Recently both egalitarians and complementarians have been having conversations centred around the ‘masculinity’ and/or the ‘femininity’ of God. Remarks by respected theologian John Piper and the movie “Courageous” have helped fuel both sides of the discussion. My purpose here is not to further comment on John Piper’s remarks (which I have read) or the movie (which I have not seen). Both have been well covered elsewhere. My purpose is rather to open up this whole issue of ‘courage’ and ask questions such as:
What is courage in the Biblical sense? Is there really a difference between ‘masculine courage’ and ‘female courage’ and what does feminine courage look like Biblically?
As a female believer I have always considered Jesus Himself the highest example of courage humankind has ever seen. It has never occurred to me to view His courage through the eyes of His gender, so I have never contemplated the level of courage Christ modelled as a masculine characteristic. In the same way I have marvelled at the courage of a youthful David standing before the giant Goliath armed with nothing more than a stick and five small stones. I have wondered at the courage of Stephen exhorting the religious leaders of Israel, surely knowing what the outcome may be. I have anguished over Paul’s many sufferings in Christ’s Name and felt totally humbled by the legendry courage of Peter as he was crucified upside down on a Roman cross.
So where are the female examples of courage in the Bible? So much less seems to have been said or written about them. It seems nearly always when we hear a sermon or exposition on courage, the focus is on the spectacular, the violent or the dramatic.
Examples of female courage in the scriptures often slip by us barely noticed, just as they went un-noticed in the patriarchal culture of their day. I think of the courage shown by Abigail approaching an angry and armed David who was ready to destroy her home and her livelihood. I think of Jael driving the tent peg into Sisera’s head. I try to imagine Sarah’s courage before Pharoah, or the courage of a young Esther taken from her home to be made a sexual servant to the king. What extraordinary level of courage did it take a woman termed ‘unclean’ to mingle publically (forbidden!) and touch a rabbi’s garment (punishable by death!)? I find it hard to imagine the fear that woman overcame. (We hear much of her desperation, but little of her courage.)
Or the courage of Mary of Bethany, edging up closer to Jesus in a room full of men, to sit at His feet in the position of a disciple, a place only ever given to males. Did she lower her eyes so not to see the consternation and disdain on their faces? Did she struggle internally not to turn and run back to Martha and the cooking?
There are so many more examples: the women who stood at the Cross, the female house church leaders, Junia, Priscilla, the list goes on. And then so many more down throughout church history to this present day. So many courageous women, many we know about but many more whose names are unknown because male church leaders did not deem them worthy of recording.
The more I think on this kind of courage the more I realise that the common denominator is faith, which is genderless.
What do others think about these things and what experiences have you faced where your courage was tested for the name of Christ?