A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that men have, on average, 40 percent more muscle mass in their upper bodies and 33 percent more in their lower bodies than women do. Pound for pound, male muscle mass is 5 to 10 percent stronger than that of women. Physically, many men have the capacity to be stronger than females. But is this enough to deem women “the weaker sex”?
On the physical scale, there are some women who are stronger than men simply due to lifestyle and fitness level. But the idea that women are weaker goes much deeper than muscle mass. The perception of women as weak-willed, weak-minded and emotionally fragile has found some traction even within the church.
There is a fundamental difference between weakness and gentleness. Some churches have made these two one and the same, an action that has done many women a disservice (and caused the feminist sector to violently react against the church as a whole, however inaccurately). ALL Christians are called to be kind, gentle, loving and compassionate (Galatians 5:22-24). But Paul’s instructions to women in Titus 2:3-5—”to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive”—have been set up in opposition to strength of heart and spirit. We’re taught that strong women are rebellious women, and that being strong-willed, extroverted or overly ambitious all run contrary to the will of God.
Quite honestly, there is no biblical ground for this worldview. It is possible to be BOTH pure and strong-willed; submissive and extroverted; kind and ambitious. These are not at odds with one another unless our ambitions overwhelm our dedication to God Himself. Here are a few more truths on this subject.
1. A strong will is not incongruent with Christian faith.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)
A strong will is a good thing! The ability to stand unwaveringly upon conviction is a rare quality in today’s culture. The strong-willed woman need concern herself with one issue: to whom her will is bent. If her will is bent to selfish desire, she will abuse her strength and use it for her own glory. But if her will is bent to God’s, everything she does will bring glory to His name.
2. A strong mind is necessary to Christian living.
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Christian women are not called to be weak-minded, unquestioningly accepting whatever their leaders say. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian women to “be silent in church” was directly connected to their other behavior—refusing to cover their heads in a culture where only prostitutes did so, abusing their Christian freedom, committing sexual immoralities and disrespecting their husbands. Scripture reveals many other instances where women didn’t just interact within the church, but actively spoke within it (read more here).
Instructions to women in the Bible are housed within God’s holistic instructions to the church as a whole. Christians are not called to fear, timidity and weakness, but to “power, love and a sound mind.” It is necessary for Christians to strengthen their minds with the truth of God’s Word in order to share it with a perishing world.
3. Emotional self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Self-control is the last and perhaps most difficult fruit of God’s Spirit listed by Paul (Galatians 5:22-24). This is where feminist ideologies depart from Christian commands. Secular feminists (particularly gender feminists—we’re not talking about the initial feminism that brought us voting rights) view strength as force. But true strength of spirit is the ability to restrain one’s thoughts, emotions and actions. It’s much easier to lose control and railroad people into agreement with our views, but that’s not what God expects of us. And it’s not how Jesus handled Himself on earth.
In the end, our example submissive strength is Jesus Himself. Jesus submitted Himself to the Father’s leadership and authority, but He didn’t lose strength because of it. He was stronger FOR it! It took incredible humility and strength to accomplish what He did on earth. Fortunately for us, we have His Spirit guiding our own actions into a similar strength for our callings.
So are women the weaker sex? We don’t have to be. Our level of strength is relative to how close we are to Christ. The point isn’t to be stronger than men, but to embrace who God made us to be and allow Him to strengthen us for the things He has called us to do.