Instead of Looking for Jezebel, Let's Celebrate the Deborahs in the Church

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Sarah Bessey

Deborah was a general in the ancient armies of Judah. She was a prophetess and a warrior; she helped lead the armies of Barak into battle and, at the time the ultimate degradation, she was seen as responsible for a major military triumph. Plus, another woman, Jael, was responsible for the death of the opposing force's leadership in her tent. Two women, two warriors, a song in Scripture.

We haven’t even talked about Priscilla or Junia, about Hannah or Anna, about Mary or Martha.

And yet, women who showcase leadership in the church today are more likely be accused as a Jezebel than celebrated as a Deborah.

This is the thing I believe about the kingdom of God: it’s for all of us. It’s for the powerful and the weak, it’s for men and for women, it’s for the outliers and the insiders. It’s for all of us. And so there is no neat and safe and tidy box: instead, there are the wild and untamed and glorious riches of Christ Jesus, there are Deborah and David, there are Junia and Paul, there are Martha and Lazarus, Esther and Sarah, and there is you and there is me. In Christ, oh, hallelujah, there is room for us all. Don’t let anyone scare you from the battle, Deborah. God has called you, Esther, for such a time as this.

People cloak it in spiritual language. But don’t be deceived: Anything that steals the very essence of God’s calling on you, God’s shalom, God’s justice, God’s way of life and living as a warrior, as a prophetess, as a mother, as a teacher, whatever-your-vocation-or-calling as a woman after God’s own heart, is a liar. There is a big difference between choosing silence and being silenced.

There is room for all of us in this story of Jesus. The kingdom of God isn’t created by fear or shame or narrow name-calling or false binaries. The kingdom of God is created in the rising up, in the singing of the song, in the battle of the everyday justice, in the daily mundane gorgeousness of servanthood and leadership, regardless of gender.

I look forward to the day when women with leadership and insight, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as a Deborah, instead of silenced as a Jezebel.

Sarah Bessey is a wife, mama of three tinies, a writer, popular blogger, and a happy-clappy Jesus lover. She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Her first book, Jesus Feminist (Howard Books) has just been released. You can read more of her work at


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