to the church, I can't wait to have the opportunity tomorrow. Here's the session description:
The Romans 16 Woman: You've probably heard about the Proverbs 31 Woman, but how much do you know about the Romans 16 Women? In this concluding chapter Paul mentions 29 people, believers who courageously and humbly served Christ in the spreading of the gospel. At least 9 of those people are women. Paul highly valued the ministry of women. So did Jesus. Both of these men recognized the critical and beautiful gift of femininity in and for the church. Come and discover it for yourself!
I've read Romans many times, but it was this last time, just a couple of months ago, that I was awestruck by the number of women Paul mentions in his last chapter. It made me wonder why Paul always gets such a bad rap and labeled and chauvinist and misogynist. Have his haters not read his most famous and brilliant letter? He obviously loved and cherished women. He recognized their courage, their wisdom, their gifts. He called them partners and co-laborers. He exhorted other believers to recognize these things as well. He commended them to others and called upon the saints to receive them as sisters, mothers, and valued members of the body of Christ.
But so many are stuck on his commands for a woman's silence, submission, and modesty. I think it's time they move past their pouting and victimization and recognize Paul's word to be God's Word. Those were real and serious issues in the early church.The truth is that those rebukes and commands are still things that women need to hear and heed.
So tomorrow, we'll talk about Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junia, Tryphaena and Tryphosa (sisters?), Persis, the mother of Rufus, the sister of Nereus, and we'll even touch on Lydia, the God-fearing seller-of-purple, and first convert in Europe.
First convert in Europe. That's right. And Mary was first to see the risen Lord and tell the disciples about it. And the book of Exodus doesn't begin with Moses and Pharaoh, it begins with women ~ midwives courageously defying orders to kill babies, as well as the five women involved in the protection and nurturing of Moses. The saga of Samuel doesn't begin with Samuel, it begins with his mother, Hannah, fervently praying for a child, receiving and child and dedicating him to the Lord. The Gospel age begins with Mary and Elizabeth. And in the age of the early church, Lois and Eunice are recognized for training Timothy in the Scriptures.
I'd say Jesus and Paul considered women necessary members and key players in the kingdom, and I can hardly wait to tell this to the young women tomorrow.
And I also can't wait to tell my favorite Bible heroine stories either:
Deborah and Jael: Judges 4:1-23 and 5:1-31
The Wise Woman of Abel: 2 Samuel 20: 13-22
The Shunammite Woman: 2 Kings 4:1-37 and 8:1-6
(I owe a debt of gratitude to Barbara Mouser for introducing me to these trends and stories through her wonderful study entitled The Five Aspects of Woman. She completely changed my understanding of my own created femininity, and therefore my life and relationships with men and God. You can bet I'll be taking my books and encouraging the girls to start their own study groups.)
Oh, we'll heed the call to respect men, to submit to their authority in marriage and in the church, to be silent when it is out of bounds for us to speak, and to adorn ourselves modestly. Those things will only cause our own gifts and labor to be more fruitful. And we'll not throw out the beautiful example of a feminine life given to the Lord in Proverbs 31. (I happen to adore her.) We'll just also be encouraged by the example of the women of Romans 16, and so many other women of the Bible, to use our gifts and to obey God's call to participate fully and according to our feminine design in His work of spreading the gospel.
We'll ask the Lord to make us women who are God-fearing, capable, responsible, visionaries, strong, brave, hard-working, devout, dependable partners, mothers, wives, teachers, nurturers, hospitality-givers, businesswomen (Seller-of-purple, anyone?), risk-takers, skilled-laboreres, wise, practical, earnest, prayerful, faithful, servants.
And those characteristics will all be possible for us because of Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, His promised return, and His incredible indwelling of our female hearts.
Wow. I'm overwhelmed. Pray that the women at the conference will be, too.
(P.S. Robert's seminar is on sexuality ~ and all the many issues you might imagine go along with that in our current culture. He has a harder job, as usual. Pray for him if you think of it!)