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7. Women Next to Leadership

My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Christian leadership' section.


– by Mama Brenda Salter

If you live near a noisy road traffic junction, or beside a river or close by the village water pump you are affected by it - its potential, its noise and car fumes, its possibility to flood and be a watering place for animals, its hubbub of people - but you have no control over any of these things. It is like this for women next to leadership. You are affected by your husband’s role. You see the potential good and the potential disasters. You are caught in the crossfire that sometimes surrounds him. You are set apart through no fault of your own, and you cannot directly do anything about it.


It is not possible to find a scriptural role model for this job. The closest is probably Acts 21:5 “Leaving the next day, we (Paul, Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus, Acts 20:4) reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied”. This does not give us a lot of practical help!


How do we cope? How can we balance the people and their demands, the public role, the pastoring and the counselling, with being a wife, being a mother, and being a Christian? We need to look into our Bibles and we need to hold the truths we find firmly but lovingly. Truth is truth, but how we hold that truth is important. Romans 14:22 tells us, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God”. Use these truths to help yourself, to encourage but not to attack other women or men.

Let’s see what the Bible tells us about women and about wives.


The Bible on the role of women

(Read the Bible references and try to write down what you discover about attitudes to women, and the woman’s role)


Matthew 27:55-56, “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons”. See also Mark 15:40-41, Luke 8:2, 23:49.

Luke 7:36-50, the story of a sinful woman anointing the feet of Jesus at the house of a Pharisee - and the reactions.

Luke 8:40-48, within the story of Jairus and the healing of his daughter is the healing of a woman with a bleeding problem.

Luke 10:38-42, the story of Mary, the listener, and her sister Martha, the meal preparer.

Luke 21:1-4, Jesus notices the gift of two small copper coins given by a very poor widow.

John 2:12, “After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days”.

John 4:4-26, Jesus’ conversation with a Samaritan woman by the well at Sychar.

John 8:1-11, Jesus’ dealing with the woman taken in adultery and the Pharisees who accused her.

Matthew 28:1-11, the women see Jesus first on resurrection morning. See also Mark

16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11, John 20:1-18.

Acts 12:12, “ When this had dawned on him, he (Peter) went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying”.

Acts 16:11-15, the story of the conversion of a business woman, Lydia, in Philippi.

Acts 18:1-4, 18-28, Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla, and Priscilla and Aquila teach Apollos.

Romans 16:1-16, several ladies are mentioned in Paul’s greetings to the church in Rome.

Genesis 3:8-13, 16, having eaten the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve hid from God, but then confessed and received the results of their disobedience.

Romans 14:12, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself (or herself) to God”.

Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

2 Timothy 1:5, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also”.


Here are my conclusions – the Bible on the role of women

  • Women fulfilled various accepted roles in the New Testament.

  • Jesus, in His dealings with women, acknowledged their worth.

  • Paul acknowledged the role of some level of a woman’s leadership in the use of her home.

  • Paul acknowledged the godly influence of women in the family.

  • A woman is accountable to God for herself.

  • Sin brought more pain in childbirth, a change in the sexual relationship, and the husband becoming the senior partner in the relationship.

  • Every woman (and every man) will answer to God for their own lives.

The Bible on the role of the wife

(Read the Bible references and try to write down what you discover about attitudes to the role of a wife)

Genesis 2:18, 21-24, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’.........But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of the man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”.

Genesis 3:16, 20, “To the woman he (God) said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you......Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living”.

Titus 2:3-5, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers, or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God”.

1 Timothy 5:9-10, “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up her children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds”.

Ephesians 5:21-25, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives.....”

Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them”.

1 Corinthians 7:2-5, “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.

1 Peter 3:1-4, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands, so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”.


Here are my conclusions from the Bible on the role of the wife

  • She is a special creation by God.

  • She is created to be a complement, a helper, a fulfilment.

  • She is to be reverent, faithful, teaching by example.

  • She is to submit to the family head, her husband, out of submission to the Lord.

  • Marriage involves sex - to be used rightly and with the one right person.

  • If there are children, raising them is a priority ministry, not an endurance test!

  • She is to be busy - in managing the home, doing good things in many ways.

  • She must not be idle and gossip.

  • She needs to cultivate a servant spirit.

  • She is to practise hospitality.


So how can we achieve these Bible goals?


Pressure and stress

Pressure is part of life. Without it you would be like a lump of porridge or aseeda or overcooked foule or soggy macaroni, achieving nothing. Some pressure is good for you - it creates alertness and clarity of thought, it sends adrenalin pumping round your body, helping you decide clearly, communicate well and act confidently.

Too much pressure does the opposite - it makes you irritable, unable to work effectively, prone to accidents and mistakes. In the end it will have physical effects. We all need to manage pressure.


Things that are pressure and stress to me may not be for you. You have to work out what is stress for you

  • a difficult meeting to attend?

  • someone to see who terrifies you?

  • a meeting you have to lead?

  • husband coming home from a difficult meeting?

  • thinking how can I get everything done?

Give yourself time and talk to God about the situation.

Go in the confidence God gives you.


Time

We are all stewards of our time. We all have different calls on our time. We can waste time

  • through lack of priorities, giving too much time to something unimportant

  • through lack of planning – the day disappears because we have not planned what to do and when to do it

  • through over commitment – thinking we can do more in a day than is possible

  • through inability to cope with crises – sitting wondering what to do about the crisis or busily running round in a panic, and failing to sort the situation

  • through the inability to delegate – in effect saying, “I want to do that” when someone else could do it and possibly do it better than we could

  • through indecision – saying, “Shall I do this or shall I do that?” Suddenly the time to do anything has come and gone

  • through interruptions – tricky one this – people are important but is this interruption the Devil’s distraction or God’s opportunity for you?

  • through rushing – having to do it again because you did it too quickly and made a mess of the job, or said the wrong thing.


Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”. We need to be wise stewards of the time with which God has entrusted us.

Psalm 90:12, We need to learn to use our time wisely.


One more thought on time

You cannot by yourself make time in your husband’s day for you to be together, but you can work on the quality of the time you do spend together. So can I. Make every minute count in your relationship.

When he comes home after a long meeting, have you:

  • gone to bed?

  • not wished to be interrupted in what you are doing?

  • thought to be ready to greet him?

  • been pleased to see him and talk together, even if he doesn’t ask what you have been doing?

  • Are you still making the effort to be as attractive to him as you were on your wedding day?

  • Are all the other things you do necessary and in the right proportion?

You and your husband are one unit – you complement each other – he has a ministry to love you as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her - you have a ministry to serve him, look out for him, love him, be there for him. (Don’t remind him of his responsibility, just work at getting your own responsibility fulfilled!

See Ephesians 5:22-23, 25).


Priorities


Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

Isaiah 55:1-2, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight on the richest of fare”.


His kingdom and His righteousness are not necessarily always synonymous with ‘the ministry’. We need to keep making sure that we seek what God wants in our lives. We need to seek the priorities He wants for us to enable His kingdom to be extended and His righteousness to grow in us.


Perhaps you need to sit down and write out all of the things you do in a week. Then pray about the list. Which things are the most important? Importance is not the same as length of time. One thing may take a lot of your time, but something else may be more important. You need to think of priorities in terms of time and of people. Ask yourself – do the most important things get my quality time or only the leftovers?


Lord, I want you first in my life

  • in my marriage

  • in my family

  • in my ministry Please show me how!


Other people

Determine the priority other people have in your life. Is dealing with them what God is asking you to do? People have many needs, but you have only 24 hours in a day – and you do need to sleep.


Romans 12:9–21, “Love sincerely......be devoted to one another in brotherly(sisterly) love.......Share with God’s people who are in need, practise hospitality.........Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn........Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.

Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, just as Christ has accepted you”.

Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”.

1 Thessalonians 5:11, “always try to be kind to each other”.

Hebrews 3:13, “Encourage one another daily”.

Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”.


Putting all those references together is a tall order – a hard thing to achieve. But perhaps that last quote from Hebrews gives a clue to help us accomplish this high standard of behaviour. “Let us consider” – think about, pray about – the people we plan to meet, the people we will unexpectedly meet today. Think about all of the people separately, not as a group – what need does this person have? How can I encourage him/her in this difficult time? Does this person feel rejected? Lord, please give me the right words. Does he/she feel too unworthy to join in? Help me to take her hand and bring her in/indicate he is welcome and find a place for him. Help me to show that I accept him/her, just as Jesus Christ has accepted me.


A long while ago our family were expecting some visitors and I was feeling terrified at the prospect. The night before they were due to arrive I told the Lord how much pressure I felt because of this visit. It was as if the Lord spoke into my ear and said that the lady who was coming was troubled about something, and I would be able to help her. Suddenly the fear was gone, and I had a ministry to the lady I had feared! By the next evening I had proved to myself how right God had been! Of course He was, He’s God. But we forget so easily and leave Him out of the little situations that make up our lives. So consider – ask God to make you what you need to be in every situation. That means in the unexpected meeting this morning, and in the situation you have thought through for this afternoon, and of course He can use you in just speaking to a neighbour as you pass as well.


One more thought again. I have raised an issue in a previous paragraph, which I really need to open up a little. It is an issue where care is needed. How far, as a woman, can you and should you deal with men?

You need to be guided by the culture of the people you are with. What is their general understanding of contact between men and women? When we moved from England to live in Khartoum, I had to make a big cultural move. I had very little Arabic and so it was sign language with the lady next door! During Ramadan the man of the house wanted us to share a ‘breaking the fast’ meal with them. Problem. He very thoughtfully decided to make me an honorary man for the evening so my husband and I could eat with him in his garden. The ladies ate together indoors after they had served, and the male guests ate in a group together on the hoash. I still pray for the salvation of that family. He stepped out of his culture while still observing it, to help this strange white woman from England.


Different cultures have different norms of behaviour, but there are some absolutes laid down in the Bible by God for us. Although you stand as a Christian woman before God in your own right, Romans 14:12, you must not, you do not have the freedom, to bring the name of Christ into disrepute by your actions, 1 Corinthians 8:9. Practically, always make sure no one can think anything wrong of your actions by staying where you can be seen. Don’t go into a room alone with one man, except for your father, husband or son. Talk with a man if that is appropriate, but look for a man you know and trust to involve in the conversation.


Having said all that, and gone into another thought, you can only see, help, speak with some people – you cannot take on the whole world. You have a responsibility to your husband, your family and so you have to learn to say sometimes to other people, “No, I am sorry but I cannot help here”.


Hospitality

Romans 12:13, “Practise hospitality”.

1 Timothy 5:10, “... showing hospitality.......”

1 Peter 4:9, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”.

Hospitality means “the friendly welcome and entertainment of guests or strangers, which usually involves offering them food and drink.” If your dictionary says something similar please use it!


In Luke 10:38-42 we meet Mary and Martha – two sisters with differing gifts and abilities – Mary wanted to learn from Jesus while Martha was the capable one in the kitchen. Martha complained because her sister was not helping her, but Jesus said that Mary had got it right – it was good to learn from Jesus, and it was good not to get upset and flustered by making the food. So how does that fit with the other three references above?


We need to spend time with Jesus and we need to do what is necessary for hospitality – but that hospitality can be simple, not fussy and not trying to impress others. We must practise hospitality but we need to check that our attitude is right. We need to see it as a ministry and not be grudging about it, or boastful about it. We need to be organised so there is no panic.

He is different

“Males and females differ anatomically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically and biochemically. We differ in literally every cell of our bodies, for each sex carries a unique chromosomal pattern...........Furthermore, it is my deep conviction that each sex displays unique emotional characteristics that are genetically endowed. Cultural influences cannot account for these novelties. Few psychologists have had the courage to express this view in recent years, because the women’s movement has perceived it as insulting. But to be different from men does not make women inferior to men. Males and females are original creations of God, each bearing strengths and weaknesses that counterbalance and interface with each other. It is a beautiful design that must not be disassembled”.

God made man and woman to complement each other, Genesis 2: 15-18, 20-24. When Adam was alone, he had no likeminded companionship, he had no way to reproduce himself. Adam and Eve together complemented each other - they could reproduce. The rise of the feminist movement and the western world’s search for women’s equality with men, has made it harder to stick to the biblical outline that men and women are different, complementary, neither inferior to the other, God’s created beings, all loved by Him. Feminism says that we are all equal and must have equal opportunities – that every opportunity a man has should be available to a woman. But men and women are not the same. Yes, we are equal as God’s children, but we have different strengths and characteristics. We are ideally made for our different roles.


Dr. James Dobson in 'Straight talks to men and their wives' said, “Males and females differ anatomically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically and biochemically”. We differ in the parts our bodies have and do not have, and in the adult shape. We differ in our sexual desires and in the outcome of reproductive sex – men don’t carry and give birth to babies! We differ in the way we react to and feel about things that happen, things that people do and say. We differ in the way our minds process information and thus dictate our behaviour. We differ in the chemical reactions inside the cells of our bodies.


Think through these parallel columns. You may find them a useful summary and easier to remember than the three paragraphs above:


Man Woman

looks for conquest and achievement looks for long term

stability and security

has steady emotions a varying menstrual cycle brings peaks and troughs of emotions

looks at overall principles works out details

needs to be respected and loved needs to be loved and respected

responsive to touch and vision responsive to words

and consistent care

fulfilled in work fulfilled in secure relationship

male ego (the need in a man’s needs to be loved

thinking for attention and recognition)


Once again, don’t present your man with a list of things you need. Work to meet his needs, and be the complement to his masculinity.


I can almost hear you saying, “but how does this all help me live next to leadership?”

You are not the leader - his calling may give you more jobs, may give you confidential information that not everyone knows, may put you in a difficult position sometimes – but you do not have the leader’s responsibility. You learn to keep confidences, you cannot always share what you know but you have to accept that. You stand beside the leader – like you live near a road junction, a river, or near the village water pump. You cannot change what he has to do. You can make sure that you are living the way God wants you to live, and you are seeking to support him in his ministry. No short cuts, no easy answers!


Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.


An example for us

Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, was a young virgin, promised in marriage to Joseph, when God’s angel Gabriel came to her with a message from God. She knew she was blessed, see Luke 1:46-49.

BUT …

  • there was shock, and fear, incredulity, followed by submission, Luke 1:26-38

  • there was the stigma of an illegitimate baby; people did not understand or believe her

  • there was a strange town and a manger for a cot, Luke 2:1-7

  • there were many things to be pondered, Luke 2:19

  • there was a promise of emotional and mental suffering, Luke 2:34-35

  • there was another move to a strange place to live in for the little family, Egypt, Matthew 2:13-15

  • there was Mary’s nightmare on the annual visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was just twelve, Luke 2:41-52

  • did she feel rejection when she and her younger sons went to see Jesus and he said that all who do God’s will are his mothers, sisters and brothers? Matthew 12:48-49

  • there was absolute devastation beside emotional and physical provision, John 19:25-27.

Mary was blessed and still she went through a lot of anguish and pain. She provided her womb for the Christ child, and loved and looked after Him. She saw him die and rise again. Like us, she was saved through the atoning death of Jesus. A mother saved by the child she had carried. She lived next to leadership because God called her to do so.



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