Most of us have at least one. It's that one question that comes to mind whenever people talk about God, faith, or church—that question that makes us unsure of God and if believing in Him makes any sense.
Who has been a strong female figure in your life and what was her impact on you?
Question #1: Is the church anti-woman?
If you grew up in church, what was the role of women in the church you attended?
Depending on what your church experience has been, you may or may not know that in some churches there are many restrictions on a woman's contribution to the church. The fact is, many women have gotten the message that they are small, insignificant, and second-class human beings.
To understand God's word on any subject, good Biblical interpretation weights the preponderance of the evidence throughout the entire Bible and doesn't look at isolated passages.
For us to understand the Scripture on this subject you have to go all the way back to God's original intention in the early scenes of Genesis. To look at God's intentions before sin entered the world and before male and female relationships got corrupted.
Have someone read Genesis 2:18 and Genesis 1:27-28.
Gene shared the various views and disagreements over this issue. He shared his understanding is that God's original intent was for men and women to be co-regents with God, to share authority together. The truth is nobody is over the other. It's about both being equally made in the image of God.
The idea of one gender ruling over another was not God's plan laid out at the beginning of creation. It's part of what happened as the result of sin and the curse in Genesis 3, just like pain and childbirth and alienation from labor.
Have someone read 2 Kings 22:14-20.
Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, you find women playing incredibly significant roles. God chose women like Miriam and Huldah as prophets, to speak authoritatively on His behalf. Huldah, we read in the passage above, instructed both a male priest and a male king.
Deborah was a prophet and judge of Israel. At that time in Israel, judges weren’t judges as we think of them. Before Israel had kings, judges were the highest authoritative leaders at that time. Judges exercised political, national, and spiritual leadership.
What can we learn about God’s perspective on women in leadership roles from Deborah?
When you move to the New Testament and the first century and look carefully at how Jesus treated women, it was revolutionary and breathtaking for that day. Jesus was polar-opposite to the rabbis of his day, who generally understood women to be inferior to me.
Have someone read John 4:27.
The disciples come to Jesus as he is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. This was shocking to them because a devout Rabbi would not even speak to a woman. While this sermon was primarily about women in the church, many women have been made to feel less than men or have been shut out of a social or work situation.
Share a time you felt excluded, devalued or treated like the second-class citizen.
In the thirty three and a half years of Jesus' life on this planet, He brought to women things they had never experienced before--dignity, respect, value, and worth. In a time where rabbis taught that it was better to burn the Torah (the Old Testament law) than to teach it to a woman, Jesus spoke words of value and hope to them.
It's no accident that some of the most significant leaders of the early church, according to the Bible, were women:
Priscilla was a seminary level instructor that we find teaching men.
Lydia had her own international export business and was a key player in the launching of the first church in Philippi. She housed the church in her home.
We read about the 4 daughters of Philip who preached and prophesied. They weren't silent in the church.
Paul writes about 9 different women in Romans 16 who were significant to him in his ministry.
The women in the early church served not based on their gender but based on their gifts.
Gene shared that his understanding is that the church of Jesus Christ is not anti-woman, and from the beginning, God intended for men and women to rule together, serve together, do life and community together. Sin messed that up but Jesus came to restore that which was destroyed.
At Eastside, there are no limitations for serving based on gender. We have women who serve as elders, as staff members, as executive team members, who lead departments and who manage our finances and teach the Bible.
Depending on our gender, age or faith background we may have looked at this issue differently. Share one thing that challenged you, surprised you or made you view this issue differently.
Question #2: Where does the church stand on the #MeToo movement?
We are living in a time where #MeToo unleashed a cultural tsunami. It has flooded our news feeds, nightly news and social media.
The Bible never flinches in recording and denouncing the sexual sins and mistakes of its characters. It is always wrong when any of God's children experience sexual misconduct, rape, abuse or harassment.
Have someone read I Timothy 5:2.
We get a solid guideline for how we should treat others. Treat the people you work with, the people who report to you, the people you attend church with and the people in your neighborhood like family, with absolute purity.
Have someone read Proverbs 31:8.
We are challenged to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and to ensure justice for those being crushed.
When sexual misconduct happens, it is something that should never be covered up, spun or hidden in the name of the church's reputation. When we read the Bible we see how people like Noah, David or Amnon, tried to hide their sins but God did not let that happen.
As the church of Jesus Christ, we stand with the oppressed, the assaulted, the harassed, the demeaned, the disrespected, no matter who the perpetrator may be.
Chances are that for someone in this group this is a painful topic. We often try to forget or hide this part of our life. There may be feelings of guilt, shame, and pain, accompanied by a struggle with the emotional, physical, and spiritual aftermath.
God's Word declares you are loved; you are valuable; you matter, and in Jesus, there is no male or female. He wants you to be a powerful and change-making force for good in this world with your life.
You don't need to apologize for who God made you to be. Just be who God made you to be inside and outside of the church.
Gene challenged us to move from #MeToo to #WeToo and find healing, to be the church to those around us that are hurting, to help others take that courageous step towards help and trusting the Lord with their painful past.
There is freedom to be found, but we have to trust God. We have to receive it and experience it. That can be the hardest thing, to accept that God made a way through Jesus so that we might be free. The blood Jesus poured out on the cross doesn't just heal you from the grip of sins that you've committed, but the grip of sins committed against you. The cross does both. Jesus loves us and we can trust Him, even with the most painful parts of our spiritual journey.
How can we be a part of changing the dialogue and culture we live and work in? Brainstorm ways we can help those we love to go from #MeToo to #WeToo.
Pray as a group the prayer Gene closed with Sunday:
Father, thank you for your grace. Father, there are people here today and they're not sure whether or not it's possible to experience freedom from their pain, so I pray that you'd give them just a little bit of faith, just enough to help them to take the step and to trust You. Bring healing, and may we no longer be slaves to fear, shame, and the captivity of sin because of what Jesus did on a cross so that we can be free of our sins and the sins anyone has done to us.
For Men: And Father, on behalf of all the men of Eastside, I thank you for all our sisters in Jesus here that you made, you love, you gifted and you called to be dangerous tools for good in this world and for your purposes. May we do our part to honor, protect, defend. And may they feel empowered by your Spirit to be all that you made them to be….
And thank you that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from your love, neither death nor life; neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation that will be able to separate us from the love you have for us in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.