Many women relate to me the battles they have endured, and in most cases, still are enduring to be accepted on equal terms with men in the church. Let me share a little bit about what I believe the Holy Spirit would say to us on this issue.
Firstly, God doesn’t want us engaged in battles that are going to leave us tired and distracted. Let’s exercise discernment in what we’re actually about. The biggest battle raging is not outside of us, it is within. We try to prove who we are to those who don’t accept us on equal terms only because we don’t yet know ourselves who we are. When we know that, we don’t have to prove anything.
Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” and they replied: “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” (Matt. 16:13-14) Notice all the ideas men had about who Jesus is were wrong. The Lord went on to ask them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter spoke for all when He answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Matt. 16:16) His answer came not from education, not from persuasion, and not from reading a good book on the subject. Jesus’ true identity was revealed from Heaven.
Let’s consider another example. And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" (Luke 4:3). And another: “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” (Matthew 16:1) In each case Jesus was pushed to prove who He was and in each case He refused to engage at that level. The reason? Jesus knew Who He was and had no need in Himself to prove it to anyone! My point is that He left it up to His Father to reveal His identity and His mission to whoever His Father chose.
Many Christian women struggling for the chance to serve God in their giftings and callings get caught up in the wrong battle. Often the reason they do this is because they mistakenly think when they get recognition from those that doubt them they will finally be free to minister. More often than not the real battle we need to win is knowing without doubt within ourselves who we are in Christ. That’s where our freedom lies. When that particular battle is won in our own hearts and minds, the need to fight it externally will disappear. We will also usually find that God Himself will lead us into fields of ministry that may be entirely new and unexpected.
For a Christian woman struggling to emerge into fulfilling her God-given calling, sometimes after living under years of biased ‘women must submit’ theology, the question will surely confront her: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you that authority?” Whether this question comes in the subtle form of raised eyebrows and disapproving glares, or is shouted from the pulpit, still it will certainly come.
When Jesus was confronted with this same angry question, He felt no need to justify Himself to His interrogators. (Matthew 21: 23-27) Neither should we. Again, it is God who we serve and God who must both cover us and equip us for service. It can be heartbreaking, lonely, and costly in terms of personal relationships to separate ourselves from churches and organizations that refuse to allow women to walk and minister on equal terms with their male brothers. Each woman in such a situation needs to hear the Holy Spirit’s direction for herself. However, we need to at least have the courage to be willing to follow the Lamb wherever He leads and prayerfully consider whether He may be leading us away from that system. Personally, I question the wisdom and motivation of women fighting for recognition within the priesthood of major church denominations. Jesus never contended for personal recognition or acknowledgment as a Rabbi, nor did He need the approval of men to fulfil His ministry and mission. He just simply lived it outside the established system, and God backed Him up completely.
Am I advocating rebellion towards established leadership? No, I am advocating obedience to a higher leadership. Obedience to God can be walked without rebellion as Jesus has exemplified, but whatever the cost, obedience to God MUST be our priority. More and more women are becoming convicted of this truth and are forging new ministry directions for themselves ‘outside the gates’ of denominationalism. The harvest is ready and waiting, but the journey can be costly and often lonely. Sometimes it is the cost that holds us back. If we have heard from God, are we willing to set out with Him and trust Him to provide all we need along the journey, including the fellowship of like minded believers?
Inevitably, for women emerging out of religious oppression into their right to follow Christ in fullness, accusations will be levelled of rebellion, error and of course that old favourite “Jezebel spirit.” Do I believe there is an actual Jezebel spirit? Yes I do. I have seen it operate in women and just as often in men, and it is vastly overrated. Does it surprise you that this demonic entity commonly known as Jezebel is not confined to the female gender? Demonic spirits are genderless for Jesus told us “that which is flesh is flesh, and that which is spirit is spirit.” They can operate wherever they find a place to hide and they are not fussy. This particular spirit operates hand in hand with the religious spirit, which is far more powerful.
More Christian women have been deeply wounded and slandered by the false accusation of operating in a ‘Jezebel spirit’ than can ever be known. Too often church leaders have hidden behind this over-used accusation as an excuse for not dealing compassionately with wounded women in their churches, or worse, to distract from their own struggle with sin rather than dealing honestly with it. Isn’t it time, the church in general began to mature into a place of true spiritual discernment instead of automatically labeling every woman who questions controlling male authority or begins to operate in her own God-given authority as a “Jezebel spirit”?
Regardless of the accusations that have been, or will be leveled at us in the future, we need to understand, the Lord has walked before us even in that scenario.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons." (Mark 3:22)
Have you been accused of having a ‘Jezebel spirit?” Jesus was accused of being Satan himself (Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies). Take courage in His own words:
"It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!" (Matt. 10:25)
As we as Christian women emerge from centuries of false and oppressive theology concerning who we are and what we can do, the single most important thing we can give to the generations of women who have gone before us is live the life that was denied to them. Time is short. Let’s not get caught up in the wrong battles. There are always going to be those who oppose us with endless doctrinal arguments. Let’s not spend one more moment trying to convince others we have the right to serve God in the fullness of our gifts and callings without all the traditional restrictions that have been placed on Christian women. There are always going to be those who would deny us that right. Let’s not be disheartened by accusation and persecution. Let’s seek to know who the Father says we are rather than who men and women say we are. And let’s determine to walk in the fullness of the freedom Christ bought for us at so costly a price. Let’s do it in the power of His love and His life within us. Let that be both our witness and our joy.