A Woman’s Place [part 1 of 3]

I wrote this essay in September of 2003.  It has definitely become part of the life message God has given me.  It is time it found its way here.  Enjoy..comment…disagree…rejoice.

Before we can reclaim the dignity and calling of living freely as women in Christ, many of us need a better understanding of what God’s plans and expectations really are.  Those outside the church are often disdainful

For Torey

of the standards they deem antiquated at best and oppressive at worst.  Yet even after a generation of ‘liberation,’ some feel they have yet to achieve all they were promised.  The majority of women in America (57%) continue to feel that women do not have job opportunities equal with those of men[1].  Twenty-two percent say they are treated unfairly in public life or employment at least once a month.  Most support affirmative action programs for women.  Even as this is true, more women than ever before are optimistic regarding the societal position of women.  Forty-two percent now say they never experience gender-based discrimination and the majority of women report being at least somewhat satisfied with societal treatment of women.  A growing number of these women have begun to wonder why the larger goals of contentment and fulfillment remain elusive.  They have begun to realize that it is harder than they were promised to “have it all.”  They are wondering why sexual intimacy outside of marriage isn’t as satisfying and freeing as they were led to believe it would be.  CS Lewis understood that “[t]the monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”[2] As Christians, we know that going outside the Creator’s purpose will only lead to frustration and pain.  It is our calling and our privilege to have answers for the hope we have as women in Christ.

From the beginning, God’s word is clear that women are valued and unique.  Eve was Adam’s partner, helper, and wife.  She was created not to be exactly like him (God loves variety) but to complement him and to enable humans to relate in community as God the Father, Son, and Spirit do.  I am not the first to point out that God did not remove a bone from Adam’s head or from his foot but from his side.  Eve was not to hold herself above Adam, nor was she to be a doormat.  She was created to be his companion, walking with him.

While they are equal in value, God designed marriage to operate with husbands as the head of the marriage.[3] This, too, is first modeled in the trinity as the Son submits to the will of the Father.  For wives as well as for our Savior, this is not a sign of weakness but of strength submitted (compare Ephesians 5:21-24 with Philippians 2:5-7).  The Hebrew word that describes Eve as Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18,20) is also used of God in Psalm 121:2 and elsewhere.  It reads, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” We would never suggest that God is spineless or insignificant when He mercifully chooses to help humanity.  Why would we assume the same of women?

During his time on earth, Jesus was intentional about affirming the worth of women.  He entered a culture in which His original plan had been horribly distorted.  (How much more is that the case 2000 years later?)  Women were often viewed as property and rarely received formal education.  Yet Jesus never failed to treat women, as everyone else He encountered, with respect and compassion.  His first miracle at Cana was in response to his mother’s request.  He continued to honor his mother Mary throughout His earthly ministry.  He scandalized church leaders and even His own disciples by speaking to adulteresses, prostitutes, and the Samaritan woman (who was doubly stigmatized in their eyes because of her race and her gender).  He was not ashamed to accept the worship of women such as Mary (who anointed Him with costly perfume, wiping it with her hair (John 12:3)) and another woman who was recognized as having lived an immoral life (Luke 7:37-39, 44-50).  John 11:5 tells of his deep love for this same Mary and her sister Martha.  Even though He already planned to raise Lazarus from the dead, He was moved to tears Himself when He saw Mary grieving for her brother (John 11:33-35).  I do not believe it was a coincidence that Mary Magdalene and not one of His disciples was the first to see Him after His resurrection (John 20:13-16).  He was again underscoring the cherished and honored status of women, making it abundantly clear.

…[part 2 coming later this week]

[1] Data from a Gallup poll conducted in June 2003.  For more, see http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr031009.asp

[2] Mere Christianity, p.104-105

[3] Chapter 6 of Mere Christianity addresses marriage, giving a clear, rational explanation of this design.


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