Feminism seems to be everywhere we look…. it is an inescapable force with which to be reckoned. It has worked its way in through television, magazines, books, and news. There are signs of it in our schools, in who makes the most money, and in who wears the pants in the family. At every turn, the effects of feminism can be seen. One of the first, and perhaps biggest, ways it has affected us is in the opinion of our rights as women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a forerunner in the feminist movement once wrote, “The women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance, by asserting that they have all the rights they want.” And while some of what Stanton fought for eventually brought about a women’s right to vote that you and I benefit from today, there was an underlying attitude of complete autonomy seen in her life and in her literary works.
The problem, however, isn’t feminism. It is us. Humanity. We innately think we have the power to govern our own lives. We think we have rights. We do. I mean, I know I do. I think I have the right to choose what I do with my future, after all, it’s MY life, is it not? I think I have the right to decide what I want to buy: the cute red heals at DSW or the latest Apple gadget. I think I have the right to choose how to spend my time: busily working on a project or idly watching Dancing with the Stars. And when our rights are hampered by certain “outside forces,” watch out – it’s about to get messy!
As Christian women living in 21st century American culture, we believe we should have the ability to control certain things, or at least the outcome of certain events. Patterning our attitude after Lesley Gore, we chime along in her mantra: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” And we think we have the right to do as we please, to own what we have and to live how we want.
The right to do as we please.
As autonomy-crazed women, we feel as though we are constantly fighting this mentality of being defined by our gender. Like Anne Hathaway, we defiantly say, “No one has ever been able to tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.” I remember growing up with older brothers and there was this intense desire to prove to them and everyone else that I could do anything they could do. I could play soccer, I could chop the wood, and I could wrestle; and don’t you dare tell me that I couldn’t. However, too often we bring this freedom-seeking mentality into our relationship with Christ. “I can do this. I don’t have to do that. I have the power in myself, and don’t you dare tell me I don’t!” But in reality, do we really have the right to do as we please? Am I truly self-governing merely because I want to be or think I am? Unfortunately for me and my agenda, Scripture says differently.
1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Over and over again, Scripture emphasizes this fact: I am not my own. I have been bought with a price! If I am a Christian, my life has been purchased by the precious blood of Christ. I no longer have the right to dictate what I do, where I go, or what I say. My life is officially God’s. The clothes I wear? God has a say. The friends I hang out with? God gets to choose. The influences I allow into my life? God holds the right to dictate. Why? Because once I was dead in my sin and Christ rescued me: His life for mine. He purchased MY pardon; He forgave MY sin; He broke MY chains. I am forever indebted to the One who ransomed me. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” And lest you think that God is just a big tyrannical party-pooper, realize this: We have never and will never be our own. Unfortunately, we always have been and always will be serving something (Romans 8:5). The choice you have is: Do you serve that which seeks your good (Romans 8:10-11, 14), or do you serve that which seeks to destroy you? (Romans 8:13; John 10:10; Genesis 4:7)
The right to own what we have.
We all express this right in different ways. And whatever the circumstance may be, there is an unspoken thought that we have the right to own what we possess. We think because something is in our possession, we automatically have a say in how it is used. For some of us, this possession is our time. We look at our lives and we think, “I will get this degree, I will marry this man, I will have these children, I will have this job, live in this city, and own this house,” and do not consult God on the issue. James speaks out against this mentality, saying, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Or maybe you’re like me…I’ve submitted my life to God on the grand scale, but when it comes the inner-workings of my day, that time is still mine. We think we have the right to dictate our day, doing with it what we want, and when an outside “force” takes up our valuable time, rights have been violated. The traffic jam freezes our productivity and we tell the car that just cut us off exactly what we think of them and their Lexus! Our time is ours…but is it? Does God care how I spend my free time? James 4:15 says, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” The problem isn’t in the planning, but in the autonomy of the planning, in thinking that God doesn’t have a say in the ways I use my time. There are times when, because God has given us a free will, we can chose what we want to do on a Friday night, and that’s okay as long as you realize that ultimately God is in control over that time and has the right to change your plans…not the other way around.
Some of us think we have the right over our money, our possessions, or our families. If I worked for it or earned it, then I get to decide how I spend it or use it. Remember the woman with the alabaster jar who poured out her earnings as service to the Lord (Mark 14:3-9)? The disciples were outraged by the “waste” they were witnessing, but Christ saw the sacrifice. Her possessions were his, and she realized this. And in a picture of reckless abandonment, she sacrificed what was “rightfully hers” to minister to Christ. Last week, Gabrielle wrote an excellent post on the subject of giving. If this has been something that God has been convicting you of, please take the time to read it for additional Scripture on the subject.
Some women think, “As a woman I have the right to bear children,” or “I have the right to raise my child.” The Jennifer Anniston’s of this world would take this to the extreme claiming that, as women, their right to bear a child extends to not even needing a husband to fulfill their right. And yet when looking at the biblical women who went through similar circumstances, there was an attitude of maternal resignation they exhibited. They surrendered in their hearts to the will of God… even if that meant they would remain childless. Hannah (1 Samuel 1:3-28) longed for a child and yet when it came down to doing the will of God or having a child, she left that burden at the feet of her sovereign God and, in the end, was blessed with the very thing she desired more than anything else. When Jochebed’s maternal rights were jeopardized because of an edict that an evil Pharaoh wrote, her response wasn’t one filled with bitter undertones or manipulative trickery. She simply laid Moses in a basket and trusted his life into the hands of a loving and sovereign God. In the end, he was returned to her to raise him without fear of being murdered (Exodus 2:1-3, 2:8-10).
When it comes to possessions, whether it is time, money, children or whatever, everything we have is ultimately God’s to begin with. We are merely stewards of that which He’s entrusted to us. Relinquishing our rights is simply being honest about Who it belongs in the first place.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: who holds the rights to your life…you or God? Do you take in all that feminism has fed us over the years and demand the right to dictate your life or do you submit to the authority that God has placed over your life?
Only God has the right to our rights.