First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
“I think Paul hates women,” she said. She knew it was a provocative thing to say in a Bible study, but I also think she meant it. This woman had read this passage and others within Paul’s letters and come to that conclusion. She believed that Paul was a misogynist. That began a long conversation. I am not sure that I ever completely disabused her of that opinion, but I learned a great deal. I came to discover that her real beef was not actually with Paul so much, but with those who had used Paul’s words to belittle and denigrate her considerable skills and potential contributions to the kingdom of Christ. She really did not want to be a pastor, but she wanted to serve, and she had a lot she could have contributed. Yet time and again, men had told her that her leadership skills, her insights, her ideas were somehow less important because she was a woman and not a man. Let’s just be clear here. That is not what Paul is saying and they should not have done that. I can see why she said what she said, even if I disagree with her.
Her words that day sat there, a little like a bomb, on the table around which we had gathered. My friend, and I count her as a friend, was right in that things needed a little stirring. Some of this is culturally conditioned. Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus where the sexually saturated cult of Artemis was led by a priestess served by 1000 eunuchs. Paul might have had good reason to chart another course for the roles of women in the church in Ephesus. But this is not our situation. We need to listen carefully. Paul says nothing about the talent, skill, or leadership abilities of women here. He speaks to a role, rooted in Genesis in which men and women are to work together for each other’s benefit.
I surely do not have all the answers and a brief devotional is hardly the space where such things can be done. We need to watch our words carefully and listen to the hurt and frustration of those who perceive a bias against them. We also need to remember and assert: God has gifted his people with various gifts. We serve Him well when we use them to His glory.