Category: Women

Women’s changing roles in the Stone-Campbell movement.

IN THE EARLIEST DAYS of the Stone-Campbell Movement, women fulfilled important pastoral roles: caring for the sick and the poor, preparing food during extended worship meetings, and bringing up and training Christian children. The early years of the movement coincided with the early years of the American republic, and women were encouraged to be “republican mothers.” Assumed to have superior virtue, they were charged to pass that virtue on to their children. The result? Good Christian citizens to populate the new republic.

where did the bread go?

Women moved out of these private roles into public ones first as educators. Jane Campbell McKeever (1800–1871), younger sister of Alexander Campbell, founded Pleasant Hill Female Seminary near West Middletown, Pennsylvania, as early as the 1830s. Alexander had very moderate views on slavery, but Jane did not share them. She was a firm abolitionist, and she and her husband even ran a station of the Underground Railroad on their farm. (Her students sometimes wondered why the bread they baked one day was gone the next morning.) In 1854 she publicly disagreed with her famous brother and wrote a fierce indictment of slavery in the abolitionist North-Western Christian Magazine.

Women were also involved in active evangelism, organizing congregations, and, in the absence of male preachers, baptizing believers on the American and Canadian frontiers. Mary Graft, Mary Morrison, and Mary Ogle of Pennsylvania and Mary Stogdill of Ontario are not remembered well today, but they were torchbearers who brought the gospel to isolated places, and their ministry was welcome.

The Civil War brought many changes to American society. Some of them affected women’s calls to ministry. In the wake of the war, women found they had acquired new skills of management and leadership. In addition, they were receiving a better education, much of it on par with that received by young men of the day. Many found their voices by participating in temperance, suffrage, and other social reform movements. These skills transferred naturally to the pulpit.

passion for preaching

Clara Hale Babcock (1850–1924) is considered to be the first woman ordained to preach by the Disciples of Christ in 1888 or 1889, followed by Jessie Coleman Monser (1891), Bertha Mason Fuller (1891), and Sarah (“Sadie”) McCoy Crank (1892). These women were remarkably effective evangelists. Clara Babcock baptized more than 1,500 people during her ministry. Sadie Crank baptized even more and organized over 50 rural congregations. They all had a voice in the temperance movement as well.

Probably the most passionate temperance advocate of all was Carry Nation (1846–1911). A popular lay preacher and lecturer for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), she gained notoriety for smashing illegal saloons with her hatchet. (See “Did you know?,” inside front cover.)

The newspapers that caricatured Nation in cartoons did not call as much attention to the fact that near the end of her life she operated a shelter for battered women in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Her relationship with the Disciples of Christ was sometimes tense because of her unorthodox methods and uncompromising advocacy for women’s rights.

Another outlet for women’s energies was missionary work. Caroline Neville Pearre (1831–1910) founded the Christian Women’s Board of Missions (CWBM) when she saw the vital work of domestic and foreign missions languishing in the Disciples of Christ. In 1874 she set up the first women’s missionary society at her home church in Iowa City and soon began encouraging and supporting other women to do the same.

That same year representatives of these societies came together to form the national CWBM, with the blessing of the Disciples’s American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS). ACMS secretary Thomas Munnell famously replied to Pearre’s request for permission to convene: “This is a flame of the Lord’s kindling, and no man can extinguish it.”

The CWBM was very successful in fund-raising and supporting mission projects. In 1919 it helped form the United Christian Missionary Society. Because the CWBM provided the bulk of the funds and the members, it was able to insist on equal representation on the society’s committees—a privilege many women in other Protestant groups were fighting for in this era.

But segregated times led to a racially segregated missionary society. Sarah Lue Bostick (1868–1948), while probably never officially ordained, was an early African American woman preacher in the Disciples of Christ and an active organizer and fund-raiser in the separate black CWBM, setting up chapters in several African American congregations.

Bostick’s leadership and that of other female African American Disciples provided major support for the Southern Christian Institute in Edwards, Mississippi, and for mission work in Liberia. This segregated group of the CWBM helped establish Jarvis Christian Institute in Hawkins, Texas (see “The story of a school,” p. 28).

women ministers

Any examination of the role of women in the movement must at some point confront the movement’s central motivation: a return to New Testament Christianity around which all Christian groups could come together. This meant reading the Scriptures as a blueprint to be followed to the letter.

Alexander Campbell was thus opposed to women ministers, writing in the Millennial Harbinger that he followed Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 and 1 Timothy 2:1–15, where the apostle admonished women to be silent in the church, not to usurp male authority, and to talk privately to their husbands if they had questions or comments.

Many Stone-Campbell churches still debate what Paul’s words mean to Christians today. Was he speaking to Christians in a specific time, place, and culture, or were his words binding for all time? The Disciples of Christ, the most mainline stream, generally accepts that Paul was speaking to a particular situation and that it is important to utilize the gifts of all Christians, regardless of gender, race, class, or other circumstance.

The other two Stone-Campbell streams, the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, held more closely to a literal interpretation of Paul’s instruction and resisted accepting women in the more public forms of ministry.

But that is changing, and it is common in the twenty-first century to find women youth ministers, family ministers, music ministers, education ministers, and even occasionally, pulpit ministers. The role of women continues to be debated, and there are many gradations of acceptance of their public ministry.

Decision for Christ

Uncovering the experiences of women as the Stone-Campbell Movement spread around the globe also presents challenges. Most stories told in the West reflect the perspectives of missionaries, not converts. But even so, they tell a significant tale.

In 1920s India, British missionary Anne Piggot traveled between Church of Christ mission stations to work with Bible women and to preach the gospel. One convert, Jaswa, visited Piggot several times under the cover of darkness before finally declaring her desire to be a Christian.

Jaswa’s family repeatedly tried to dissuade her from pursuing her new faith. They said they would cut her up, bury her in the house, and tell the neighbors that she had gone to live with relatives. Jaswa was terrified. But when she received a vision of two men in shining white robes asking her to return to the Christians, she decided to go back. Later, the transformed Jaswa rescued a girl of the despised “sweeper caste” who had fallen into a rushing river.

India was not the only place where conversion threatened social order. One of the first Japanese converts, Ino Fusakawa, whitened her teeth after her conversion, a departure from the usual practice of married Japanese women blackening their teeth (perhaps to make them unattractive). Neighbors questioned her morals, but missionaries pressured her to do it as a means of embracing her new Christian faith.

Bible Women

Before the Second World War, Bible women (so called because they taught the Bible) represented the most numerous female evangelists. These missionaries taught other women (and sometimes men), served as church staff, distributed books and tracts, and visited women in isolated regions. Hundreds served in India, Japan, and Korea in particular. They gained a foothold for women in church affairs, and they contributed significantly to the movement’s losing its Western character.

For example, in 1916, Japanese Christian Kei Nakamura served as a Bible woman in a church of the Yotsuya Japan Mission. Her ministry spanned all aspects of church life. She conducted meetings, visited women in their homes, taught a class of girls at the Bible school sponsored by the mission, participated in worship, and served as the pastor’s assistant.

After World War II, missions took a new direction. The ministries of Bible women were replaced by the growing Christian Women’s Fellowship—organized in 1949 by Jesse Mary Trout of Ontario, also vice president of the United Christian Missionary Society. Trout had been a missionary to Japan before World War II and to Japanese Americans in internment camps during the war. Her hope, and that of other woman leaders, was that women would become part of a world structure that encouraged an international sense of community and sisterhood.

One of the most unique of these sisterhoods was the Fellowship of the Least Coin, pioneered by Carmen Armonio of Manila in 1956. This ecumenical organization quickly spread to over 60 countries and still exists today. It encourages all women to pray for peace, justice, and reconciliation and to give of the “least coin” in their currency to support projects throughout the world.

Jorgelina Lozada (1906–1995), a native of Argentina and the first ordained female pastor in Latin America, was a leader in ecumenical cooperation and the fight for social justice. She began preaching in 1930 at Villa Mitre Christian Church in Buenos Aires, soon one of the largest churches in Argentina. In 1951 she publicly wore a suit that she had made from sacks to demonstrate to poor women in her congregation “what could be done with just a little.”

Some women developed unique ministries to grow the church and spread the gospel. Mama Beyeke of the Disciples Mission in Congo trained Congolese singers and formed a traveling choir that evangelized through song. Beyeke composed songs with African musical instruments that replaced the translated Western Christian hymns that had predominated in African worship. The “Mama Beyeke Chorale” even traveled as far as the United States (in 1987).

send the sister 

Mary Thompson became the first missionary from the Australian Churches of Christ when she left Melbourne for India in 1891. An American missionary couple had written to the Australian churches saying, “If a brother is not ready, and a sister is, send her out, for we greatly need help.” The first missionary society formed in Australia had two women among its eight members.

Australian women entered the pulpit in 1931 when a local church in Hawthorne, Queensland, chose Violet Maud Callanan as their pastor. The local leadership had the freedom to make their own decisions, and they concluded that the calling of a woman to public ministry was valid because of their belief in the mutual ministry of all believers.

Callanan had completed a qualifying certificate at the College of the Bible in Victoria. But her position remained tenuous. She even dressed in a habit and veil in her early career, possibly trying to adhere to strict boundaries of female behavior even while transcending them.

Despite the lack of institutional barriers to women’s ordination, Callanan was the only female pastoral minister for over 25 years in Australia. The percentage of women in ministry in the entire movement even in the twenty-first century remains low (23 percent among Disciples and only a handful in the other streams). Many still seek the freedom to speak. CH

by Sara Harwell and Loretta Long Hunnicutt

Sara Harwell is vice president and chief archivist at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. Loretta Long Hunnicutt is professor of history at Pepperdine University and the author of The Life of Selina Campbell: A Fellow Soldier in the Cause of Restoration and many articles.

The Low Status of Women in Jesus’ Day

Some feminists charge that Christianity, the Bible, and the Church are anti-female and horribly oppressive to women. Does God really hate women? Did the apostle Paul disrespect them in his New Testament writings? In this article we’ll be looking at why Christianity is the best thing that ever happened to women, with insights from Alvin Schmidt’s book How Christianity Changed the World.

“What would be the status of women in the Western world today had Jesus Christ never entered the human arena? One way to answer this question,” writes Dr. Schmidt, “is to look at the status of women in most present-day Islamic countries. Here women are still denied many rights that are available to men, and when they appear in public, they must be veiled. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women are even barred from driving an automobile. Whether in Saudi Arabia or in many other Arab countries where the Islamic religion is adhered to strongly, a man has the right to beat and sexually desert his wife, all with the full support of the Koran. . . . This command is the polar opposite of what the New Testament says regarding a man’s relationship with his wife. Paul told the Christians in Ephesus, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’ And he added, ‘He who loves his wife loves himself.'”
Jesus loved women and treated them with great respect and dignity. The New Testament’s teaching on women developed His perspective even more. The value of women that permeates the New Testament isn’t found in the Greco-Roman culture or the cultures of other societies.

In ancient Greece, a respectable woman was not allowed to leave the house unless she was accompanied by a trustworthy male escort. A wife was not permitted to eat or interact with male guests in her husband’s home; she had to retire to her woman’s quarters. Men kept their wives under lock and key, and women had the social status of a slave. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and when they grew up they were not allowed to speak in public. Women were considered inferior to men. The Greek poets equated women with evil. Remember Pandora and her box? Woman was responsible for unleashing evil on the world.

The status of Roman women was also very low. Roman law placed a wife under the absolute control of her husband, who had ownership of her and all her possessions. He could divorce her if she went out in public without a veil. A husband had the power of life and death over his wife, just as he did his children. As with the Greeks, women were not allowed to speak in public.

Jewish women, as well, were barred from public speaking. The oral law prohibited women from reading the Torah out loud. Synagogue worship was segregated, with women never allowed to be heard.

Jesus and Women

Jesus’ treatment of women was very different:

The extremely low status that the Greek, Roman, and Jewish woman had for centuries was radically affected by the appearance of Jesus Christ. His actions and teachings raised the status of women to new heights, often to the consternation and dismay of his friends and enemies. By word and deed, he went against the ancient, taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that defined woman as socially, intellectually, and spiritually inferior.

The humane and respectful way Jesus treated and responded to the Samaritan woman [at the well] (recorded in John 4) may not appear unusual to readers in today’s Western culture. Yet what he did was extremely unusual, even radical. He ignored the Jewish anti-Samaritan prejudices along with prevailing view that saw women as inferior beings.

He started a conversation with her—a Samaritan, a woman—in public. The rabbinic oral law was quite explicit: “He who talks with a woman [in public] brings evil upon himself.” Another rabbinic teaching prominent in Jesus’ day taught, “One is not so much as to greet a woman.” So we can understand why his disciples were amazed to find him talking to a woman in public. Can we even imagine how it must have stunned this woman for the Messiah to reach out to her and offer her living water for her thirsty soul?

Among Jesus’ closest friends were Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who entertained him at their home. “Martha assumed the traditional female role of preparing a meal for Jesus, her guest, while her sister Mary did what only men would do, namely, learn from Jesus’ teachings. Mary was the cultural deviant, but so was Jesus, because he violated the rabbinic law of his day [about speaking to women].” By teaching Mary spiritual truths, he violated another rabbinic law, which said, “Let the words of the Law [Torah] be burned rather than taught to women. . . . If a man teaches his daughter the law, it is as though he taught her lechery.”

When Lazarus died, Jesus comforted Martha with this promise containing the heart of the Christian gospel: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) These remarkable words were spoken to a woman! “To teach a woman was bad enough, but Jesus did more than that. He called for a verbal response from Martha. Once more, he went against the socioreligious custom by teaching a woman and by having her publicly respond to him, a man.”

“All three of the Synoptic Gospels note that women followed Jesus, a highly unusual phenomenon in first-century Palestine. . . . This behavior may not seem unusual today, but in Jesus’ day it was highly unusual. Scholars note that in the prevailing culture only prostitutes and women of very low repute would follow a man without a male escort.” These women were not groupies; some of them provided financial support for Jesus and the apostles (Luke 8:3).

The first people Jesus chose to appear to after his resurrection were women; not only that, but he instructed them to tell his disciples that he was alive (Matt. 28, John 20). In a culture where a woman’s testimony was worthless because she was worthless, Jesus elevated the value of women beyond anything the world had seen.

Paul, Peter, and Women

Jesus gave women status and respect equal to men. Not only did he break with the anti-female culture of his era, but he set a standard for Christ-followers. Peter and Paul both rose to the challenge in what they wrote in the New Testament.

In a culture that feared the power of a woman’s external beauty and feminine influence, Peter encouraged women to see themselves as valuable because God saw them as valuable. His call to aspire to the inner beauty of a trusting and tranquil spirit is staggeringly counter-cultural. He writes, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry 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. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”

Equally staggering is his call to men to elevate their wives with respect and understanding: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” Consideration, respect, fellow heirs; these concepts sound good to us, but they were unheard of in the first century!

The apostle Paul is often accused of being a misogynist, one who hates and fears women. But Paul’s teachings on women reflect the creation order and high value God places on women as creatures made in his image. Paul’s commands for husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 provided a completely new way to look at marriage: as an earthbound illustration of the spiritual mystery of the union of Christ and His bride, the church. He calls wives to not only submit to their husbands as to the Lord, but he calls husbands to submit to Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). He calls men to love their wives in the self-sacrificing way Christ loves the church. In a culture where a wife was property, and a disrespected piece of property at that, Paul elevates women to a position of honor previously unknown in the world.

Paul also provided highly countercultural direction for the New Testament church. In the Jewish synagogue, women had no place and no voice in worship. In the pagan temples, the place of women was to serve as prostitutes. The church, on the other hand, was a place for women to pray and prophecy out loud (1 Cor. 11:5). The spiritual gifts—supernatural enablings to build God’s church—are given to women as well as men. Older women are commanded to teach younger ones. The invitation to women to participate in worship of Jesus was unthinkable—but true.

Misogyny in the Church

Author Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C.S. Lewis, wrote:

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.

She continues: “There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about woman’s nature. And this is one of the unfortunate truths about Christianity we have to acknowledge: over the centuries, many Christ-followers have fallen far short of the standard Jesus set in showing the worth and dignity of women.

In the second century Clement of Alexandria believed and taught that every woman should blush because she is a woman. Tertullian, who lived about the same time, said, “You [Eve] are the devil’s gateway. . . . You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert, that is death, even the Son of God had to die.” Augustine, in the fourth century, believed that a woman’s image of God was inferior to that of the man’s. And unfortunately it gets even nastier than that.

Some people mistakenly believe these contemptuous beliefs of the church fathers are rooted in an anti-female Bible, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. People held these misogynistic beliefs in spite of, not because of, the biblical teachings. Those who dishonor God by dishonoring His good creation of woman allow themselves to be shaped by the beliefs of the surrounding pagan, anti-female culture instead of following Paul’s exhortation to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). The church in North America does the same thing today by allowing the secular culture to shape our thinking more than the Bible. Only nine percent of Americans claiming to be born-again have a biblical worldview. The church in Africa and Asia does the same thing today by allowing animism, the traditional folk religion, to shape their thinking more than the Bible.

It’s unfortunate that some of the church fathers did not allow the woman-honoring principles found in Scripture to change their unbiblical beliefs. But that is the failing of imperfect followers of Jesus, not a failure of God nor of His Word. Jesus loves women.

Effects of Christianity on Culture

As Christianity spread throughout the world, its redemptive effects elevated women and set them free in many ways. The Christian ethic declared equal worth and value for both men and women. Husbands were commanded to love their wives and not exasperate their children. These principles were in direct conflict with the Roman institution of patria potestas, which gave absolute power of life and death over a man’s family, including his wife. When patria potestas was finally repealed by an emperor who was moved by high biblical standards, what a tremendous effect that had on the culture! Women were also granted basically the same control over their property as men, and, for the first time, mothers were allowed to be guardians of their children.

The biblical view of husbands and wives as equal partners caused a sea change in marriage as well. Christian women started marrying later, and they married men of their own choosing. This eroded the ancient practice of men marrying child brides against their will, often as young as eleven or twelve years old. The greater marital freedom that Christianity gave women eventually gained wide appeal. Today, a Western woman is not compelled to marry someone she does not want, nor can she legally be married as a child bride. But the practice continues in parts of the world where Christianity has little or no presence.

Another effect of the salt and light of Christianity was its impact on the common practice of polygamy, which demeans women. Many men, including biblical heroes, have had multiple wives, but Jesus made clear this was never God’s intention. Whenever he spoke about marriage, it was always in the context of monogamy. He said, “The two [not three or four] will become one flesh.” As Christianity spread, God’s intention of monogamous marriages became the norm.

Two more cruel practices were abolished as Christianity gained influence. In some cultures, such as India, widows were burned alive on their husbands’ funeral pyres. In China, the crippling practice of foot binding was intended to make women totter on their pointed, slender feet in a seductive manner. It was finally outlawed only about a hundred years ago.

As a result of Jesus Christ and His teachings, women in much of the world today, especially in the West, enjoy more privileges and rights than at any other time in history. It takes only a cursory trip to an Arab nation or to a Third World country to see how little freedom women have in countries where Christianity has had little or no presence. It’s the best thing that ever happened to women.

Anybody can say they love Jesus or that they’re a Christian. But how do you know, when you’re falling in love with someone, whether he is the real deal? The Bible doesn’t mention the kind of dating relationships we see today; in fact, the only romantic relationships portrayed are either marriage relationships or adulterous relationships. What this means is that a Christian boyfriend should be, first and foremost, a man you plan to marry or at least someone who would make a good Christian husband. A Christian woman should be looking for someone who is serious about God and serious about his relationship with her. A Christian boyfriend isn’t dating just for fun; he has marriage in mind.

The Bible is full of verses that describe what a Christian man should be like, verses that are helpful and trustworthy for a woman who is evaluating a potential husband. The following are some guidelines based on those verses. A Christian boyfriend should be

Humble and teachable: The Bible tells us that a righteous man, or a wise man, will take instruction gladly, even when it hurts him (Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 9:9, 12:15). A righteous man evidences a willingness to be corrected by Scripture and a tendency to love and listen to those who can teach him from the Scripture.

Honest: Do his actions agree with his words? The Bible says that a righteous man is characterized by honesty in his personal and business dealings (Ephesians 4:28). In addition, when he makes a promise, a Christian man keeps his promise, even when it hurts (Psalm 15:2-5). In short, his character should be one of integrity.

Selfless: The Bible speaks specifically to husbands when it tells them to love their wives as they love their own bodies, just like Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25-28). A Christian boyfriend should begin to exhibit this kind of care and love for his girlfriend long before marriage. Love is easy in the romantic beginning stages, but a Christian boyfriend should be the kind of man whose behavior and intentions will be loving in all kinds of circumstances (1 John 3:18).

Able and willing to provide: The Bible says that a man who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). Provision doesn’t necessarily mean “bringing in a lot of money.” The issue is whether he takes responsibility for the welfare of his wife and children. It is important for women to grasp the seriousness of this verse. A man who doesn’t want to provide is very hard for a woman to respect, and if a wife struggles to respect her husband, marital troubles will go beyond the material. A woman’s respect for her husband and a man’s love for his wife are interdependent and life-giving to a marriage (Ephesians 5:25-32).

Willing to proactively protect: Both physically and emotionally, women tend to be weaker and more easily hurt than men. They need to be understood and protected and cared for in a proactive way. A good Christian boyfriend is a man who will look out for and care for his girlfriend and carry this passion for protecting her on into marriage (1 Peter 3:7).

Also, here are some negative things to watch out for: materialism (1 John 2:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:10), lying (Proverbs 12:22;19:22), sexual unfaithfulness (Ecclesiastes 7:26; Proverbs 7) and poor treatment of family members, especially his mother (Proverbs 15:20; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22). Usually, a man’s treatment of his mother is a good indication of how he will treat his wife. Also, watch out for irrationally and controlling or jealous tendencies, as these often lead to violence (Proverbs 6:34; 27:4).

Finally, a Christian boyfriend is one with whom a woman is evenly matched. First, in the spiritual sense – a couple’s relationship with God should be the primary factor in any relationship, and they should be matched in that regard. Believers are commanded to marry other believers (2 Corinthians 6:14), so there is no reason to be dating an unbeliever. But a couple should also be evenly matched in the more practical aspects, having compatible temperaments, similar energy levels, and shared life-goals and interests. These things add tremendously to happiness in a relationship.

In addition to all this, if a man has a good sense of humor and a steady, cheerful disposition, this is wonderfully encouraging for his wife. Nobody can be “up” all the time, but a man who is characterized by the peace and joy of the Spirit is a real catch. Life is hard, and marriage is hard, too. There will be times of sadness, and there will be conflict. Because of this, a cheerful, encouraging spouse is a real blessing (Proverbs 16:24; 17:22; 15:30).

When we think of sexual purity, some call to mind a maiden, sitting in the forest, with a unicorn’s head in her lap. Others think of a bride presenting herself for the first time to her groom on their wedding night. Virginity is not something to be worshiped. It’s not about cultural shame. It’s about the way God designed us and the really hard battle of following Him.

There are three serious reasons to save sex for marriage. First, because as believers, we are to obey what God tells us to do. First Corinthians 6: 18-20 states, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” If we are in Christ, we have allowed Him to purchase us with the sacrifice of His blood. In exchange for eternal life, we are to trust that He knows what is best for us, and obey Him.

The second reason is similar. Avoiding sexual immorality is a contest of our new nature in Christ and our fleshly desires. First Thessalonians 4:3-7 says, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” Allowing your body to control your actions is an act of defiance against God. Godly sex is giving. Using someone else to fulfill a desire of the flesh is selfish and abusive. Even if the partner is willing, you are still helping them to sin and negatively altering their relationship with God and others.

The final reason is somewhat more practical. Paul talked of the “mystery” of marriage (Ephesians 5:31). When God spoke of two people being joined as one, He was referring to something we’re only beginning to understand in a real, physiological way. When two people are intimate, the hypothalamus releases chemicals that induce feelings of attachment and trust. Having sex outside of marriage means allowing your body to attach to and trust someone whom you do not have a committed relationship with. The definition of trust in the mind deteriorates. To have that kind of link with someone without the security of being in the state of working together toward God is dangerous. Two individuals who are—even mildly—physiologically obsessed with each other but not committed to growing in God as a couple can be torn apart from God and His plans for them.

Conversely, if two people make a conscious, deliberate choice to commit, and then allow the intimacy that releases these chemicals, the body can reaffirm the connection the mind has made. The physiological feelings of trust and attachment are reinforced by the reality of the relationship. In this way, two people become one in a physical way that reflects what God has done spiritually.

The purpose of marriage is to reflect the relationship between the church and Christ and to serve God as a strong, unified partnership. Sex, along with procreation, was designed by God to strengthen that partnership. Sex outside of marriage creates bonds that tear apart people’s hearts instead of joining them together. God can redeem anyone, and He can heal someone who has indulged their flesh instead of controlling their desires. But God designed couples to be joined—spiritually and physically—from a state of purity.

When a Christian woman is looking for a husband, she should seek a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). The most important relationship that any of us have is our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That relationship comes before all others. If our vertical relationship with the Lord is as it should be, then our horizontal relationships will reflect that reality. Therefore, a potential husband should be a man who has his focus upon walking in obedience to God’s Word and who seeks to live so that his life brings glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

What are some other qualities to look for? The apostle Paul gives us the qualities we should look for in a husband in 1 Timothy chapter 3. In this passage are the qualifications for a leader in the church body. However, these qualities should grace the lives of any man who walks “after God’s heart.” The qualities can be paraphrased as follows: a man should be patient and controlled in his demeanor, not filled with pride but of sober mental attitude, able to master his emotions, given to graciousness to others, able to patiently teach, not given to drunkenness or uncontrolled use of any of God’s gifts, not prone to violence, not overly focused upon the details of life but focused upon God, not apt to be a hot-head or be thin-skinned so that he takes offense easily, and grateful for what God has given, rather than envious of what gifts others have received.

The above qualities describe a man who is actively engaged in the process of becoming a mature believer. That is the type of man a woman should look for as a potential husband. Yes, physical attraction, similar interests, complementary strengths and weaknesses, and the desire for children are things to consider. These things, though, must be secondary to the spiritual qualities a woman should look for in a man. A man you can trust, respect, and follow in the path of godliness is of far greater value than a man of good looks, fame, power, or money.

Finally, when “looking” for a husband, we must be surrendered to God’s will in our lives. Every woman wants to find her “prince charming,” but the reality is that she will probably marry a man with as many flaws as she has. Then, by God’s grace, they will spend the rest of their lives together learning how to be a partner to, and servant of, each other. We must enter into the second most-important relationship of our lives (marriage), not under an emotional cloud, but with eyes wide open. Our most important relationship, with our Lord and Savior, has to be the focus of our lives.

This question is especially important to Christian women. Does the Word of God address feminism? The modern concept of feminism was not present during the time that the Bible was written, but that does that mean that the Bible has nothing to say on the basic issues of feminism. Even when the Scriptures seem to be silent on something that affects us today, there are eternal principles that speak to the underlying issue.

What are the issues of feminism? Feminism is a counterfeit solution to the real issue of the inequality of women in a sinful society. Feminism arrogates to itself the right to demand respect and equality in every aspect of life. Feminism is based in arrogance, and it is the opposite of the call to the born-again believer to be a servant. The actions of the modern, militant feminists are geared to cause women to rise up and rebel against the order that God has given to mankind. That brand of feminism seeks to impose humanistic solutions that are in direct opposition to the Word of God. Feminism was originally a positive movement, focused on giving women the basic rights God intends for every human being to have. Tragically, feminism has gone past those roots to focus on destroying any trace of a distinction in roles between men and women.

What then should be the view of a Christian about feminism? A believing woman, who is seeking to obey God and walk in peace and grace, should remember that she has equal access to all spiritual blessings in Christ. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). A believing woman should not allow herself to be a pawn in the worldly agenda of the feminist movement. Men and women have a God-given privilege to fulfill the plan He has set for us. Rebellion against that plan and the arrogance that seeks to put self above God’s Word result in very difficult consequences. We see those consequences in the destruction of the relationship between husbands and wives, the destruction of the family, and the loss of respect for human life.

“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). The principles of the fall are present in this verse. Eve believed the lie that eating the fruit would bring her wisdom. She lusted and she took or arrogated to herself something that was forbidden. This is the basis for the feminist movement. Women have bought into the lie that feminism will bring them what they want, what they think that they “deserve.” However, the promise is empty for the premise is based in pride and pride goes before a fall. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

In the last decades, there has been the rise of a society that is so concerned with political correctness and so sensitive to being “offended” that civility has lost its way. However, this is really nothing new for there has always been inequality in the world. It is sad but true that artificial barriers that have no basis in God’s Word have always divided humanity. There is only one race—the human race! Within that race are male and female, different ethnicities, different colors, and different national origins. It is sin in the heart that causes inequality. It is sin in the heart that causes men to treat women in ways that are meant to demean. It is sin that sets one person above another. And it is sin that seeks to use counterfeit solutions to counteract these inequalities. The only true cure for inequality is obedience to God’s Word. If men and women would walk in obedience to God’s Word, feminism would be unmasked for what it is, and the harmony that God has ordained for the relationship between men and women would result.