Do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1 Tim 2:12
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife,. So let the wives be (subject) to their own husbands in everything.
I was stumped when I first heard these ludicrous perceptions conveyed by well-meaning Christian people or read about them during my latter Christian experience. For me, these ‘perceptions’ do not make sense, nor are they a smart way to relate to one another as man/woman or husband/wife!
Growing up in a business environment and being around my parents a lot, I heard about and observed that men were conspicuously making wrong decisions, making mistakes at home, in business, finances and in relationships. And to think that women are to obey their husbands in everything because men are the leaders and boss and authority, simply cannot compute in my mind. Newly saved and growing up in a church comprising mainly first generation Christian teenagers and baptized in the Holy Spirit, there were no traditional religious practices and cultural norms. Everything was literally Bible-based and Spirit-led. There were no gender-biased issues, nobody told us that a female cannot be a leader or have authority or cannot teach or preach.
THE PIONEERING CHURCH IN TAIPING
In church, I was the leader for the youth group. I worship led. I taught and preached at the youth services, Christian fellowships. And I was in charge of Easter and Christmas plays. During one of these evangelistic services, my pastor even told me to preach because he had to leave for an emergency in KL. Throughout my junior high to senior high school years, the fire in my bones naturally gravitated me to leadership positions in ministry or activities whether at church or in school.
Those early years formed the foundation for my own strong identity as a Christian young lady and though there were just a few verses concerning women in the Bible that did not make sense to me.
Galatians 3:28, “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” was the pillar that held those troublesome contradictions together.
THE REALIZATION THAT IT’S A MAN’S WORLD
It was during and after the Bible college years that the unwritten practices, culture and governance which indicated preferences for men, became distinctly defined. It was painfully clear to me that it is male dominated environment especially at the leadership level. These realities stoked my internal personal search to now take these gender-biased passages to task.
I have loved the Lord and the Bible and had made the choice to give my whole life to serve His church and now I had to know what God said regarding who I am as a woman, as minister and as a wife. My personal experiences with the Bible and the Spirit tell me that there is no limit to who I am and what I can do as a woman but the institutionalized Christian world indicated that there are perimeters which place women at home and at church in a secondary and subordinate position and role.
It was a huge personal struggle for me. I feared that I may have made the wrong choice because there was no place for me to grow as a person because of my gender. And to think that I had given up my opportunity for overseas university study towards an empowering future! Potentially doomed to be lesser or limited for His church that I loved, was killing me inside out! The internal turmoil, struggle and regrets were increasingly deep and intense.
I had to unravel this conflict and disconnect between the Spirit and the Bible.
There was never an issue of prejudice and bias as pastors in our own church. There was never an issue of authoritarian headship in our marriage. My husband and I were friends and partners. But the Spirit of God inside me and these few difficult passages in the Bible on the issue of gender identity was not coming together. I had to unravel this conflict and disconnect between the Spirit and the Bible.
The Lord heard and saw my desperate search for truth. In the journey of obedience and faith to learn how to build a better church, we were led to an incredible unusual women’s conference in the United States and subsequently connected with Dr. Daisy Osborn and TL Osborn. They came to Malaysia because in her own words, she said that the Holy Spirit spoke to her to come when our letter of invitation was in her hands.
I emerged out of those years of study powerfully convinced about who I am as a woman, a leader and a wife.
Those few years when she came to HSG with Dr. TL Osborn were very difficult years for her. She was battling cancer in her body but despite that she was not disobedient to her mission in life of bringing the message of Biblical Equality. We only had a few brief years with her before she died. She inundated us with books. She sent us books on the subject. I read and studied those books with the Bible for a few years.
WHAT I DISCOVERED LIBERATED ME:
1. The sameness of substance, value and worth of woman and man. Both female and male were created in the image of God. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
2. Man and woman were created to be co-rulers and co-heirs as stewards of God. Man and woman were divinely ordained for mutuality and equality. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28 NIV)
3. Jesus’ attitude and actions regarding women were revolutionary in the culture of his era. The oral law of Jesus’s era said, “ Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to women…(Sotah 3:4). But Jesus taught women. Jesus declared Himself to be “The Resurrection” (John11:25), thus revealing first to a woman, the central event and message of the Gospel. It was a woman whom Jesus sent first to preach His resurrection (John 20:10-18).
4. The Holy Spirit in the book of Acts confirmed the Equality pattern by Jesus. Men and women participated in prayer and decision making in the Upper Room. Women were equal recipients of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit held women directly, personally and equally responsible with men to God. Remember Ananias and Sapphira? Women were persecuted and imprisoned as well.
5. Paul’s central equality proclamation is: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Women were co-workers or co-labourers with Paul in ministry. Out of the 29 co-workers named in Romans 16, 10 were women.
These discoveries and much more were life transforming for me. I felt absolutely affirmed by the written Word, what I knew in the Spirit. There is agreement between the Spirit of God and the Bible. I emerged out of those years of study powerfully convinced about who I am as a woman, a leader and a wife.
These convictions empower my determination and pursuit to educate, advocate and promote the dignity and equality of woman in her value and function at home, church and society.