Be kind to your sisters, always, it’s a mandate, a commandment, not optional. I’m laughing here but the struggle is real, too. Some sisters are not so easy to love.
I have 3 daughters, a very challenging mother, a lost sister, and 9 sister in-laws. So in my mind, girls are to always hold hands when they cross the street, to lift up and encourage one another, and to never compete over anything……except perhaps softball. No comparisons, no envy, nothing but kindness and empathy towards one another at all times. We’re all in this together.
I actually believe that is how women were designed, to work cooperatively, to be somewhat collective and community oriented. One woman alone is kind of weak and vulnerable, 5 of us together are formidable. So just from a biological context, it makes a lot of sense.
Then common sense, biological truth, and biblical values, slam up into the world and everything just goes all haywire. Now we’re plagued with an advertising industry that makes its living off of dishing out envy, quests for status, feelings of unworthness…….and of course the product that will cure all that.
There is another problem, you get into patriarchal systems where power for women is very limited, and you set up this dynamic where women compete for every scrap, where her very survival is dependent on knocking out the competition. That is part of the reason why it is usually the women who perpetuate, advocate the atrocities like child abuse, foot binding, female genital mutilation, executions.
“Patriarchy” is not the problem, perversions of patriarchy are, and there is a big difference. I’m thinking of a dancing girl in the bible, one inspired by another woman in a quest to curry favor with a king, that eventually resulted in getting John the Baptist’s head on a platter. That is the darker nature of women fighting for some status, for some power, for some favor.
It’s not politically correct to say this, but what women are often competing for is the favor, power, and approval of men. Supply and demand is at play here. So when the favor, power, and approval of men is rich and abundant you tend to have happy women and thriving communities. When it is scarce, you see the darker side of human nature come out and it can be very dark indeed.
There are multiple examples of God calling the woman away from that scarcity mentality, away from that viciousness that wants to tear one another down. Miriam for example, there is suddenly scarcity, strife, resentment towards Moses’ wife and we hear it in her words, “Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” The Lord hears it in her words too, and He isn’t happy. She is eventually forgiven however, interceded for.
That is the lesson I take away from Miriam, don’t go to that place of scarcity and limited power, that place that tries to suggest you haven’t got enough authority of your own. God is an abundant river, an eternal spring, there is no way for anyone else to be “hogging all the water,” all the Living Water.
On the internet I sometimes bump into the 1 Timothy 2:12 girls, a bit comical when I am in a good mood, because they will really mess with your head. While they are tearing down their sisters, pouring out words of condemnation, they are actually teaching. Like, have they ever considered the possibility that those words are really meant for them?
All in good humor here, but sometimes God will give us a word and it isn’t meant for anyone else at all, He is actually speaking to you, personally. God is telling YOU to be quiet, not to go on facebook and twitter and start pouring out all this venom that apparently applies to everybody in the world BUT you.
I have a different take on Paul’s words to women in the early church, one that feels far more real to me, one that seems to jump out at me from those passages, evidence of the rivalries and competition of women, the quests for social status and power.
Braided hair and elegant jewels are not so much about immodesty as they are about making your less affluent sisters feel inferior. Even head coverings are not about inferiority, but about equalizing our status with one another. Many temple prostitutes, widows, and the very poor had shaved heads. These are the days of rampant head lice and hard labor. Long hair is a pain to take care of. Also, in grief, sorrow, and loss women will sometimes shave their heads.
So head coverings rather than being a symbol of oppression, were actually a great equalizer, an elevation of status. We are all now unified, under His cover and protection. What has been taken from you is now restored.
If you read about Paul’s great fondness for women, Lydia of the purple cloth for example, women have a great deal of influence going on in the early church. They are not passive bystanders in any way, many of them are out spreading the gospel, risking their lives, hosting the church in their homes.
And as is also the nature of women, probably competing for some favor and social status and sowing discord in the process. We do that to this day, so there is no reason to believe that wasn’t going on long ago, and a big part of it probably had a whole lot to do with women’s propensity to be unkind to one another. A propensity that is sometimes unintentional and sometimes deliberate.
My heart just sinks when I see women preaching unkindness towards other women in the name of Jesus Christ. It hits me in the pit of the stomach becasue while I can see through the transparency, others cannot, others will believe the bitterness they sense in your own heart, is actually the Father’s heart for His daughters, too. That lie, that deception, does a powerful kind of harm in the world, the fruits of which I’ve seen often.
So, be kind to your sisters, always, is really a mandate, not just for men, but for women too, and it’s a good one for many complex and varied reasons, all having to do with building unity among one another at the foot of the cross.