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Question

Can a woman attend church during her menstrual cycle (Leviticus 15)?

woman unclear period church
Answer


Yes, a woman can attend church while she is on her menstrual cycle. Associating a woman’s period with ceremonial uncleanness is an Old Testament concept (Leviticus 15). It was a regulation intended for the nation of Israel as part of the Old Covenant. Believers today are under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13).

The part of the Mosaic Law that pertains to a woman’s menstrual cycle is Leviticus 15:19–23, which says, “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.”

The same chapter in Leviticus also designates other conditions as “unclean”: a man who has an emission of semen and a man or a woman who has an unusual bodily discharge. It’s good to remember that being “clean” or “unclean” was a ceremonial designation governing the rituals of worship. None of the laws concerning bodily discharges concerned morality, and being “unclean” did not brand one a sinner.

These regulations about ceremonial cleanliness sound strange to modern society. But when we understand them as related to the larger narrative of Scripture, they begin to make more sense. Consider how many of the things that made a person unclean are linked directly to life and death. Skin diseases, mold that could ruin fabrics (Leviticus 14), and unusual bodily discharges are all reminders of the reality of death brought by the fall of mankind. Similarly, both semen and blood are representative of life. For life to be leaving the body is a reminder of the reality of death. For there to be death or decay in the temple—the representation of God’s presence and ultimately an image of His coming final redemption and restoration—would distort the image. It is not that God or the Israelites are squeamish or cruel. Rather, God is intentional about upholding both His holiness and our understanding of true life in Him. Certain images and reminders of the fall were deemed unclean so that the image of God’s completeness could remain.

Also, we should recognize that to be ceremonially unclean was not wrong. In many cases, as with menstruation or emission of semen, it was simply unavoidable. God gave specific instructions for becoming clean, most often involving cleansing with water. Cleansing and restoration through water is another theme in the Torah. Consider the flood of Noah’s day, Moses’ rescue from the Nile, and the people of Israel coming through the Red Sea. When a person who was unclean was cleansed with water, the act pointed to the redemptive work of God.

This continual cycle of being unclean and clean would highlight to the people of Israel the devastation of the fall and the amazing grace of God’s rescue. They would constantly be aware of the realities of death and the ways a fallen world disrupts relationship with a holy God. They would also be aware of God’s provision and rescue.

When some people today, using Leviticus 15, say that a woman cannot attend church during her menstrual cycle because, even if she has not sinned, she is “unclean” before the Lord, they miss the point of the laws for Israel. Perhaps more importantly, they miss the reality that Jesus has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). He has instituted a New Covenant (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8—10).

In the temple, a veil separated the innermost place where God’s presence symbolically dwelled. When Jesus died, the veil was torn, representing direct access to God through the person and work of Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:51). This event is referenced in Hebrews 10:19–22: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” We need not be ceremonially clean by Old Testament standards in order to approach God. Believers have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and they can come before God with confidence. Interestingly, the same passage goes on to encourage believers to continue meeting together (Hebrews 10:23–25). To exclude a woman from church while on her period completely misses these realities.

Consider also that all who have put their trust in Jesus Christ have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. God’s presence is no longer symbolically in a physical temple. He resides in us! Believers together are symbolically referred to as becoming a temple of God (Ephesians 2:19–22; 1 Corinthians 3:16–17), as are individual believers (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). This is an ongoing reality, not an image linked to a physical building. Clearly, bodily functions, including menstruation, will not change the reality that God dwells in and with His people.

To summarize, it is not a sin for a woman to go to church while on her menstrual cycle, and a born-again daughter of God should never consider herself “unclean.” Ceremonial cleanness is no longer a consideration (Acts 10). Much more importantly, she has been made clean by the Word that Christ has spoken (John 15:3). She is purified “from all unrighteousness” when she confesses her sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Speaking to believers, Paul wrote, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). We take comfort in that God “saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5b–6). No Old Covenant regulation of ceremonial uncleanness should keep a menstruating woman from participation in corporate worship with God’s people.

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This page last updated: September 23, 2022