Women's Rights...or Wrongs?

by Jan Silvious

Sometimes it grieves me to be a woman in this generation. I think it hurts most when I see women shaking their fists in the face of God, and saying "I'll do what I want to do with my own body!" And when I hear the rhetoric of strong feminists who seem to dominate the secular media, I want to say, "Wait a minute! Don't you know your own history? Don't you know that Christ liberated women two thousand years ago?"

In Ephesians 5:33, Paul, another of God's men who is accused by the feminists of being biased toward women, wrote these words: "Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

No one in the [twenty-first] century can fully appreciate what a radical statement this was in the day that it was written. Though we have come to accept this as a standard for marriage, it was a very different story in Paul's day. According to Barclay:

"The Jews had a low view of women. In the Jewish form of morning prayer there was a sentence in which a Jewish man every morning gave thanks that God had not made him ‘a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.' Under Jewish law, a woman was an object. She was not considered a person. And broadly speaking, a husband under Jewish law could divorce his wife for any cause; a wife could divorce her husband for no cause.

"In the Greek world, the situation was more drastic. Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes said, ‘We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and for having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.' The Greek expected his wife to run his home, to care for his children; but he found his pleasure and his companionship elsewhere."*

Roman life was even worse. Seneca writes that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married.

It was against this background that Paul writes. To compound the problem, he risked stating an unpopular view: "There is a better way."

Like the men and women of our generation, the people of the first century thought the whole concept of fidelity, love, and mutual submission was stuffy. After all, they, like we, wanted to be free to do what they wanted with their own bodies.

When I see women march for reproductive freedom and for feminist causes, I wonder what that must do to the heart of God, who so long ago said that if we will live in love and in mutual submission, then we will be fulfilled and blessed and experience joy.

I regularly talk with women who believe they can live any way they want, whether inside the bond of marriage or outside. But they are miserable, hurt, feel cheated, and are depressed. I believe it all goes back to the fact that we are either going to do things God's way or we are going to reap a bitter harvest.

Oh, my dear sister, let us not be duped by the lie of "doing it my way." God sent His Son to deliver an "emancipation proclamation" from every form of bondage. Women-and men-who will accept His saving grace are liberated from the tyranny of sin.


*William Barclay, Daily Study Bible: Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, Westminister, 1976

From The 5-Minute Devotional, ©Zondervan, 1991

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