In reference to female believers, 1 Peter 3:4 says “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Additionally, on more than one occasion, scripture instructs women to remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Sometimes I wonder how this should play out in my life. What I’m talking about here isn’t about my personality – by nature I’m not typically a loud or argumentative person and I certainly do not crave to be the center of attention! However, I find it extremely difficult to repress the want to share truth and nearly impossible to not speak out about injustice. It seems there are some things I just can’t be quiet about. So, the question is – is this wrong? Looking through scripture, I feel confident that “gentle and quiet” does not mean passionless and silent. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for silence. Sometimes, I just need to bite my tongue. But the bible isn’t suggesting that women should always be silent.
Before we look at how and when we should speak up, let’s look at a couple reasons this is difficult for Christian women:
· Due to the time and the culture at the time the bible was written, much of it is addressed to “men” or “brothers”. Unfortunately, sometimes this makes it easy for some women to justify ignoring part of the bible’s instructions and easy for some men to justify limiting or devaluing women’s roles as Christians.
· Often times “gentle and quiet spirit” is defined based on gender norms created, not by God, but by our society that are not only outdated, but simply not biblical. The basic principles in the bible that teach us how to live godly lives are applicable to everyone, regardless of gender.
So, when should we speak up and how do we do this in a gentle way? As you read, I challenge you to consider if you’ve ever held back or been held back by others in any of these areas simply because you are a woman.
1. Women should encourage, build up, teach, and be an example to other women.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:3-5
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
2. Women should share their testimony and hope.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15-16
“…’Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19
3. Women should speak with love, wisdom and kindness.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” Ephesians 4:15
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:25-26
4. Women should speak out against sin.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
“If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
5. Women should advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8
As seen throughout scripture, God does not instruct women to sit on the sidelines, silently watching others. It is very clear that we are to encourage and build up others, to share our testimony, to call out sin, and to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized. The key to “gentle and quite” is not silence, turning a blind eye, or disengagement, it is love. Are you saying things that build up other women or tear them down? Do your words set an example of a godly woman? Are you willing to share how Jesus changed your life? Do you call out sin so you can belittle or degrade someone or justify gossiping, or do you call out sin in a way that is gentle and kind to bring your sister back to the foot of the cross? Are you willing to stand up for justice for those who cannot advocate for themselves? When you choose to speak, or not speak, are you choosing what brings glory to God?
If you’re interested in more content on biblical womanhood and the roles of women in the church be on the lookout for a new study titled “What Makes a Godly Woman”. More details coming soon!
*The content above is based on my understanding of scripture through my personal study and counsel from Christian leaders. There are people who will disagree with me. The good news is, there is grace for that – for them and for me.