Yesterday, during the message I noted that the Philippian church was started with women, and that among them was one particularly strong woman named Lydia.
All too often, people assume that Christianity is a male-dominated faith, but in reality, women have played crucial roles in its development at every stage.
- Jesus’ mother Mary played a prominent role in the lives of his early followers. In the book of Acts, the author goes out of his way to note that Mary was with the disciples when the Holy Spirit fell upon the church at Pentecost.
- A number of women – mostly the mothers and aunts of the disciples – are seen following Jesus in the gospels, including after his death.
- Jesus’ ministry was mostly financed and provided for by women.
- Jesus interacts with a number of women who become witnesses to his miracles.
Especially in Philippi, women were foundations of the congregation. Although there were clearly male leaders in the congregation at the time Paul wrote his letter – chief among them Epaphroditus (2:25) – the women were there at the beginning.
One woman among the others stands out to us, and that is Lydia. She is referred to only three times in the Scriptures, all in Acts 16. But it is clear from the references that she was a businesswoman of substantial means. She was used to getting things done and being forceful when necessary.
I think that many male church leaders are intimidated by women like Lydia. If we’re honest, men in our society still have something of a medieval attitude toward women. I don’t mean this in a negative way. It is just that in medieval society, women were treated as objects of affection. This is the source of chivalry – this idea that a woman is to be protected.
That’s all fine and good, but there is also something to be said for a strong woman. The woman depicted in Proverbs 31 is not a weak woman, waiting for a man to tell her what to do. She is a partner in her husband’s work. She is confident, strong, and fearless. She couples those attributes with wisdom and submission. The king’s mother concludes:
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears YHWH is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
The word charm could also be translated “sensuality” or “attractiveness” and beauty has as much to do with the physical attributes of physical attractiveness. These things are not be denied (who doesn’t want their wife to be beautiful?) but they are secondary to her internal strength.
When we look at the way our culture views women – particularly young women – is there any doubt that more value is assigned to charm and beauty than it is to internal strength?
Give me a strong woman over a weak man any day. A woman who does not need to rely on charms and beauty to get ahead – a woman who is confident in who God has made her.