We live in a vastly different society from the one when the scriptural principles were laid down and written for our admonition and learning (Rom 15:4).

Society is vastly different from my early recollections of ecclesial life in the thirties and forties. I was not around when women were franchised; it was a big event that contributed to the changes that were yet to come.

Then came the two World Wars; women entered the work force and took over the roles of men now at the war. For many this was a liberation from the strictures of domesticity to which they had been relegated by ‘dominant’ males who thought that was where women should remain. Truly this is a role for which they are eminently suited. It was not God’s design that she should be dominated by males who assumed that women were mere chattels; this was due to an improper understanding of the scriptural ‘headship’, which role must be accepted as “heirs together” in grace.

The so called “liberation” of women has been the root cause of many changes in society and not all can be seen as honouring to women. The once defined role of men and women (especially in worship) are now blurred and are being challenged. For many years now humanism has infiltrated our education system and because it has been quietly advanced in gradual change our Brotherhood has been taken unawares. One of the serious changes has been to make the roles of men and women equal. This is not what God intended.

Therefore we need to find out what God has said on this subject; and the Scriptures are all sufficient for Christadelphians, otherwise we are in perilous waters.

What saith the Lord?

The Scriptures give us certain principles and we cannot ignore principle merely by saying, “Oh, that only applies to that society.” No! Establish principle and let that be our banner. Customs may change but principle is our guide.

What has been set down as principle in Old Testament times has not been revoked (even though it was under the Mosaic Covenant) when the inspiration of the New Testament sees fit to make the principle a point of reference.

The details of the creation and fall of mankind are too well known to take up space and time, so let us draw lessons from the basic data. Brother Thomas speaks of it so clearly in Elpis Israel.

We are now faced with a much changed view of the established roles and boundaries which, knowingly or not, are following humanistic philosophy; but what saith the Lord?

The Genesis account of the role of women is straightforward and simple, but social ‘standards’ have changed these roles. Did our Lord deal with the loving women among his followers by giving them the same roles as the twelve? No! They were caring, they served, they helped, they nurtured.

Did the apostles choose women to be the leaders and elders? NO! he took them back to the only established Scriptures extant, the Old Testament, “as also saith the law” (1Cor 14:33–35).

It seems that the majority of the believers in Corinth were Gentile converts and by citing the Law Paul would have expected them to be cognisant of its meaning when he wrote, “Let your women keep silence in the ecclesias; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law” (v34). Neither they nor we are under the Law. No, but there is a principle established in it that we would do well to heed.

Christ’s example

How did our Lord react in company with the many women with whom he came in contact? He extended to them loving and compassionate respect in honour of their service to God within the bounds of their individual capacity. His desire was to offer to them, as to the men, the gift of salvation but he never conferred on them the role of leadership. The women in his company of followers gave lovingly in service of their substance, such as Joanna (Luke 8:3), while others simply gave loving care, such as Mary and Martha. His own mother, who was undoubtedly a godly woman, was never seen in any other role than a wonderful mother who raised a family in a home where God’s ways were taught and respected.

Does this mean that sisters should only do menial tasks? No! It is not a matter of intellect or capacity. Men and women are comparable in these respects, each with his or her own talent.

There is a perception that women are more inclined to spirituality. For example, I have been told that is why Mormons target women, who they expect in turn will convert their husbands. This has no bearing, as God is the arbiter on the subject. Rather it comes down to character controlled by God’s Word. Many women in the Scripture were recipients of God’s favour, not because they were clever but they humbly and willingly submitted to His will.

Honour in submission

The Apostle Peter gives us a wonderful example in Sarah whom God puts with Abraham as “heirs together of the grace of life”. Peter further enumerates the endearing qualities that God saw; “wives, be in subjection to your own husbands … even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Pet 3:1,5,6). He also says, “For after this manner [that is, in the loving, willing and submissive honour given to her husband] in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands.”

What a beautiful phrase is used here. God sees this attitude as an adornment, a quality that enhances women in His sight.

Abigail honoured David in a quiet and persuasive manner and saved David from embarking on a vengeful act. David was in awe and entranced by her wonderful manner.

What then is our service as sisters in the Lord? It is not a passive role doing nothing but listening (even though listening is important), but we can extend our service by exercising our feminine qualities.

What mature sisters can do

I am an older sister striving to remain actively engaged, as health permits. We do what we can while we can! God asks no more. I am encouraged that it is acceptable service, remembering my Lord’s words, “She has done what she could”.

There are many lonely and sick and some with family problems. People like these are all yearning to see a cheery face or to hear a word of comfort, to know that someone cares. Even a phone call or a letter of encouragement will please our Lord: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40).

Sisters in action

You can ‘make their day’ by telling them that you are glad to see them, and perhaps supplement the happy time for them with a cake and sit down with them and enjoy a ‘cuppa’. It will give them joy to think that they, too, have something to contribute. Many of our community are in ‘aged care’ – it can be lonely even with a lot of people around you; some are in hospital but it can be lonely there too. Oh! There are so many things we can do. I would like to tell you about something I heard, which is really evocative. Some medical staff were investigating the effects of care and in so doing it came to their notice that in the young children’s ward the patients in one particular bed recovered more quickly than those in the other beds of the ward. After observing for a while, they found that when a particular busy ward sister came, at the start of her shift she would pause at the first bed at the entrance, give the baby a hug and then go about her duties. Just that human contact did so much good! Can we spare some time in our busy schedule to shed a little good like that?

Be hospitable

Romans 12:13: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”8 When visitors come to your meeting do you refresh them? Not just the speaking brother and his family; generally the ecclesia takes care of them. If you do, you will find you and they have made a friend!

Best of all accept the task of a committed Sunday school teacher. You, too, will have the joy of learning much and find that eager children will come to love you too!

A sister’s role is honourable

You are not diminished in God’s sight by being submissive in our Master’s service. Personally I count myself blessed doing whatever comes my way as the prospective bride for the one who laid down his life for me. If I need be submissive I am happy. I cannot repay my debt but I am glad that by serving others I am serving my Lord.

Final reflections

Drawing these thoughts together I look back over a lifetime in the Truth trying to live by the principles spoken above. Have I felt in a very personal way to have been fulfilled and happy? Have I ever felt deprived of opportunities to serve God because of the role I believe that I have been allotted by God? Is that role demeaning?

These questions may have a different response according to one’s personality. This I acknowledge. A retiring nature finds acceptance more readily in a role of submission than a person that has a genuine ability. This is not the question, because with God the criteria is what has He decreed; that is the proper thing – it has to be according to His Word. With acceptance of His principle, there will and can only be ‘fulfilment’.

The life of our Lord was ‘fulfilled’ as he lived a life of total service. He was God’s only begotten Son yet he was among them as one who served, even washing the feet of his disciples. The apostle exhorts us to be likeminded as our Master.

So is there ‘fulfilment’ in the role of us, the sisters of our Lord? Yes! Yes!

As the Master looked upon the fields of Samaria, a harvest resulted from a conversation with a woman at a watering place: so we can look around the table of little ones in their high-chairs, and our youth chatting about the meeting. Are they not a potential harvest for the Lord? As each develops and is adopted into God’s family, you have played a vital role, dear sister. Have not your words spoken so often sown the seed in fertile minds, and you have played a large part in bringing them to God? This is fulfilment, it is so truly satisfying. You have done what you could.

An advocate of peace

Sisters, young or old, let us use our God-given talents of maternal compassion and care to promote peace, harmony and love in the midst of our community until our Lord comes. Amen.