On Being a Woman (of which I am not one)
February 19, 2005
Dear Paul (and especially all the ladies, young and old, of Grace Fellowship Church),
If I was there tonight, I would ask all the kids one simple question: "Is there a difference between boys and girls?" The kids that have grown up in families with both would be the first to answer! "Difference? Absolutely! Boys are pigs and girls are beautiful!" And a virtual firestorm would be unleashed upon all unsuspecting parishioners! Right from the start, it is clear to every Jack and Jill that being a boy or being a girl is more than a few differences in our bodies - it is something deep inside of us.
If writing you about how to raise little kids is like throwing firecrackers into a beehive, then me writing the women on how to be a women must be the same as sticking my head in the hive after they go off! But not to worry ladies, the men should get theirs (without mercy) in a few weeks!
You might say that Old Walter writing about being a woman is as helpful as him writing about being a hub cap . Not that I am comparing women to hub caps - far from it! It's just that I have never been a hub cap and therefore how could I have anything to say about being one!? Well, it's true, I've never been a hubcap - but I've seen a good many of them and I know a thing or two about them. Likewise, I've never been a woman - but I've known one in particular and several more besides. Plus, I've seen quite a few. So, I write from observation, not experience. Hopefully, it is observation that is well-seasoned with the Word of God so that by the end there will have been more help than holler.
Daughters of Eve are just that. Thus, taking a few minutes to think about that first bride and mother would do us some good in understanding the Lord's desires for womankind. What do we know about Mrs. Adam? Well, the first thing is that she was created second. The second thing is that she was created by God from out of the man's side. The third thing is that once she was given to Adam, he named her and called her Eve - the mother of all the Living.
What does all that tell us about being a woman? Well, it tells me that from the get go God saw to it that men and women - while so much alike - were entirely different. All that livestock God made on the 6 th day came popping out of the earth - both male and female . But when it came time to make mankind, God took of the dust of the earth for the man alone . Not only that, the Lord spent that day teaching the Man how to feel incomplete, having him name couple after couple of beasts, birds and livestock.
Genesis 2:20 But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Then Eve was fashioned from Adam's rib. Yee haw!
Nobody has ever said it better than old Matthew Henry:
"The woman was not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved."
That there is more than just waxing eloquent. Mr. Henry shows that from the very beginning, male and female he made them - and gave to them distinct roles equivalent to their gender. Now that role distinction is seen preeminently in marriage, but for now I think its worth considering that although equal in value, men and women are different.
Once sin came in though, along came the curse (and rightly so!). That curse had a lot of parts to it, but two phrases have always stuck in my craw in reading Genesis 3:
Genesis 3:16b Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Some Bibles note the fact that the word "for" in the phrase "your desire shall be for your husband" can also be translated "against." If that's the case here (and the older I get the more I think it is) then it would read like this: Your desire shall be against your husband, and he shall rule over you. Factor in that the word "rule" always has the idea in it of "ruling by greater power or strength" and lo and behold... you've just uncovered the source of the battle of the sexes! "Your desire shall be against your husband, and he shall domineer over you." In other words, when women seek to control their husbands and men seek to control their wives - they are living out the curse of sin.
Sin is always wrong and always the opposite of what God desires. What God intended for men and women in their relations is the same thing he models in His own relations in the Trinity - equal value with different roles. That's how Adam and Eve related before the Fall - equally valuable in the eyes of God ( 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them) with different roles ( 2:18 I will make him a helper fit for him). She was his helper or helpmeet... " a helper fit for him." That's not to say she was his slave - in fact, the word helper is used more of God than anyone else in the Bible (and he certainly isn't our slave!). No, to be a helper is an honorable task. But notice that Eve was created by God to be a helper suitable or fit for Adam . She was made to complete him or complement him, if you like.
The picture of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is a beautiful one - man and woman, of equal value and worth before God, yet with differing roles and functions in the relationship. Equality, but not "sameness" in every respect. As far as I am concerned, that's one of the best things in the world!
But sin did creep in thanks to the ugly snake. And that is why the New Testament is full of all those correctives and instructions on how wives and husbands ought to live with one another. It is also full of instructions on how men and women should relate to one another in the church. And all of these teachings are based on the idea that men and women are different.
Supposing we begin in the church, then work our way back to the marriage?
First off, notice that the one office of church leadership - the elder (or shepherd or pastor or bishop or presbyter or overseer - all the same office) - is reserved for men alone.
1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
An elder in a church must be a man. I know there are all sorts of theological gymnasts out there who make him into a her , but I'll stick with the plain words of my Bible every time over the fancy arguments of city folks with more letters after their names than in them.
Then there are Paul's words to Timothy on how womenfolk are to behave in church...
1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
In the Lord's mind, all that stuff that happened back in Genesis 2 and 3 was a might important! And the church is to model what God intended for men and women - equal value and differing roles. Women are not to put themselves in situations in the church family where they are exercising authority over men. Now, folks I've talked to always want to know what that is - what a woman is allowed to do and not allowed to do. Seems to me that conversation is a bit of a waste of time. If the pumpkin spends all its time planning where it's going to send its vines and drop its fruit, it'll miss all the sunshine and rain. If folk spend all their time talking about what can and can't be done, rather than focusing on just growing into good pumpkins, then they'll never bear fruit in keeping with godliness.
That's why, I think, the Lord spends more time telling women what kind of character they should aim for rather than what particular activities are permissible. If you get the character right on the inside, most of them practical questions just answer themselves! It's the same with raising children. If all you ever do with your kids is say, "Do this!" and "Don't do that." they are going to fall to pieces when they get old enough to leave your boot camp. What they need is years of character work and good Truth buried deep in their hearts so that when they leave your nest they are armed with common sense and eternal certainties to guide them.
So Paul writes to Titus:
Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
Now here is a grocery list to stick on your fridge door. What is it a woman ought to be aiming to become? Older women must be:
• reverent in behavior
• not slanderers
• not slaves to much wine
• teaching what is good
• training the young women
• to love their husbands
• to love their children
• to be self-controlled
• working at home
• submissive to their own husbands
The dumbest thing womankind ever did was burn their bras and demand equality in all things to men. I played hockey for 19 years in the local beer league, doing my best to win a few to Christ. But the locker room is no place for a woman to venture! There are sounds and smells and words and actions and braggings and expressions that ought never leave that reeking little space. If women want to be equal with men, they are going to have to climb down pretty low!
In fact, I'd be so brave as to say a few of them have been figuring that out lately. The ones who spat on you if you held the door open for them 15 years ago are the ones who are wishing they could turn the clock back a bit and have another go at it. They've begun to see that equality with men is a step down, not up! Truth be told, feminism is wonderful to most lazy men, who'd love nothing better than all the women of the earth to plop down on the sofa beside them, eating greasy potato chips and watching fake sports and evil movies. After all, there is nothing better to a slouch than someone telling him to keep on slouching. The best thing for any man is a godly woman - not a female that acts like a male!
But the one thing that every daughter of Eve has to do that I am not so sure Eve had to do, is submit. Now the reason I say it that way, is that since sin wasn't in Eden , Eve never had to place herself in a wilful kind of way under Adam's authority. All his decisions were good ones and all her responses were complementing ones. But that is not the case when two sinners join as one.
Even though a woman is just as valued in God's eyes as a man, her role is one of submission to her husband. That word submit is an interesting word. It does not mean "subject." If I were to subject you to my will, I might use a gun, a cattle prod or my brute strength. You would have no choice! But, when you go to work and do what your boss says, you are submitting - wilfully placing yourself under his authority.
In a business, a manager needs his employees to submit to him in order for things to go well. That doesn't make them slaves, though! They choose to follow their boss in that way since that is how that relationship works. If everyone was in charge of every decision, nothing would get done, no money would get made and all would be unemployed! For a school to educate well, the students need to be under and obey the authority of their teachers and principal. If not, chaos in the classroom and fights in the schoolyard! To cut down on traffic accidents, drivers wilfully submit to red lights and stop signs - most of the time! And when they don't? Then comes the trouble!
Now, it's clear to me that leadership/submission is all over the place. That doesn't make the person who stops at the red light less valuable than the one who breezes on through. Nor does it make the rebellious student more of a person than the one who does what the teacher says. So, we ought not to be surprised that role distinctions in the family and the church don't decrease or increase anyone's value.
Let's think about husbands for a minute. Based on his male gender, a man is to function in the marriage relationship a certain way. He is to lovingly and humbly lead his wife and family- providing for their well-being and protecting them from all that would harm.
Based on her gender a woman is to function in the marriage relationship a certain way. She is to joyfully and intelligently place herself under the leadership of her man - caring for the home of the family and nurturing any children God blesses them with. And this role distinction does not make the husband more valuable or the wife less valuable. It has nothing to do with value at one level.
That this is the clear and uniform teaching of the New Testament, I now prove by quoting from three different texts:
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior . 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor , without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
1 Peter 3 :1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Now I suppose I don't have the time to preach little sermons on all those long verses, but they preach on their own. In the Lord's mind, men and women are fundamentally different. In His design, He made that anatomically obvious and every relationship between opposite sexes proves the point. These differences are not to be ignored or reversed - but gloried in!
I am glad I am a man. I am gladder my wife is a woman! She corresponds to me. I have lots of good male friends - but I wouldn't marry any of them. They are men. Men go with women. Women go with men. That fundamental difference has some implications though.
First off, women can become more womanly and men can become more manly . What I mean by this is that since life as a Christian is undoing sin and its evil effects, we can expect that part of that undoing will be the redoing of our masculinity and femininity.
A wise woman will not just hear these things as Paul reads them, but she will memorize those verses and talk with other women and her husband about them. She will rejoice that God has made her a woman and will glory in His wise design. She will seek to change her character by building things like kindness, quietness and submission into her life. She will not submit to every man (far from it), but if God gives her a husband she will seek to submit to him joyfully and intelligently.
She will see the power she has in life to build up and strengthen her husband. She will see the power she has in life to teach others about God just by the way she lives - choosing to delight in the things that exalt Godly femininity over the things that detract from it. She will spend time with godly older women and ask them to teach her. She will love her husband. She will glory not just in being a Christian, but in being a female Christian. And she will see that how she lives has a purpose and that purpose is to glorify God.
O, I wish I could be there for your discussion time! Fact is , I think this is one of the most important areas for Christians to think and understand and live. Our good old country is getting ready to make it a law that men can marry men and women can marry women. Imagine that! Can you think of anything more ridiculous? We are living in a generation that doesn't know what it means to be a woman anymore.
That means that virtually everything we read and watch on TV and hear talked about at work is all coming from the land of error and lies. The trouble with living in a culture like ours is that it works something like water on a break wall... you may not notice the decay in your values over 15 years, but day after day of gentle waves splashing up against you will eventually start to wear down your understanding until suddenly the whole wall of Truth collapses into the lake. That is what has happened in our culture and I fear is happening in our churches. Up here, the female clergy now outnumber the male. If you want to preserve the break wall, you've got to give it some regular maintenance and reinforcement... that's all I'm trying to do here.
Let women be women. Instead of getting more masculine by the day, they need follow Sarah and Rebekah and Deborah and Saphira and Abigail and Mary and be women of grace. My suggestion is that you ladies help one another out in these things. That grocery list in Titus isn't anything to be winked at. Why not memorize it? Keep one another accountable to it? Study it in a meeting just for the ladies? And men, let me just add: You ought to be doing all you can do to help your wives, daughters and sisters be womanly. I hope that you men see yourselves as there to protect and promote the womanliness and femininity of the daughters of Eve in Toronto .
I'd lose all hope if it weren't for the Lord. He has shown the way and now He calls us to follow it. If our churches catch some of the Biblical teaching on being a woman we will soon be like a city on a hill or salt in the meat - pointing the way and preserving the Truth. May God make it so.
A man, who hopefully had a few good things to say about being a woman,
P.S. Alana, thank you for your note about your brother. It must have been funny when he growled like that! Wish I had been there!