Formations 06.25.2023: Lydia

Acts 16:9-15, 40

The Bible highlights Lydia because she stood out among women of her day regarding her life and her faith. When Lydia gathered by the river to pray with her friends, most women didn’t have the right to an education, to bodily autonomy, to vote, and were unable to participate in government, own property, lead corporations, or live a fulfilling and financially secure life without being attached to a man. But it is possible that Lydia was doing most of these things!

Lydia is not described as having a husband, though she does have a “household” (v. 15). She is a “dealer in purple cloth” (v. 14), which means she has an income. She seems to meet regularly with a group of women for the sole purpose of praying on the Sabbath (v. 13). She not only prays but is called “a worshiper of God” (v. 14). She is receptive to God and is rewarded with an open heart, ready to hear and trust what Paul teaches about Jesus. She shares the gospel with her household and all are baptized (v. 15), and then she offers hospitality to Paul and his companions. Acts 16:40 indicates that Lydia hosted a church, “the brothers and sisters,” in her home.

Around the world in 2023, there are women who have none of the rights that Lydia seems to have enjoyed. For example, since the Taliban regained control in Afghanistan in 2021, women must cover their entire bodies in public, including their faces, and are not permitted to go to secondary school or college. They cannot serve in public office and many had to burn their degrees to keep themselves and their families safe. This is a dramatic reversal of the rights Afghan women have held in the past 20 years. Now, “They are compelled to stay at home” and are not allowed in must public places (UN Press Release). Their plight reminds us that women’s rights and freedoms have been widened and constrained at various times and in various places throughout history as a result of oppression. Likewise, women like Lydia have always and still do exist, challenging norms and expanding her place in society in accordance with her own convictions.

Women are strong, smart, compassionate, and capable, just like men. Throughout the New Testament and in our story today, we see how God uses women in their communities to do the vital work of God’s kingdom. In Lydia’s story, women and men work together to do the most important work in the world: sharing the gospel of Christ and building up people’s faith through the church. May we embrace the power we have when we are united for Christ.

Sources: UN Press Release, “Afghanistan: UN Experts Say 20 Years of Progress for Women and Girls’ Rights Erased since Taliban Takeover,” March 8, 2023, United Nations,; Isabel W. Carey and Conrad Hackett, “Global Population Skews Male, but UN Projects Parity between Sexes by 2050,” Pew Research,August 31, 2022,


• Why is Lydia’s story—and the stories of other New Testament women in this unit—so important for Christians to know?
• What women from the Old Testament exhibit the same kind of faith?
• Why have women struggled so hard for equal treatment over the centuries? How have you seen women’s rights restricted and expanded in your lifetime?
• What is lost when women are oppressed? What is gained when they are able to enjoy the same freedoms and variety of choices and careers that men enjoy?
• How can women today be more like Lydia? How can men work together with women to share the gospel of Christ?What can we do together to help women in our world today?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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