Let me say something right now: sexism has no place in the church. This means that being sexist has no place in the church. Men being sexist towards women and women being sexist towards men—because it exists both ways—has no place in the church. This means that, when you are sexist, you are actually failing to be Christ-like. You are failing to be a good witness of Christ. You are not showing love to people, simply because of their gender, because of some preconceived notion in your head that the opposite gender is “less than” you.
Let’s open our Bibles to John 15:9-12 for a second to read this: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
When you are being sexist, who are you loving? Yourself? The person you’re being sexist towards? Jesus? Because Jesus showed radical love to either gender. Jesus shut down sexism wherever He saw it. Jesus loved women no different than men; and, in fact, Galatians 3:28 says this: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Nor is there male and female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.
Think of how radical this is. Think of how “against the grain” this was. Women were not allowed to own property at that time. Women were considered property. Jews hated the Gentiles; the Gentiles hated the Jews. Slaves were considered property as well and of lower status. And you know what the Bible says to all that? That it’s nothing. That we should not hate or consider anyone “lesser than” us, because we’re all one. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of it: we’re all sinners. We’re all fallen. We’re all dirty, rotten, ugly humanity, no matter our gender, where we exist in time, our skin, or where we live. So why, church, we are failing on this?
I have struggled hard during this year. I have struggled, not because of a pandemic, but because I see a lack of love in the entire world. And when I look to the church, where I should see actual love, where I should see a reflection of Jesus Christ, I see, oftentimes, hatred. In truth, I can’t tell where the world ends and the church begins. I see women who try and “switch the patriarchy” or “get back at men” for years of what they see as systematic sexism. I’ve seen women who would literally say on the Internet that, if they had a son, they would let them die (hopefully, this person never went on to become a legitimate mother, but…). I’ve seen women who hate men with just as much a fiery passion as some men hate women.
I see men who call their girlfriends/wives/etc. “woman” in a derogatory sense. I hear them say “get back in the kitchen,” or that “girls can’t think; they need a man to do that for them.” I hear them say jokes about women or disregard their opinions, who trample all over them, and who seem to believe that all a woman needs in her life is a good man to take care of her. I’ve seen husbands beat, rape, and even kill their wives. I’ve seen them yell at them, degrade them, act as if their wife must look to them for everything. They act as if being “head of the house” means that they are the end-all, be-all, instead of looking to who the Bible actually places at the head of the house: Jesus.
I know that, oftentimes, Christians will use Colossians 3:18 as a sign that a woman is somehow “less than” a man since it says to submit. But Colossians 3:19 turns right back around and points the finger at the men: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Do you know what I see when I read Colossians 3? I don’t see a verse taken out of context that means women are somehow inferior to men just because they’ve got different body parts. I see, when taken in whole, a Biblical call to treat everyone with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” (3:12) “forgiveness” (3:13), and, most importantly, “love” (3:14).
And if Jesus is supposed to be the head of the household, how did He react? He, who should have had all the glory in the world, washed His disciples’ feet (John 13). He did not haughtily demand that they do it for Him. He did not say “you are below me; you are lesser than me,” even though, arguably, they were. (I only say arguably because I know that each human is invaluable to God, and Philippians 2:6-7 says that Jesus did not consider Himself greater than us but took the nature of the servant. However, He is Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior, so technically, we are lower than Him.)
And if you look at the relationship that Jesus shared with the disciples, it was never one of “do this/do that/serve me.” In general, Jesus taught and loved them. They were as devoted to Him as He was to them. They served each other. They loved each other. And, yes, Jesus corrected them—but they were human. Jesus didn’t need to be corrected. And each time the disciples may have questioned Him about their behavior, He didn’t blow up at them or tell them to “mind their place.” He explained to them His actions, and the wisdom was so ingrained in them that they wrote it down in the Bible.
And how did Jesus treat women? The same as He did men. He allowed women to travel with Him (see: Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Martha, etc.). He praised them (see: how he praised the woman that anointed his feet, how he praised Mary, the woman who had enough faith to touch His robe and be healed). He chastised them (see: the woman at the well, Martha). He talked to them, no matter what the societal norms were (see: the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery). He loved them (see: all of the above).
Just as: He allowed men to travel with Him (see: the disciples). He praised: (see: the disciples, the centurion in Matthew 8). He chastised them (see: the disciples, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and some of these He chewed out way more than He ever chewed out a woman). He talked to them, no matter what the societal norms were (see: the Romans, the disciples, who were mostly “outcasts,” Matthew the tax collector, Zaccheus). He loved them (see: all of the above).
And if we are supposed to pattern our lives after Jesus, then what does this tell us that we should be doing? I will admit that I have been having a bit of a crisis of faith over this. I look out into the world, at all the bickering and hatred and arguing, and it disheartens me. And I want to look inwardly, at the church, to see the reversal of that. I want to see people loving each other without borders. I want to see people spreading the light of Christ. And, while I do, there are many, many times when… I don’t.
Sadly, a lot of the time, I don’t see anything that sets us apart from the world. I don’t see love as strong as Jesus. I see failed marriages, I see sexism, I see racism, I see people division in the church, and people who draw lines between “us” and “them” and think that the “us” has to be better. I see all of this outside the church, too. And you know what is truly, truly sad? I would recommend reading 1 John 4 in its entirety because we find some harsh words there that should make us uncomfortable (verses 7-8):
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Let that sink in.
Whoever does not love does not know God.
You can live a self-righteous life all you want. You can post “amen” on Facebook and go to church every Sunday, and the truth is this: if you’re not loving people, then you don’t know God. No matter how many Bible verses you memorize, no matter how many times you call yourself “a man or woman of God,” or how “everyone should come to you for advice because you hear God’s call,” if you’re not loving people, then you don’t know God.
We can’t really splutter out excuses. I myself am so, so guilty of this. There are times when I delight in the failures of others who I think “had it coming to them.” There are times when I am so consumed with anger that I want to just shake people and yell at them. Maybe, in some cases, it’s righteous anger. But if we are living our lives, trapped in all this hate, malice, and sexism, racism, or any other deadly -ism you can think of…
We don’t know God.
Plain. Simple. Case closed.
The good news?
We can always start over.
We can sincerely examine our hearts. We can come to God with a contrite spirit and apologize for the way that we have treated our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We can start treating one another with love. With caring. Back to Colossians 3’s message: when not twisted, this is such a beautiful example. We are supposed to care for one another. Love one another. Respect one another. Especially in a family unit: we are supposed to build each other up. Not exasperate one another. Encourage one another. The wife is supposed to love her husband in the same way that he is supposed to love her; in true love, we are only equal. There is no one better than the other because of a few body parts that aren’t here or are.
In truth, there is one place or one way for men or women, girls or boys to be or act. And, no, it’s not the kitchen or at work. It’s in church. In the Word of God. And how should they act? No, not “like pretty princesses” or “oh, you know, boys will be boys.” Anyone. Any gender. Any race. Any Christian. We should all act in the same way: with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and, most importantly, love.
Like I said before.
There is no room for sexism in the church.
There is room, however, for love like Jesus.