The classic definition of sexism is the economic exploitation and/or social domination of the members of one sex by another. And, most commonly, of women by men. It’s when women are discriminated against – when they are stereotyped, when there is prejudice – just because they are women.
Misogyny – having a misogynistic attitude or being misogynous in your behavior – is about possessing a negative attitude toward women. Having hostility toward women. In fact, the word misogyny literally means someone who is a hater of women.
You can’t get past the opening pages of the Bible without it addressing and denouncing sexism, and making it very clear that it has no place in anything related to God.
When God created mankind, He made us male and female.
Men and women.
And the Bible says that both were made, equally, in the image of God. There’s not more of the image of God in one than the other. And we have been given a mutual charge to steward the world. Together. There is not an ounce of sexism in what God created, how God created, or the intent of God’s creation of us as men and women.
And when sexism became entrenched due to our sinful natures, God wasted no time in addressing its fundamental disorder. Supremely, in the coming of Jesus to planet Earth.
During the time of Jesus, sexism was rampant.
In the Greco-Roman world, this is how devalued women were: if you had a baby girl, you had the option to discard her simply because she was a girl. Parents could just put a baby girl on the doorstep. And then people would come around and take these girls and raise them up to be slaves or prostitutes.
There was even a prayer where Jewish men would thank God they were not a slave, a Gentile or a woman.
Women were treated as mere objects that could be used for work and sexual fulfillment, and then divorced in a heartbeat without any penalty or societal concern. A man could get a divorce from his wife for anything from a badly cooked meal to the mere fact that he found her less beautiful than another woman. And then he could remarry at will, and she was left – much like the baby girl on the doorstep – to fend for herself without any support or any hope.
Jesus didn’t treat, much less view, women that way.
He invited them to follow Him and be among His burgeoning church. He treated them with respect and honor and enormous sensitivity. And He made it clear that they were anything but second-class citizens.
Just think of the events surrounding His resurrection.
After Jesus was resurrected, the first person He talked to was a woman named Mary Magdalene. This is important: the first witness to Jesus after He was raised from the dead was a woman. And not only was she the first witness, but she was also the first person Jesus tasked to go and tell all the men what had happened.
Why is that important?
As already detailed, in the ancient near-east culture of that day, women were extremely low on the societal totem pole. So low that even their testimony was not accepted in the Jewish courts of law. Even if multiple women were eyewitnesses of the same event, their testimony was not acceptable in a court of law.
Yet Jesus purposefully went – first – to a woman and chose her to be His eyewitness. And not simply to other women, but to His male disciples. He could have appeared to anyone, tasked anyone, yet He purposefully chose Mary.
Jesus radically affirmed the full dignity of women and the vital value of their witness and their role in the life of the revolution He came to unleash. And, because of this, from the very first moments of the early Christian church, the unheard of took root right away: that although men and women have different roles and different responsibilities, they are on completely equal footing before God.
In the New Testament, we find them speaking in the church, teaching in the church, helping to provide leadership to the church, with church groups meeting in their homes. With names like Phoebe and Priscilla, Mary and Martha, and more.
The #MeToo movement has awakened the world to the nature and extent of violence against women and girls. For too long the voices of those women, the voices of those little girls, have been marginalized.
They have been ignored. They have been silenced.
It has no place in God’s economy.
But we can’t stop there.
The sexism and the misogyny that so plagues this sin-stained world, that so feeds the violence against women, has no place in God’s economy either.
James Emery White
For more on this, click HERE for the .mp3 and .pdf downloads of the “#MeToo” series given by James Emery White at Mecklenburg Community Church.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.