As Christians we are instructed biblically to be holy, righteous and to live according to the fruit of the spirit. When we invite the Holy Spirit into our life by accepting Christ as our savior we receive this fruit. In our youth as Christians this fruit might look more like a blossom than the fruit that grows from the blossom because it takes time to be fruitful in our faith. Our human nature is to think with our flesh instead of our spirit. That’s why as believers we rely on Christ so much; without him we’re a mess.
Recently, however, I’ve been reminded that sometimes, as Sisters in Christ, we inadvertently create an environment that repels a woman’s faith with our own righteousness rather than create an environment to nourish a youthful faith. When this happens we are nipping the bud of a young believer’s fruit before it has the opportunity to blossom into true life-giving fruit.
What does this environment look like? Condemnation and putting ourselves into categories of “us” and “them.” As women we’re no strangers to feeling condemned. We feel it all the time from the world, but as Christians it can look a little different.
Common Categories of Christian Condemnation of Women
- Quiet time: When, how often, where, consistency, etc.
- Service in the church: Why or why not? How often?
- Giving: Your tithe, giving outside of the tithe, giving of your time in addition to your money.
- Working: Your choice to work or stay home.
- Finances: Either you make too little or you make too much.
- Marriage: Are you too submissive or not submissive enough?
- Children: What are you allowing them to watch / do / or play?
- Physical Desires: What about the glass of wine or the cocktail? The manicures and the massages? Too much sex or not enough?
- Your free time: What are you reading? What shows are you watching? What music do you listen to?
- Appearance: Are you conservative enough? Do you dress in a holy way? Does jewelry detract from the Proverbs 31 woman?
Have you ever felt like you’ve been judged on any of these categories? Yeah, me too. And I know in the past I’ve struggled against judging women by some of these categories. God has whispered to me on many occasions to remove the plank in my eye.
Criticism has no age restriction or boundary, but sometimes it hurts more when the women we seek to look up to are the women are appear to be looking down on us. I’m not talking about tall women (though they are intimidating in their own way). I’m talking about older women. And this is relative. If you’re twenty, then this could be me. If you’re my age, this could be a woman in her fifties. If you’re a woman in her fifties, this would be the woman your mother’s age.
Often these older women have great jewels in faith to offer, but if we feel judged we shut down. Or we walk away. It’s hard enough being a Christian in this world. As ambassadors to Christ we are called to look and behave differently; because of that call we are often laughed at, discriminated against, considered simple minded or ignorant. The words of the world can hurt, but I can handle them. The Apostle Paul tells us that when we pursue God we will appear “out of our mind” to the world. Call me the Crazy Christian and I’ll pin that label on me with pride. But call me a Condemning Christian and I’d rather crawl into a dark crevice. I’m guessing it’s the same with you.
As Sisters in Christ we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, spend time together and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). But what happens when we’re attempting to empower women by showcasing how we do it? We jump the hurdle over humility and pave the path to pride.
When we share how consistent we are in our quiet time, is that humility or pride? When we finger through our Bible and adore the color blocks and underlines that represent our time in the Word, is that humility or pride? When we suggest to a fellow believer that she do what we do, is that humility or pride? When we condemn a believer for her actions or suggest her choices are unholy, is that humility or pride?
Our pride becomes dangerous when it condemns others, regardless of our intention. And we are prideful when we are proud of our accomplishments, even if they are godly.
Becoming holy is at the top of my To Do list. It’s what I live for first and foremost. But what value does it hold for the Kingdom if I covet my own holiness and don’t learn to humbly bring up other women in their holiness?
How can we encourage our Sisters in Christ without making them feel condemned? How can we be the salt and the light without judgment and pride? I believe the Holy Spirit empowers us to speak life with the fruit of the spirit, while Satan also skillfully uses our self-righteousness as a way to tear down others’ faith – and sometimes we willingly participate, blinded by our own conviction that we have it right and we’ve got holy mastered.How can we encourage our Sisters in Christ without making them feel condemned? Encourage a Friend
What Elizabeth Can Teach Us About Encouraging Other Women
I believe the Word is our greatest teacher, and when this issue hit me heavy this week, I asked God to reveal scripture that could provide an example for us women. There are not many stories in the Bible that can show us how women are meant to treat one another specifically, but Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist is a start.
John the Baptist was Jesus’s cousin and born just six months before him. Elizabeth became pregnant in a miraculous way; she didn’t conceive by the Holy Spirit like Mary, but she conceived when she was “very old” – and we can assume past her childbearing years. Just the fact that she conceived is Red Sea-parting awesome. WOW Emojis all over the place!
Now Elizabeth was a strong believer. She was a descendent of Aaron (Moses’s brother) and the wife of Zechariah, a priest. So we can think of Elizabeth as those women who have gone before us in our faith, the women we’re looking up to. When she became pregnant she joyfully proclaimed that the Lord had given her the pregnancy and taken away her disgrace among the people. (See, she was dealing with condemnation too.)
When Mary, newly pregnant from an encounter with the Holy Spirit, visited Elizabeth for the first time since Jesus’s conception, six-month-old fetus John the Baptist literally leapt with joy within Elizabeth’s womb. He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he knew the savior – likely only a multiplying cell at that point – was in his presence.
Take a moment to see this. A six-month-old baby warm in his mother’s amniotic fluid is so filled with literal holiness that he can sense God in his microscopic from within another woman’s body from a room or two away!
Elizabeth was carrying the man who would pave the way for the Lord. She must have felt like awesome personified. God had chosen her – an old woman – over all the younger, prettier and maybe even holier people than her. Imagine how pride could have taken residence in her.
But when Mary came into the room, Elizabeth shifted her focus from herself, from all the awesomeness she was and all the things she’d done right, and she zeroed in on the great promise conceived in the young woman before her.
Keep in mind that Mary would not have been showing yet. She was newly pregnant. Look at any pregnancy app to see that Jesus at that point would have been the size of a pencil tip, cells multiplying at a furious pace. A miracle on the inside hidden from the outside.
But not to Elizabeth.
How was Elizabeth able to bless the woman in front of her when so many of us tend to feel threatened by the power inside other women? Yes, she was older and wiser. Yes, she had perspective on her side. Yes, she had faith in the Lord. But she still could have been prideful. She could have been waddling around with her giant belly thinking she was all that and a bag of chips. As a woman who had been pregnant six months longer, she could have given Mary a lesson or two in how to avoid stretch marks, live holy, remain holy, use her time wisely, dress appropriately, love her husband sufficiently, spend her time and her finances well…but she didn’t. Instead she blessed Mary and God’s promises over her.
Why? Because she carried the Holy Spirit within her womb. She had wisdom whispered into her most private places. He kept her humble and outward focused. He showed her the promises for another in addition to the promises already given to her. With him inside her, there was enough for both women – enough love, encouragement, grace and blessings.
We know the Holy Spirit does not teach as the world teaches. The world has taught us to condemn each other when we feel threatened. The world has taught us to put ourselves first and give the leftovers to everyone else. The world has taught us that our own opinion is paramount and that we can create our own perfect social media world. The world has taught us that promises are broken.
But we are taught by a different teacher than the world. And he does not break his promises – not even the nearly microscopic promises in the women in front of us. I believe the only way any of us can humbly encourage our fellow Sisters in Christ is to point them lovingly back to the Word. Let each of pour over God-breathed scripture. It’s God’s word that teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains. It’s God’s word that equips.
It’s not up to the world. And it’s not up to us – not matter how many years of wisdom we have on the women looking up to us.
Friend, it’s time to ditch the chaos and give your faith a makeover. You need the 5-Day Faith Fix – five days of scripture, reflection and action designed to take your faith from faltering to flourishing.