In my last pastorate, I was invited to hold a monthly service at an assisted living center. Each time I led this worship gathering and preached, one faithful attendee came armed with her Bible and a frown. She would sit near the front and, as the service closed and I walked about to greet my white haired “congregants,” she always brought me the same admonishment. “What do you do with the verse that says, ‘Women are to keep silent?'” she would ask with a stony face and cold condemnation.
The first few times I spoke with her, I tried to explain about the verse, Greek, punctuation, the cultural context, the whole canon of scripture, (everything in my tool kit!), but I soon found she would have none of it. So, I simply came to expect the frown, “the slap,” and the impossibility of having her understand. I would love her to have known that I once questioned my own pastoral call as a woman, but the Lord was faithful and wouldn’t let up on the call or the reassurance that the strange, new gifts and urges that I was experiencing were from the Spirit.
Well, I have to say that God in God’s wonderful goodness continues to show me the wealth of that canon that I had put forth as my defense. I was reading in Proverbs recently and was reminded of the support for the egalitarian perspective in so many passages of Scripture.
Proverbs 6:20-23 says:
My son, keep your father’s command (mitzvah) and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (torah). Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.
I am touched by the coupling of the father’s instruction or commands with the mother’s. And this is no lightweight word that is used for her teaching, as we know. The word “torah” is also used for the Mosaic or Deuteronomic law, for prophetic utterances. Wow! But that mom and dad are mentioned in the same sentence and then this thought reiterated again for emphasis by saying “the commands are a lamp” (father’s contribution) and the “teaching is a light,” (mother’s contribution) is refreshing. The mother is declared an appropriate teacher and her guidance of the son to be essential. Mother and father provide something for the son’s safe and wise walk, and neither one is dispensable or less trustworthy.
One could say, “Ah, but she is teaching a child” – that’s permitted. However, the teaching that follows, for many verses, is pretty steamy stuff about adultery so the recipient would seem to be a young man.
The reminder that there are many pieces of evidence in God’s Word that support the godly teaching of women brings fresh blessing and peace. I remember my white-haired antagonist with gentleness, knowing that I never saw the joy of the Lord in her. I can’t imagine the teaching and church culture she must have been subjected to in her younger days!! Yet, this teaching still exists. I am glad for my freedom and my call. Thank you, my sweet Lord.