Several years ago I was at a military graduation. It was impressive how these young men and women wholeheartedly committed themselves to serving our country. The honor demonstrated in the ceremony was truly inspiring and I was challenged that day to review my own definition of honor. It is a journey I am still traveling.
Honor shows respect.
I must admit that I see few examples of honor. We live in a society that reminds me of Judges 17:6, which says, “….All the people did what was right in their own eyes.”
The worldview in the 21st century is often determined by social media sites which are inundated with extremely offensive material that promotes (even celebrates) dishonoring women. Pop culture is the most disturbing. Young women are parading around half dressed, promoting very inappropriate behavior (often unopposed). It is part of an insatiable cultural appetite.
Dishonoring women is not a new thing. Every generation recycles disrespect. However, the envelope is now being pushed off the table. I often wonder where these visual obsessions will take us. We need places where women can have truthful dialogue. Could the absence of dialogue be one reason we are not creating an awareness that promotes action?
It is sad to hear that many women in the church have fewer safe places to tell their stories. Do we really think this cultural appetite is not affecting women at all levels?
As women leaders, we need to actively advocate for each other. When we are distracted or overwhelmed we often do not notice those who are coming behind us. In a society that is becoming more impatient and rude, it is a friendly reminder to show intentionality. The reality is that not every road is paved for women. Most of us do not even consider how many women are bypassed every year for positions of authority within the church strictly because of gender. We fail to notice the effects these cultural appetites are having on our youth.
Thankfully, we are seeing more women who are creatively building bridges and breaking new ground. It is inspiring, but it is hard work and a slow process. Often we are so disillusioned by what we see that we give up far too easily.
Honor takes a stand.
Women are facing formidable obstacles that create (as one colleague called it) “gender brokenness.” Addressing issues of biblical gender equality can still be (at times) costly and messy. Women are often leaving our churches wounded, disillusioned, and tired of fighting. The church can bring significant healing by following the example of Jesus who publicly affirmed women.
Finding ways to honor the fearless women who are bravely stepping into roles traditionally held by men takes courage. The church has an opportunity to open doors, train, educate, and mentor women. We can also make a definitive stand against women being dishonored in any manner and unapologetically advocate the message of biblical gender equality. We have a new generation of younger girls who are becoming more provocative as they model the cultural icons. Could it be that the lack of visible women leaders within the church is creating a vacuum?
Silence dishonors women. It is often motivated by the fear of others or an inner desire to please people at the expense of pleasing God. By affirming the call of women at all levels of leadership we (the church) may get some pushback from non-advocates, but the flip side is that we also build communities, enlist brave advocates and honor the call of God in women. Isn’t it time we boldly draw a line in the sand?
The truth is we need laborers (male and female) to send into the fields that are ready to be harvested. As leaders it is important that we celebrate the victories, pave the way when needed, and get in the trenches. We also need to boldly speak truth. Being lulled into a passive Pollyanna mentality that proclaims that all is well only further alienates us from the truth. We will lose an entire generation of women if we don’t learn how to honor. It is time we address this issue in the church and teach future generations of women to honor God and themselves.
In the 21st century we need female role models in the church. Women of the word mentoring the church that creates a legacy of positive role models of leadership. As we look closer at our world, the church, and the ever-growing societal obsession with inappropriate images of women, we have much work to do. My prayer is that the church will be willing to go places of biblical gender equality we have not yet been. Is this possible with the cultural appetites that draw many to dishonor women in and outside the church? Time will tell….