Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

God Is Not Sexist

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God needs no one to defend Him. From where did our Christian culture venture to draw conclusions that God is sexist and consents to a notion that men are a dominant species and women are feeble and inadequate? Is the distinction in their roles the justification of the repugnant behavior of some men? Domestic violence is neither condoned nor tolerated by the Church. Many have been led astray by mistaken ideologies that dominate the philosophies of some societies. This is not the Christian credence. When the Church is presented with domestic issues, we proceed with diligence to unveil the truth and intervene toward fair and ethical solutions for the family according to the teaching of Christ. Our rhetoric stipulates peace in the household according to God's commandments. The Lord equated a husband and wife, or a groom and his bride, to God and the Church (Isaiah 62:5; Ezekiel 16:8; Matthew 25:1-46; Mark 2:19-20; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 19:7-9, 21:2,9).

God Almighty is righteous, benevolent, and merciful. He allows the sun to shine upon the righteous and the wicked.1 Neither gender is excluded from His love. We see God's respect for women from the beginning until the end of the Holy Scripture. In Genesis 3:15, He promises justice and salvation through the woman's Seed and the prophecy being fulfilled in Revelation 12. Whether, this "woman" referenced in the Book of Revelation, chapter 12, is St. Mary or the Church, God uses woman as a symbol of strength, influence, care, and wisdom. Wisdom is called by the pronoun of a woman. "Wisdom has built her house" (Proverbs 9:1).

We recognize the meaning of strength of character and wisdom from Abigail [1 Samuel 25]. Horrified by her husband's foolishness, she took matters into her own hands, and with boldness, went on her own to make peace with David, who wanted to kill her husband and destroy his belongings, family, and people. Principled and reasonable, Abigail's fearless act won David's respect and heart. Her role as "wife" did not diminish her assertiveness and personal responsibility. This behavior would by today's standards be equivalent to "Secretary of State"—and a very effective one at that! Rahab, a simple harlot, risked her life merely on what she heard about God, and courageously decided to shelter the spies that were sent by Joshua (Joshua). Ruth, a young widow and a foreigner, rejected her own people's faith and culture, and vowed to remain a daughter to Israel by enduring life with Naomi her mother-in-law (Ruth 1:16,17).

God loved David; but His love for him did not exclude His beloved from severe admonishment when he erred, and thus, God showed him no partiality [2 Samuel 12]. The men that sought to humiliate the woman caught in adultery [John 8:1-11] were justified because they were technically following the Mosaic Law [Leviticus 20]. This was pure hypocrisy shrouded in citizenship and religion. We see Christ's tenderness toward this disgraced woman. He knows that with whomever she was committing adultery when caught in the act was just as guilty and just as accountable according to the same Mosaic Law [Leviticus 20]. Daniel the Prophet wisely duped the perpetrators that tried to sexually assault Susanna and then falsely accused her [Daniel 13].

Deborah the Judge was stronger than the warrior himself, but preferred that Barak be recognized as the hero rather than she. As a judge, Deborah's behavior was consistent with her role, which she wisely accomplished. On the other hand, Esther was a hero in the sight of the people. When her elder cousin, Mordecai, came to her complaining about their situation and to make her take notice that her esteemed position was for this specific purpose to protect their people, she took action and willingly and intently put her life in danger in order to save the people. It was Esther that proclaimed a fast and the people obeyed, and the king respected, and God delivered (Esther]. We also see courage and leadership in Judith, the beautiful widow that shrewdly defeated the Holofernes, while the men hesitated because of fear [Judith].

The Samaritan woman chose the scorching intensity of the sun's heat at noonday rather than dealing with people's humiliation and sarcasm toward her because of her questionable and sinful life. Yet, Christ engaged her in a very sweet dialogue. Just the fact the He spoke with a woman baffled His disciples. "And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?' or, ‘Why are You talking with her?'" (John 4:27). Noticing these men approaching must have made her uncomfortable. Perhaps she noticed their grimaces as they pondered on those thoughts. Thus, she exited the conversation, and having been transformed by Christ, she boldly faced the people of her town, whom she had been trying to avoid. The Samaritan woman is St. Photini, who became the first evangelist even before Christ commissioned His disciples and apostles. "The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?' Then they went out of the city and came to Him" (John 4:28-30).

St. Mary Magdalene, though as a woman could not be appointed to apostleship, but was prominent among Christ's disciples as the first person to preach the holy Resurrection of the Lord. When Judas accused Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, for squandering the costly perfume when she poured the flask upon the head of the Lord, Christ defended her publically, and as He said, until this day, we still commemorate this act that she did out of love [Mark 14:9]. There are many numerous saints whose distinction of illustrious leadership and authority is still celebrated today. St. Helen traveled abroad and led soldiers to the discovery of the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not even her son, the Emperor Constantine, accompanied her, but rather respected her wishes and equipped her journey.

What do we know about St. Peter's life? He had a brother named Andrew, who also became a disciple and apostle of Christ. We know also that St. Peter was a married fisherman and his mother-in-law lived with them. We can surmise that his mother-in-law loved to serve, because immediately after Christ healed her she began serving [Luke 4:38-41]. Thus, her daughter, St. Peter's wife, in whose home Christ and His disciples visited frequently after attending the nearby synagogue, is likely to have had a similar zeal for service. St. Peter traveled and was sometimes accompanied by his wife. St. Paul recognizes the important role of the presbyter's wife, distinctly, St. Peter's wife. "Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5). St. Peter was also imprisoned and was eventually martyred in Rome. Thus, his wife most likely endured his hardships with him and became a widow.

Women have often been disqualified as esteemed partners in marriage based on the ignorance of cultural stigmas and misconception of religious communities. Throughout the Holy Scripture, God teaches men and women how to cooperate together, respect each other's differences, and fulfill each other's needs. Violent and abusive behavior is unacceptable and against the laws in society and in Christianity. The Church continues to educate her children that our Christian culture is a channel of peace and progress in all relationships. Follow Christ's example and live by those values. "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-31).

God bless you,

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

1 Excerpt from the Second Absolution of the Prayer of the Hours, Prime Prayer

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