The pressure on modern women is extreme. Fleeing from a so-called “patriarchal” past and embracing a promise of nearly absolute liberty, females in the early 21st Century are routinely battered on the rocks of uncertainty, unattainable dreams, and of duties too great to bear. Having been told to jettison their historic roles as females, women today are torn by conflict in the home and in the work place too.
Let it be said first, that the move toward giving greater honor and respect to women is a high and a Christian goal. The Feminists of the past two generations sought to win their arguments by significantly misrepresenting the way women had been treated in the Christian past. Christians, it is sadly true, often fail to live up to their ideals. Such was often the case with our ancestors. But the Christian way, the ideal way that true Christians of the past and present strive after, gives real respect and honor to the woman.
What is that ideal way? The Bible first identifies the woman as bearing the Imago Dei, the image of God, fully along with the man. The woman first received the promise of the great Deliverer. True, it is the woman who is seduced and deceived by the serpent in the Garden. Yet her sin was secondary. She was first abandoned by her husband, Adam. It is for this reason that in the Bible the man, not the woman, is blamed for the Fall. Instead of condemning her for her part in the Fall, we are told that it is through the seed of the woman that the world, corrupted by sin and poisoned by death, will be put to rights. The Virgin Mary, of course, is the ultimate fulfillment of this Gospel promise. But along with Mary, all believing women are dignified in the One Child Birth. The Church for whom Christ suffered and died is likewise compared to a woman. Further, the entire Christian walk is best seen as a responsive act to the grace and leadership of the Son of God. Female piety provides a wonderful model for such responsive love and obedience.
Woman is given a different role in creation than is man, focused upon bearing and caring for children, creating and glorifying the home, and supporting her husband. But these roles do not make her inferior to man. One example will establish this point. The Lord Jesus Christ serves His Father, only does the works He sees the Father doing, and in short lives in perfect submission to the Father. Does this make the Son of God inferior to the Father? Only a heretic would answer in the affirmative. Of course not! Jesus is fully divine, sharing fully in all the divine attributes and glories of the Father. Neither is the Holy Spirit denied dignity and glory because He willingly proceeds from the Father and the Son, seeking only to bring honor to the Son and the Father. Difference in role and vocation does not equal difference in dignity and honor.
Once this relationship between role and nature is properly understood, Christian women are freed to embrace fully the glory of the Biblical ideal of womanhood. The role of headship has not been given to her, but in Christ she has been given the glorious privilege to serve and to give her life. Such self giving is the highest virtue any Christian can attain to. Far from bringing shame and a loss of dignity, such self offering is the means of entering into and enjoying forever the glory of the Triune God.
In fact, giving glory is the central role of women in God’s world. Paul reminds the Corinthians that the wife is the glory of her husband (1 Cor. 11:7b). Women are gifted to beautify and to enhance. Give a woman groceries and she will glorify them by making a meal. Give her a house and she will make it into a home. God has given to women the office of glorification. This explains why in many marriages the woman seems to be more competent. In many cases she is. She exists to civilize and glorify her husband. But when a woman seeks to initiate rather than to respond and glorify she will find only frustration.
No man or woman is autonomous. Neither sex will find fulfillment and freedom by grasping after dominion and clutching onto "rights." Instead, it is only as men and women embrace and graciously give themselves to the "service of Christ," defined, limited, and directed by the Word of God, that both will enter into the joy and delight of a life well lived.
To modern women, the Bible offers wholeness and rest. The books and other resources we offer at Exodus are full of rich application and sound instruction in recharting the way to a wholesome and lovely Biblical womanhood.
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