Have we been selling our daughters an incomplete gospel?
Let’s do a thought experiment for a minute. Imagine everything you’ve been told the gospel is–about how Jesus saves, and what that means.
Now imagine that you’re actually Jesus (if that isn’t too sacreligious to do.) You have just finished 40 days of temptation in the desert. You’re wrestled with God and the devil. And you’re about to start the public ministry that you came to earth to do.
You walk into a synagogue in Nazareth, and you think, “how can I summarize this message that I am giving? What can I tell these people so that they get a glimpse of the gospel?”
And you open up and read from the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And then you announce, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Is this the message you would have preached, given what you know of the gospel?
I remember as a teenager reading this passage and seeing it all metaphorically. Yes, the blind will see, the prisoners will be freed, and the poor will have good news, because now we have salvation in Christ, because He will die on the cross for their sins.
The blind seeing; the poor having good news; the prisoners free–all of this was a metaphor for Jesus dying on the cross.
Is that what you were taught?
I was taught that Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, and believing in Him for eternal life, was the purpose of everything, and nothing else really mattered. That was the whole point. We have forgiveness of sins and salvation in Christ.
There’s only one problem: That’s not what Jesus said here.
He quoted that whole passage about good news and freedom, and then He said, “today that has been fulfilled.” He didn’t say–it WILL be fulfilled when I am offered up. He didn’t say, It’s fulfilled because I’m here and we all know what I’m going to do in a few years. No, He said it was fulfilled today.
Jesus walking among them, the kingdom of God being at hand, was already good news.
The good news is not just the cross–the cross and the resurrection is the culmination of the good news, but Jesus Himself was already good news.
Jesus Himself was already changing things.
When I saw that phrase, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” I realized there was something missing in my faith. I realized my faith was centered on the sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection, rather than on Jesus. I needed to take a step back and see the total picture, not just the climax and the ending.
Because unless we see the whole picture, we won’t understand the climax and the ending.
Jesus came to show us who God is.
Jesus came to show us what a different kind of kingdom, and a different kind of king. Jesus came to turn everything that we experience upside down. And in turning, there is good news. There is freedom for the oppressed; sight for the blind; good news for the poor.
And what Jesus was turning on its head was the way that we thought about power and God’s favor.
Jesus was God come in the flesh, but He didn’t hang out with the powerful. He hung out with fishermen; with shepherds; with women; with tax collectors; even with prostitutes. He hung out with the people who were largely invisible, showing that, in God’s eyes, the way that we conceive of importance is upside down.
He showed that the way that we are to live is not to try to gain power over others, but instead to serve, in community. That we are to love one another and care for one another, and not jostle for power. In fact, power was something that shouldn’t even be a part of what we’re trying to do:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus came to show us how God sees us and how we are to live–and that is good news!
We have Billy-Graham-ified the gospel, so that it’s mainly about saying a prayer, believing in Jesus’ sacrifice, and then we’re getting into heaven. But if you look at Jesus’ life, this is such a small part of what Jesus taught. He showed us instead how to live, and what the kingdom of God looked like, and that was good news for people who were often overlooked.
In Jesus’ death, we see the completion of what power means to God. There is power in sacrifice; It is a different kind of power than we are used to. But in that sacrifice, we are both forgiven and death and power have been overcome, because Jesus shows us another way.
Have we given this good news to our daughters?
We hve condensed the gospel to a soundbite and ignored what Jesus said in Luke 4 (and everywhere else!). We have told our little girls, and our little boys, that they just need to pray to receive Jesus and then they will be in heaven and everything is great.
But have we also told them that Jesus came to set the captives free? That Jesus came to tell us that we aren’t to use wordly ways of gaining power, and we aren’t to see power the way the world does–a way that excludes people; that hurts people; that oppresses people. Have we told them that Jesus came to show us how to love others, and that everyone is equal in this kingdom? That we are all sons and daughters of God, together?
Christianity got a bad rap in the first few centuries because it was the religion of “women and slaves.” The downtrodden flocked to Jesus. That was seen as the weakness in Christianity–people didn’t realize it was actually its strength.
Modern Christianity has welcomed girls–if they stay in their place.
We have told girls that they talk too much. We have told them that their bodies are dangerous to men, and that girls and women are responsible for making sure men don’t sin sexually by covering up when they’re teens; by staying invisible and in the background as much as possible; and, once married, by having sex often so men aren’t tempted.
We have told girls that their voices don’t matter and that they are easily deceived, and so they need to submit to men’s leadership in the home, in the church, everywhere. We have told girls that they don’t need respect, but that men and boys do, so it’s their job to boost up the men in their lives, because they were actually put here to be supports, rather than the main story.
The boys are the big story; the girls are the sidekicks, the ones that get the sandwiches and make the food and cheer the men on.
And we have told them that this is how God sees them and how God made them; God made girls’ bodies to be intoxicating to the men around them, and men can’t help but be intoxicated. That God made women to be second to the men.
But then we say: But God loves you jsut as much. Jesus saved you just as much. Don’t worry, because the cross is for you too, and that’s all that matters!
Guess what? That’s not good news for girls.
Our survey of 7000 predominantly evangelical women, looking at how messages and experiences in church as teens affected them longterm, found that these messages that marginalize girls hurt girls. They aren’t good news. They result in worse marital and sexual satisfaction long term. Worse self-esteem. Higher likelihood of marrying abusers. Even higher rates of sexual pain.
We are not giving our girls the good news.
But believing in Jesus is a good thing for girls! Faith is a positive thing. Jesus is worth clinging to.
It is only when we distort the gospel, leaving out Jesus’ character and design for us, that bad things start to happen.
We have preached a truncated gospel. We have told girls: Jesus came to die for your sins, but power and hierarchy and you being at the bottom? That’s all good! That’s all God ordained! All that other stuff that Jesus said, and how Jesus acted? That’s not the main thing. The main thing is simply you’re a sinner, and you need forgiveness.
It’s like the only thing that matters is Christmas and Easter, and Jesus’ actual life doesn’t count for anything.
The things that Jesus said, how He acted–those don’t count for anything.
But Jesus matters. Jesus is good news.
Not only Jesus’ death–but Jesus Himself. Everything that He is. Because today that scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The Kingdom of God is among us.
Tomorrow is a big day for us.
In many ways, our book The Great Sex Rescue was a work of passion. All of us–Rebecca, Joanna, and me–needed to write it because we were so passionate about saving couples from toxic teachings that were hurting women. What was and is being taught in evangelicalism isn’t okay.
Tomorrow She Deserves Better launches. And while we’re just as passionate, this is even more a labour of love for all of us. All of us have daughters (one of my daughters is even co-authoring this with me). All of us know what it is to grow up in church feeling less than because you’re a girl.
All of us have encountered The Carpenter who doesn’t see us as less than; who thinks we’re worth talking to. Who loves us just as much as He loves our brothers. Who values us.
And we want that for our daughters. We don’t want half a gospel. We don’t want them to feel cut off, insignificant. We want them to experience good news.
Because she deserves better.
And whether you are reading this book to help you parent your daughters better, or whether you are reading it to re-parent little 15-year-old you, we want you to know: we see you. And you deserve better, too.
What do you think? Have we missed the point of Jesus’ life? How has this affected the way you see women? Let’s talk in the comments!
All About She Deserves Better!
Podcasts about She Deserves Better:
- Do Girls Talk Too Much?
- Should We Kiss Dating Goodbye? What Dating Rules Work Best
- How Did Modesty Messages Affect Teen Girls Long Term?
- Why Are Women Supporting the Modesty Messages? Plus How Youth Groups Handle Date Rape
- Trauma, EMDR, and "Himpathy" (and why we sympathize with abusers)
- "Nice Guy Syndrome" and Boundaries
- What We're Fighting For: A Glimpse 20 Years Down the Road
- Pink and Blue Faith: Plus We Take a Submission Quiz!
Posts about She Deserves Better:
- 10 Defining Features of Purity Culture We Need to Eliminate
- How did we think calling 8-year-old girls' bellies "intoxicating" was okay?
- The data on why we need to stop calling girls "stumbling blocks"
- Feeling responsible for her own Sexual Assault: A Youth Group Case Study
- What do the toxic teachings have in common?
- Are we giving our daughters only half the gospel?
- 32 Things Your Daughter Deserves to Know
- 3 Things That Make it More Likely Your Daughter Will Marry an Abuser
Get She Deserves Better in paperback or ebook, or listen on audio!
We miss a LOT about Jesus when churches spend so much time telling women what they have to do (sacrifice everything we want/need, have sex joyfully, keep the body type he wants, do most of the behind-the-scenes work) and aren’t allowed to do (anything not in the kitchen or nursery) based on their interpretation of the Bible.
We miss a lot when churches focus so much on what men can’t do (control lust/not watch porn/sex traffic) and what they should do (lead and maintain full control).
Truthfully, the way these messages are presented, it makes men look like pathetic toddlers in horny bodies that can’t control themselves much less love and serve like Christ, whereas women end up looking like the only ones that truly live sacrificial lives as Jesus. I have way more respect for women than men based on these teachings, which seems really unfair to the men as well.
When these messages are being pushed so much more than the rest of the Bible, we miss more of Jesus, of God, of the Spirit. Even just hearing words from Isaiah and Luke here was refreshing because so much of what your mission has been recently is correcting false teachers that focus on certain verses. I’m sure you’d love to get back to a greater focus on making marriages amazing, godly, and fun, instead of running so much damage control in the hopes of healing so many of us in need of healing.
Believing in God and Jesus, and praying, and accepting Him into your heart as your Lord and Savior is the path to Heaven, and is the Good News.
But, it’s only THE BEGINNING. We are also called to be good to each other, and treating all people as equally valuable in our eyes and God’s eyes no matter their body parts (or other demographics) is an important of part of how we live as Christians AFTER accepting Jesus.
It seems to me that this message backfired. As a girl and a married woman, I believed that being pretty and sexy and playing dumb was the way to gain male attention. Isn’t that what a lot of advertising is all about? And why women go into a lot of ‘professions’ in the first place? This, in turn makes men expect this, and you have the vicious cycle. I resented it, yet played into it some. I hated playing dumb, and being treated as dumb. Still do. In High School I wanted to take Physics and was told that girls never take Physics because they don’t have the brains for it. I did anyway.
Great thoughts! Yes!!!! Salvation and sanctification are two different things. I’ve been complaining about this lack of focus on sanctification for years, especially in relation to “seeker services.” The Church has been focused on getting people “through the door” of salvation and then just moving on the the next unsaved person . Our faith is about relationship with God through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
When we don’t see people walking faith out – producing good fruit- it is a terrible witness and it brings death, not life. Who wants that? Jesus came to bring us wholeness and life, including eternal life with Him.
So, when the very leaders of the church dig trenches, vie for power, and lord it over others and claim God’s approval? Wow. We are very far from the love and freedom and wholeness Jesus taught about. Seriously. How have we missed the mark for so long? Jesus taught about right relationships, first with God and then with others. Sheila, you are pointing out the lack of mutual submission, treating others like we want to be treated, looking to give instead of get, serving others, and you’re accused of being a “screeching woman” or of working for “satan.” That is really messed up.
As believers, our goal is to follow Jesus to wholeness and right relationships with God, ourselves, and others. Jesus did not teach a power-over theology. Shouldn’t this be obvious?
Hi Jen – I like the comments today but I especially like yours. I am not trying to be negative today nor invite it. But here is what I was thinking today. We have 7 comments today and my comment will be number 8. To me this is an epic post. This says it all. Where is everyone today? Where are all the comments? Is all everyone wants to do is argue and fight? Not even the complimentarians are here to argue. Because there is none! If we were talking about some scripture we would have 80 comments. Here it is – read above – our answer. People should be swooping in on this and there should be 180 Amens in the comments. So that saddens me and why I reply back to your comment. It should be obvious and we should be telling ALL that IT IS OBVIOUS!
Phil, I didn’t comment much for a couple reasons.
One was that I felt that Sheila covered it all. I had nothing to add.
I don’t have a problem making, “Well, said” or “I agree whole-heartedly” comments. I just don’t always feel like they are necessary.
In this case, I really appreciate that Sheila was able to express these thoughts without attitude. (Hoping this means last week’s anger has been dealt with.)
Some of us have been in this fight so long that we have way more ‘attitude’ than the tone police can handle. Sometimes it’s better if we keep quiet and let those who can, make the obvious observations concerning how large portions of the church have misused the Bible and used it against women and girls. It’s better for us to nod silently and agree within while stepping back and letting those who can manage their tone have the floor and say what must to be said concerning how far the church has fallen.
Phil, This verse saved my life when I was so brainwashed that I thought suicide was the only way out of my marriage.
Jesus’ death and resurrection IS the main point, because without it, we would have no hope, no future, no forgiveness, no reconciliation with God… But everything else should flow from that – Christ said that he had come that we might have life in all its fullness! And He has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us.
(NB: I’m not sure it’s fair to brand the idea that being a Christian is just saying a prayer to get yourself into heaven as ‘Billy-Graham-ified’. I know several people who became Christians through his meetings and who were very definitely told that giving your life to Christ was just the start. I know it’s popular to criticise and ridicule him today, and no, he certainly was not perfect, but there are many who are serving God faithfully even today because of his ministry.)
Hooray for the whole gospel!! This half-gospel teaching, coupled with the hierarchical teaching, is also the perfect recipe for upholding the status quo of society and the church. Teach men that they’re entitled to power because they’re men, and teach women that they must be silent and submissive because they are women, and no one will make a change.
On a different note – this is small in the grand scope of things, but I just sent an email to a publishing company in my country that sells Every Man’s Battle, outlining the issues of the book (and attaching the pdf), and asking them to reconsider whether they think the book has a Christlike view of people and is something they can endorse. I’m praying for their eyes to be opened and their hearts to be moved, and I would be grateful for help in prayer. It is truly such a destructive book and I really hope they see it.
I always get irked at people who pretend that it wasn’t God who gave me my talents and abilities. Maybe they don’t think of it that way, but when people talk about how girls aren’t as good at math or women aren’t as ambitious or whatever, what they are saying is that my talent didn’t come from God. Or maybe that God gave me far more talent than I deserve but I shouldn’t use it.
Either way, that certainly isn’t the belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of God and God has plans to use all of us and all of the ability He gave to us.
If God wanted me to be a birdbrain, He would have made me a birdbrain. If He wanted me to be a sex object, He would not have made me in His image. If He wanted women to be lesser, Jesus would have preached that nonstop.
I relate to this so much.
I’m neither complementarian nor egalitarian. I just want to find out what it truly means to follow Jesus. As I read through old Bible commentaries, however, I’ve seen too many unkind remarks about women to the point where I’ve wondered if they’re right, and I should make myself small, delete my interests, and only be focused on housework and nothing else. It doesn’t help that I’m a disorganised, introverted type and not good at “traditional homemaking”.
I’m depressed at the level of misogyny in church history.
On a lighter note, your pseudonym is awesome. Charlotte Bronte was way ahead of her time. Kudos to you if you recognise the reference in my screen-name here. 🙂
The other classic example of what you’re talking about is the Great Commission:
“19. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20. teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Mat 28:19-20, NET)
How often have you heard someone focus on v19 and gloss over v20, or leave it out entirely?
Well… they like to make sure us women know we need to obey, with emphasis placed on certain verses, lol! smh
I love how Jesus reminded us that He would always be with us… He knew we would get discouraged and lose heart at times, and His parting words were to give us strength to keep on keeping on. I love that.
Yes, that’s a fair point too!
To be fair, if the verses you’re referring to are what I’m expecting, they weren’t from Jesus.
Nope, they weren’t. 🙂
I’ve heard some people in my former circles of influence describe those verses though as being MORE important because they were the things Jesus meant to emphasize more while He was on earth but didn’t, so He shared them with Paul, etc. … so it’s like He came to fix what He missed, maybe bat a little clean-up.
Since females aren’t really fellow humans, or if they are, they’re not actually made in God’s image, then does it really matter how much of the gospel they get?
We all know “do unto others” and all the one-another verses are really only written for how men should treat other men, not for how men should treat women, and especially not their wives.
Jo, I think that even the most patriarchy of male patriarchs would say that women are human beings, they’re just the ones that cook and clean up after the “important” human beings.
🤣 🤣 🤣
Don’t forget the breeding!
Yes. Or, as they say in the business world, “other duties as assigned”
This has been interesting for me to read, because I never got the idea growing up that I was less than just because I was female, and I grew up entrenched in a conservative but Bible-focused denomination. I went on to be a church worker in that same denomination and I am still in it, though not working anymore by my choice. Interestingly, or denomination does not permit female preachers (which is not 100% agreed with within the church but isn’t a big enough deal for me to go elsewhere). I definitely got pulled into the purity culture as a teen, though, and I can now see how that affected my view of dating and my early marriage relationship. It does sadden me to read that many women feel incredibly undervalued within their churches, and I wonder how many might feel that way within my own church. I do know our church places a high value on the WHOLE Gospel, and helping people grow in faith was what my job was all about, so maybe that’s why I never felt less than – I knew my ID in Christ. But now I want to go out in my church and have conversations with the women about their experiences and foster wholeness and healing!
Jennifer. Ok so this is tough to point out and one not take offense but it has be said here. Since your church does not allow women to preach, I certainly question the suggestion that your church has a high value on the WHOLE Gospel. Last time I checked the WHOLE Gospel women where part of it. In fact, SHE was the first to spread the GOOD NEWS -HE HAS RISEN! That’s the WHOLE GOSPEL. Best to you and your church.
Yes! Well said! The gospel is about bringing the kingdom of heaven to the earth, not just about resurrection after we die. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
This was so good. My copy of the book came in today, and I read the first chapter. So much to think about.
Even this – respectfully – is only half the gospel.
The message is not that Jesus will set all the captives free while we sit back and eat popcorn.
The message is that WE, empowered by the Holy Spirit breathed into us, will set the captives free, because we understand nobody should be captive when all are created in the image of God.
Thank you for sharing this perspective!
I do love how you focus on the aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry as being the whole gospel instead of us merely focusing on saying a prayer and understanding that God loves so we’re saved. Looking at Jesus’ whole life gives us the pattern to which we need to live. Wonderful. You explain from Scripture that “He showed that the way that we are to live is not to try to gain power over others, but instead to serve, in community. That we are to love one another and care for one another, and not jostle for power. In fact, power was something that shouldn’t even be a part of what we’re trying to do.” I agree with you and that is how the Bible teaches.
However, then I believe you turn from the truth Jesus gave us above by declaring the following as questionable or a bad mindset:
“We have told girls: Jesus came to die for your sins, but power and hierarchy and you being at the bottom? That’s all good! That’s all God ordained! All that other stuff that Jesus said, and how Jesus acted? That’s not the main thing. The main thing is simply you’re a sinner, and you need forgiveness”…”We have told girls that they don’t need respect, but that men and boys do, so it’s their job to boost up the men in their lives, because they were actually put here to be supports, rather than the main story.”
In the above you are upset that women should NOT strive for being the main story but are “put here to be supporters”. That it is bad to be on the bottom. That it isn’t God ordained that we boost men up and be their supports. Jesus clearly said (as you quoted) that we are not to strive for power. Why is it in the church that we are constantly striving for it and fighting for it. Why can’t we be satisfied with doing the “invisible” work, the washing of feet, the sitting and teaching and doing life with others as Jesus did? Why isn’t that considered a blessing instead of a curse of not being up on a stage, given a title, and so forth.
I truly think it best if we as women stopped trying to compete for our place and simply sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from Him. I am far from getting there, but my relationship with Him is what is most important not my “power” or what other’s think of me as being important or not. I believe that is what Jesus continually preaches throughout the gospels.