Some women always have the perfect accessory to complement an outfit. They know exactly how to adorn themselves to enhance their natural beauty. Unfortunately I’m not one of these talented women! Five minutes before I go out, I’m scratching around for a lost earring, untangling a nest of jewellery and accusing my daughters of stealing my clothes! I like to think it’s because my mind is on more noble things, but the truth is that I just don’t pay attention to that part of life. But as Christian women, we don’t get to divide up our lives into the bits that matter to God and those that don’t. We are called to adorn the gospel in everything (Titus 2:10), to synchronise our lives with its truth in the everyday unseen details—at home, in church, at work and everywhere else. If the people of God are “the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden”, each of our lives matter for the gospel. There is no divide between the spiritual and the physical, between church and home, or between our identity as women and our work for God’s kingdom. Our whole life is an act of worship. It sounds good in theory, but what does it look like in practice for a Christian woman in our generation?
A woman’s gospel hub
Paul gives a down-to-earth memo to all women who claim to follow Jesus. It seems that ‘adorning the gospel’ is not just something we make up for ourselves as though we are choosing an accessory for an outfit.
“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)
This text has real life implications for women who claim to be Christians:
No woman is exempt from ministry, regardless of age, gifting or experience. There is always a woman you can learn from and one coming up behind you, even if it is your grandchild. It doesn’t matter what season of life you are in, adorning the gospel is not an optional extra.
Home is a hub where the gospel is lived out in real relationships. Contrary to popular belief, home is not a prison to keep women subservient, but the center of gospel health and mission. Our children and the world will see Jesus through a warm and life-giving home, no matter how big or small. This surely impacts how we see our kitchen, laundry, dining room, our language and meals? Of course there are priorities attached to seasons of life, but a home is not limited to biological family. Nympha opened hers to the family of God (Col 4:15). Hospitality is a wonderful way of adorning the gospel (Rom 12:13).
Ministry loses credibility if our personal relationships are not aligned with ‘what is good’. This is where the rubber really hits the road! Of course a conflict-free home is impossible, but every time you resolve an argument with a balance of love and truth; forgive without holding a grudge; have the courage to make the first move to reconcile; resist the urge to be demanding, defensive or distant; ask God for wisdom instead of flying off the handle; say the magic words “I’m sorry, I was only thinking of myself”; allow God’s perfect love to cast out your fear; or submit joyfully to your husband, you are building a space where the gospel is a beautiful thriving reality. A woman cannot adorn the gospel in the public arena if she is turning away from her husband at home or avoiding the hard labour of building relationships. A marriage in harmony is a thing of beauty and a rare witness in our times. If yours is limping along, it’s time for change!
The good news is that Jesus never leaves us to get our house in order alone! Any woman with life experience is told to put up her hand and pass it along– to support her sisters and not envy or compete with them. If every woman is commissioned to be a disciple and disciple-maker, learning, teaching and training is a ministry we will never grow out of. In my experience, it is easier to teach than to make disciples, because discipleship means inviting people into our lives and risk exposing our blind spots and the idols we cling to, especially pride. Discipleship is personal, regular, hands-on and intimate. It requires an emotional investment and integrity, but it yields deep friendship and blessing that far outweighs the effort. In my experience, women’s Bible studies are the perfect setting for this kind of discipleship, as God’s Word re-aligns our thinking, exposes our hearts, while prayer builds an intimacy that is unique to a gospel community. I am officially the leader of three women’s Bible studies, but not a week has gone by when I have not learned from other women in the group.
But what about the wisdom to be gained from the rich heritage of those who have gone before us?
A rich heritage
Real women of history have woven for us a big and beautiful tapestry to show what it means to embrace our God-given womanhood, while partnering fully in the gospel alongside our Christian brothers. To borrow words from Hebrews 11, women are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” who spur us on and assure us that our lives matter for God’s kingdom purposes– even if we sometimes feel invisible.
Snapshots from Luke
Luke is my favourite gospel because the ink on every page drips proof that women are not invisible to God. I am stunned every time I am reminded that a humble unmarried teenage girl called Mary was central to the gospel story. Her response to the angel’s frightening call leaves me breathless:
“I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
This was not the life Mary had planned for herself and she knew it would bring shame and pain (Luke 2:35). Her surrender of her body and soul to motherhood was not weakness, but the epitome of strength and resolve. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—Holy is his name.” (Luke 1: 46-55). Imagine Mary standing in the shadow of her beloved son’s cross thirty-three years later, watching him die a criminal’s death. To think that the means by which God saved the world was a devout, responsive girl and the baby she raised in her humble home in Nazareth. Mary’s home was the original gospel hub where the Messiah “grew in stature and wisdom and in favour with God and man.”
Luke provides many snapshots of the assortment of women who travelled with Jesus and the twelve disciples (Luke 8:2-3). Jesus addressed them by name and welcomed them as valuable members of the team, not just cooks and cleaners for men doing important ministry. They were flesh-and-blood women like ourselves, assigned dignity that was unheard of at a time when Rabbis taught that men should not even talk to women who were not their relatives, much less touch them. Jesus defied cultural rules and stereotypes of ‘acceptable’ women. He was radically counter- cultural.
Another snapshot shows Joanna, wife of a prominent government official who “ministered from her belongings” and watched Jesus being crucified. She was among the first witnesses of the resurrection, all of whom were women (Luke 23:55– Luke 24:10).
Then there are the close-ups of Jesus in a Pharisee’s house restoring the dignity of a prostitute (Luke 7:38-50); touching an unclean outcast after twelve years of bleeding (Luke 8:43-48) and praising Mary of Bethany for her teachable heart and extravagant love for Jesus (Luke 10:38, 42; John 12:3;7). One of my favourite cameos is tucked into chapter 21 where Jesus watches a widow giving two very small copper coins into the temple treasury:
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others.4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4).
There are many more encounters with women which show how the Lord Jesus reads our hearts and is delighted to find a spark of faith that leads us to give in ministry. But what’s also clear is that we are nothing without His grace. May our response to Christ’s forgiveness be as heartfelt as the woman who let down her hair, poured out an alabaster jar of perfume, kissed his feet and wept (Luke 7:45-47). We must first know our great need and be worshippers of Jesus before we are his workers.