Feminism, Gender Issues & the Bible

God’s View of Women

Has Your Church got it Wrong?

Surprising Insights

Grantley Morris

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Various beliefs and attitudes about gender issues can empower people, or crush them; inspire them to soar, or enslave them. That makes our views on the roles of men and women critically important to the God who has invested into humanity more than we can even conceive.

Feelings can be devastatingly strong and deceptively convincing. No matter how real it seems, however, any feeling that God loves women less than men, or that he thinks women are inferior to men, is not from heaven. Most likely, that insidious feeling is the product of significant people in one’s life breaking God’s heart by failing to treat women or girls with the tenderness, honor and respect that their Creator expects them to be given.

Any woman who has felt put down by a man has been subjected to abuse that appalls God. If the perpetrator claims to be a Christian, the offense is even more serious. The Almighty’s compassion for the oppressed powers a terrifying passion for justice, as seen in such Scriptures as:

    Mark 9:42 Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck.

So mindboggling is divine love, however, that it even extends to oppressors whose callousness infuriates him. As heart-rending as it is, however, we all benefit from this conflicted situation. If that has you scratching your head, I’m forced to confess an embarrassing complication: the chilling truth is that even the most saintly of us stands in desperate need of the Judge’s eagerness to forgive our atrocities.

For a while, then, our merciful Lord restrains his stupendous yearning for justice:

    Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (English Standard Version)

    2 Peter 3:9-10 The Lord . . . is patient with us, not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief . . .

Our tender-hearted Lord is eager to forgive all who are broken with regret over their blunders. Those who remain unrepentant, however, will reel in regret for all eternity.

I must confess, nonetheless, that no matter how critical gender issues are, I cannot help feeling tenderly even toward people whose views and behavior alarm me. Let me explain.

We each have a surprising tendency to forget we are human. Although the reminder will probably be painful, I pray the Lord graciously reminds me of my humanity as often as needed – which is particularly likely whenever self-righteousness begins to intoxicate me.

In the Greek New Testament, angel (aggelos, pronounced angelos) simply means messenger. Ironically, however, whether in the Bible or in your neighborhood, God speaks to humans through humans, vastly more than he uses angels. Have you thought through the implications?

I’m no heavenly being; no alien from another world with any claim to innocence or infallibility. Even to call angels an entirely different species does no justice to how staggeringly they differ from us. They are so far removed from us that they are not merely genderless; they are not even physical.

Unlike celestial beings, I need look no further than myself to know how often we humans are blinded and bullied by hurts, fears, prejudices, presumptions, and even by the dogmatic assertions of godly people whose walk with God or Bible-thumping ability makes them seem almost infallible. At the end of almost everything I write, I link to a webpage emphasizing my own fallibility. (I name the link My Shame to entice people to read it.)

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So neither feelings, nor current experience, nor people’s opinions, are reliable indicators of God’s view of women, nor of how immensely he treasures you out of all the billions on this planet. To grasp how the infinite Lord, the God of the Bible, thinks and feels, we must put aside our biases and preconceptions, and dive into an exciting exploration of God’s very words. In fact, whilst keeping it fascinating and easy to understand, I’d like us to plunge deeper than most Christians ever go. We could make some unexpected discoveries.

Will you join me?

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Let’s start at the very beginning:

    Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Condensed, but without distortion, this is saying, ‘. . . God created man . . . male and female . . .’

If that sounds odd, it is because the English language has changed over recent decades. Nevertheless, the point is so important that to ensure that no-one is left in any doubt, here in the very beginning of the first book of the Bible, this verse defines precisely what God’s Word means when it uses the word man. It means humanity.

Whenever the Bible speaks of ‘man’ or ‘men’ in a general sense, it is referring equally to both genders. Yes, it is God’s express desire for women and girls to be included just as much as men.

Until the last few decades, this was more readily understood because it was the way everyone spoke, not just in biblical Hebrew, but in everyday English. Language has now changed so much that to reflect the true meaning, up-to-date Bible versions should use ‘humanity’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘man’ or ‘men’.

Make no mistake about it: humanity’s Judge is flawlessly impartial (Scriptures) and holds both genders equally accountable. You will find in the just-cited link many Scriptures affirming that God shows no favoritism, but if you crave further confirmation that God does not judge with double standards, you need go no further than the Ten Commandments. Consider how they merely state, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). Nothing is said about coveting husbands. It was quite unnecessary to spell out that God applies the same standard to both genders.

Consider this:

    Hosea 4:14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute, nor your brides when they commit adultery; because the men consort with prostitutes, and they sacrifice with the shrine prostitutes . . .

This is not, of course, saying one gender is justified in sinning because the other gender sins, but it is emphasizing that with God, sexual morality applies equally to both genders, no matter how much some men might wish it did not.

Consider also how men and women are granted equal sexual rights:

    1 Corinthians 7:3-5 Let the husband give his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife. Don’t deprive one another . . . (Emphasis mine.)

In fact, it is worth reading almost the entire chapter because it spells out over and over that, with God, the exact same rights, responsibilities and pressures apply equally to men and women (1 Corinthians 7:10-16, 32-34).

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A Deliverer?

The creation story has depths that reveal more about the honor and dignity of women than you might have realized:

    Genesis 2:18-20 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

    Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. . . . The man gave names to all livestock, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field; but for man there was not found a helper comparable to him.

To become aware of his need for a helper, God had Adam examine the animal world. When, for example, birds pair off, the female role is not to pander to the male’s whims but to play an essential role in the fulfilling of their joint, divinely-appointed task to be fruitful and multiply. So it is with wives: their divinely intended focus is not the meeting of their husband’s personal desires but a task so noble that it is bigger than both of them – the fulfillment of the couple’s divinely-appointed assignments.

Someone limited to English, unable to access God’s Word in its initial form, might be excused for supposing that the term ‘helper’ could apply to a servant and/or menial tasks. The reality is astonishingly different. Never in the Bible does the Hebrew word here translated ‘helper’ imply servitude. It is the term for a savior/deliverer. It is such a strong word that it is used almost exclusively of God as humanity’s helper. For example:

    Exodus 18:4  . . . “My father’s God was my help and delivered me from Pharaoh’s sword.”

    Psalms 33:20 Our soul has waited for the Lord. He is our help and our shield.

    Psalms 70:5 But I am poor and needy. Come to me quickly, God. You are my help and my deliverer. Lord, don’t delay.

    Psalms 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
    (Emphasis mine.)

This suggests a wife is like God to her husband. Of course, she does not in any way replace God, but by giving a woman the status of her husband’s helper/deliverer, the Lord is assigning her a Godlike role in her man’s life.

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As with our need of God, a man’s need of a helper implies his weakness, not his right to lord it over the one on whom he depends.

The Hebrew word for help that we have been examining means to be rescued from deep trouble – from a predicament so dire that one is unable to save oneself. We all know how men typically loathe having to ask for help. They find it humiliating to admit even to themselves that they need someone’s help, and yet, in this situation, the help they so desperately need can only come from a woman. A man can either resent that dependence – the source of much misogyny? – or remain forever grateful to the woman who keeps on rescuing him. He can bless God for her; delighting in her, or grieve God by despising her or tiring of her:

    Proverbs 5:18-23  . . . Rejoice in the wife of your youth. . . . let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be captivated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be captivated with an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another? For the ways of man are before the Lord’s eyes. He examines all his paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare him. The cords of his sin hold him firmly. He will die for lack of instruction. In the greatness of his folly, he will go astray.

The degree of never-ending faithfulness divinely expected of husbands and wives is appallingly rare in our throw-away society.

Over and over, Scripture speaks of Israel going after other gods as if it were marital unfaithfulness. Despite being the ultimate, the Lord knows all too well the sickening blow of people thinking someone else might be preferable to him. And every day of every year, multiplied millions ensure the Perfect One knows the pain of being falsely blamed. No wonder he defends the spurned wife (Malachi 2:13-14).

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Feminine Aspects of Almighty God?

What if the Lord of Creation thinks so highly of womanhood that he deliberately chooses to refer to aspects of his own nature as being female?

First, let’s get straight what is obvious to everyone, and yet somehow often fails to impact us: the Almighty has none of the most basic things that make someone male. In fact, there are many ways in which it is insulting or even blasphemous to think of God as being male. He does not have male genitals, even though, from the moment of birth, that is one of the most fundamental things that differentiate a male from a female. Neither does God have a Y chromosome or testosterone. Men tend to be hairier. God, being spirit, has nothing physical, including hair. Neither does he ever have sex with anyone. He has no opposite sex. Moreover, Scripture emphasizes that the man needed woman. He was incomplete without her. There is nothing needy or incomplete about God. He is, like no one else, the All-Sufficient One.

So if there is any possible way in which God could ever be thought of as male, it would have to be in a very peculiar, limited and non-human sense.

Nevertheless, in creating the human race in his very image, God chose to make humanity male and female.

“In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27) certainly means that women and girls bear the divine image equally as much as their male counterparts. Put negatively: anything distinctively female in our species is no less like God than anything that is distinctively male. But is there a deeper reason for the Word of God placing side by side humanity being in God’s image with the creation of male and female? To see how strong the link is, let’s print the latter part of Genesis 1:27 this way:

    In God’s image   he created him;
    male and female he created them.

This reads like Hebrew poetry in which “male and female” parallels or corresponds with “in God’s image.” Whereas a common feature of English poetry is repetition of sounds (rhyme), in Hebrew poetry, a common feature is repetition of truths (synonymous parallelism). Examples and Comment.

Does the divinely authorized account pair the two so closely because creating the sexes is a significant aspect of God making humanity in his image? The link suggests that both genders were required for God’s image to be complete. Could it be, for example, that the breadth of qualities pooled when a man and woman become one in marriage, better reflects the breadth of God’s nature than either gender does without the other? Perhaps this is one reason why people feel a unique completeness in a good marriage. We certainly know from the biblical teaching of the body of Christ that the fullness of Christ is better portrayed by the entire church than by individuals.

The book of Proverbs does not shy away from implying there are feminine things about God. It hails wisdom as infinitely precious (Scriptures) and of unrivaled importance (“Wisdom is supreme . . .” – Proverbs 4:7). It never speaks of wisdom as being weak or fickle but as the most critically important and dependable quality that will protect us (Scriptures) and provide for us (Scriptures), and yet it speaks of this priceless quality not as being male, but female (Scriptures).

One’s intelligence is an essential, fundamental and inseparable part of anyone, whether it be a human or God himself. And Proverbs speaks of this crucial part of God, that has always been in him and through which he created everything, as being feminine.

It treats wisdom as being so much of God that you could almost replace the word wisdom with eternal Son of God and the result would be theologically correct. For example:

    Proverbs 3:15 By wisdom the Lord founded the earth . . .

    Proverbs 8:23, 27, 30 I [wisdom] was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. . . . When he established the heavens, I was there. . . . I was the craftsman by his side. . . .

    (Compare this with John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17)

Together, this forms just one example. For more, see Similarities Between Proverb’s Wisdom & the Son of God.

God, of course, is a person and Proverbs links God and wisdom so much that it refers to wisdom not as a thing, but as a person. Staggeringly, however, that person is female, not male (Scriptures).

Jesus, too, speaks of wisdom as female, and refers to wisdom to justify his own actions (Luke 7:34-35). In fact, Scripture says, “Christ is the . . . wisdom of God,” (1 Corinthians 1:24 – Related Scriptures).

Several of Jesus’ parables featured women and/or were more likely to appeal to women than to men (Examples). One of particular interest is in Luke 15, where Jesus delivers three consecutive parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (prodigal) son. In them, God is likened to a shepherd and a father. In the middle parable, however, Jesus likens God to a woman (Luke 15:8). This might surprise some misogynists, but not someone who takes seriously the Bible’s insistence that God made both male and female in his own image (Genesis 1:27).

There is, of course, a huge overlap between men and women in their abilities and qualities, but any features more typical of either gender, reflect the glory within God himself.

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It is true that Scripture speaks of God as being a father, but burn this into your brain:

    Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Emphasis mine.)

To get even a vague idea of what God is like, we must never forget “then how much more,” plus Jesus’ insistence that, alongside the good Lord, every other father we have ever met is evil.

God is a father without equal, but there is far more to him than our experience of fatherhood. He is powerful, but also tender and nurturing. Average fathers might be lacking in the special qualities that mothers have, but there is nothing average or deficient about God.

Not only does Scripture reveal God as like everything desirable about a human father – only infinitely better – but it also speaks of him as being like a mother. For example:

    Isaiah 66:13 As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you. . . .

For more surprising and deeply moving examples hidden in God's Word, see God’s Maternal Side.

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Also noteworthy, is how highly heaven values Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:30-32; 1 Timothy 3:15) and yet, even though half of it consists of males, Scripture speaks of it as being female:

    Ephesians 5:25-27  . . . just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her . . . to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle . . . (NIV)

    Revelation 19:7, 9 Let’s rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let’s give the glory to him. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. . . .

    Revelation 21:9  . . . Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.

    (Emphasis mine.)

Related Scriptures.

Not one of us has a thing to boast about. Everything even slightly good about us is entirely the grace of God and the work of Christ. And, even then, we too often break his heart and sabotage what he has done for us at stupendous cost to himself. Nevertheless, redeemed humanity is the spiritual elite; the best humanity has to offer God. And, as we have noted, the best of humanity is divinely portrayed, not as male, but female. Moreover, no matter how much it might make men squirm, and how much it might clash with their self-image, every male Christian is asked to see himself as part of the bride/wife of Christ.

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Furthermore, God’s Word insists that men and women are spiritually equal:

    1 Peter 3:7  . . . husbands,  . . . live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman . . . as being also joint heirs of the grace of life . . . (Emphasis mine.)

    Galatians 3:28 There is neither  . . . male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Imagine the impact, if the words in that last Scripture (Galatians 3:28) were ringing in one’s ears on the momentous occasion of first joining the church, and you and everyone else kept hearing it every time anyone else joined. What if this was, in fact, what happened in the early church – in the very era when that declaration was at its most radical, because it stood in total contradiction to what almost everyone outside the Christian community believed?

Theologian, Robin Scroggs, is convinced this actually happened. He says this verse “is almost surely a fragment of an early baptismal formula . . . The community was powerless to alter role valuations in the outside culture, but within the church, behavior patterns and interrelationships were to be based on this affirmation of equality” (Source).

Writes James Montgomery Boice, “It is hard to imagine how badly women were treated in antiquity even in Judaism, and how difficult it is to find any statement about equality of the sexes, however weak, in any ancient texts except those of Christianity. The Jew prayed, ‘I thank God that thou hast not made me a woman’ (common morning prayer). Josephus [a famous first century Jewish historian] wrote, ‘Woman is inferior to man in every way’ . . . The Gentile world had similar expressions. But Paul reverses this.” (Source).

Commenting on a significantly different portion of Paul’s writings, Donald M. Lake says something similar: “Paul’s description of the sexual relationship in 1 Corinthians 7:1-7 is unparalled in ancient thought and lit. [literature]: ‘the husband does not rule over his body, but the wife does.’ ”

Consider also Martha’s squabble with Mary (Luke 10:40-42). Martha was virtually telling her sister, “As a woman, your place is in the kitchen, not at Jesus’ feet with the apostles,” but our Lord defended Mary’s right to the privileged position she had chosen.

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A Powerful Person

For another aspect of the Bible’s view of womanhood, consider this description of a wife:

    Proverbs 31:11, 14, 16-18, 24-26, 28-29, 31 The heart of her husband trusts in her. . . . She is like the merchant ships. She brings her bread from afar. . . . She considers a field, and buys it. [A huge financial decision.] With the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard. She arms her waist with strength, and makes her arms strong. [Even her physical strength is valued.]

    She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. . . . She makes linen garments and sells them, and delivers sashes to the merchant. [She has her own business.]

    Strength and dignity are her clothing. . . . She opens her mouth with wisdom. Faithful instruction is on her tongue. . . .

    Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you excel them all.” . . .

    Give her of the fruit of her hands! Let her works praise her in the gates! . . . (Emphasis mine.)

This is one highly capable person! Her husband esteems her intellect, talents, economic prowess and even her physical strength.

We all know how expensive property is. The woman Scripture exalts, not only has the ability to make such critically important decisions; her husband has full faith in her. And this part of the Bible was written centuries before Christ. Just a few centuries ago, for a married woman to wield such power was exceedingly rare, and even in the twenty-first century, many Muslim women are not allowed to do so.

Nowhere in the full account does her weight, age and figure even rate a mention. Neither does how sexy or attractive she is. In fact, Proverbs 31:30 specifically states that charm is deceptive and beauty is vain but the woman who honors God should be praised.

Treating anyone as a sex object is totally contrary to biblical thinking. Instead, she is esteemed for endowing herself with ‘strength and dignity’. A literal translation of the Hebrew is that they are her clothing. We are not born with clothing. We choose what we wear. Likewise, being clothed with ‘strength and dignity’ is not something she has no control over, but what she chooses to do. It refers not to certain features some women are born with and others miss out on, but what any woman can choose to do. The same applies to honoring God and to other things mentioned in this passage.

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The Weaker Sex?

To rightfully claim the ability to discern the subtleties of expressions in New Testament Greek takes ten to twenty years of harder work than I am capable of. What I know, however, is that the same Greek word for ‘as’ is used in both of the following:

    * love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31, and elsewhere)

    * giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7)

The similarity of expressions suggests to me that the Bible is no more emphatically stating that women are weaker, than it makes the nonsensical claim that you are your own neighbor. Since the first quote is saying love your neighbor as if he were yourself (not because he is yourself), the second could be saying husbands should love their wives, not because they are weaker, but as if they were weaker (and hence deserving greater care).

To love someone as if that person were oneself demands immense love and respect. Consider, for example, how much time one devotes to tending to one’s own needs. God insists, however, that husbands must go beyond even this. In Ephesians 5:25, God says husbands must love their wives as Christ did when he literally sacrificed everything, even his very life. And in the Scripture that inspired this discussion, God tells each husband to love his wife as if her earthly shell – the part of her that houses eternal treasure – is worthy of even more consideration than his own.

Let’s pluge deeper:

    1 Peter 3:7-9 You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as also being joint heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

    (Emphasis mine.)

As you know, it is my conviction that whether wives are actually more delicate is a matter this Scripture does not address. What it does stress, however, is that every husband is divinely required to treat his wife with greater care, sensitivity, thoughtfulness and gentleness than he treats himself.

Moreover, it declares that if any man fails to do this, the God who both made the woman and cares passionately for her, is so alarmed that the man’s prayer life – the very core of his relationship with God – is at stake. The last thing anyone needs is communication problems with God. Who wants to find oneself cut off from God’s blessings? Who wants to be in a crisis and have his desperate pleas to the only One who can save us go no further than the ceiling?

Suddenly the implications of this Scripture hit hard:

    James 5:16  . . .The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. (Emphasis mine.)

And this sends chills down the spine:

    Isaiah 59:2  . . . your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

And what about this?

    Galatians 6:7 Don’t be deceived [its coming could be so slow that we are in grave danger of fooling ourselves into thinking we have got away with it, but it is as unavoidable as death]. God is not mocked [it is divinely guaranteed], for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap [we choose our future and seal our fate: we will end up on the receiving end of whatever we have dished out].

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Even for someone unimpressed by my understanding of “as to the weaker vessel,” it is worth observing that this passage is speaking not of women in general but of wives. We all know how gender generalizations have oodles of exceptions, but it is interesting to note that people tend to pair up so as to reinforce the generalization. For example, women who are taller than average men often try to find husbands who are even taller, and men who are shorter than most women often try to find women who are even shorter. So even though gender differences have many exceptions, they often apply within a marriage.

We should also consider the big difference between what people enjoy doing and what they are capable of achieving, if forced to. By way of example, consider introverts and extraverts. Both are equally normal and both have strengths and weaknesses. Introverts can be very good socially. That’s not what differentiates them from extraverts. The difference is that socializing energizes extraverts – it recharges them – whereas it tires introverts. Similarly, it is not that wives are incapable of being tough, but Scripture is saying that it is wrong for husbands to force their wives to act tougher, thicker-skinned, less expressive, or whatever, than their wives would prefer to be.

On the other hand, there are, of course, ways in which men are typically weaker than women. Physically, however, men are usually stronger than their wives, thus rendering their womenfolk vulnerable. In the words of a divinely moved writer, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV – same Greek word for vessel as in 1 Peter 3:7). Any physical advantage, however, must never be abused. Whatever edge either partner has, it must be used to serve – not put down – the other. That’s what love is all about, and God is all about love.

Obviously, women are not to be treated as if they have weaker minds or are spiritually weaker. Indeed, the Scripture we keep returning to insists that they are spiritual equals (joint heirs of Christ’s riches).

We have noted that the Bible honors women not only for their intellect and industriousness but for their strength:

    Proverbs 31:17, 25 She arms her waist with strength, and makes her arms strong. . . . Strength and dignity are her clothing. . . .

Nevertheless, Scripture adds that wives should be treated not with the roughness that some men might treat themselves, but as if female vessels – the outer shell; the earthly, temporal, least important part of us that is “decaying,” as contrasted with “our inward person” that is being “renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16) – deserves even greater consideration than men typically give themselves.

Moreover, the Word of God insists that for a man to disregard this, will threaten his relationship with God. Note the similarity between these two passages:

    Malachi 2:13-14  . . . You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings . . . You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

    1 Peter 3:7-9  . . . you husbands must live with your wives in an understanding manner, as with a most delicate partner. Honor them as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may interfere with your prayers.

    (New International Version)

The passage in Malachi not only highlights treating one’s wife as being critical in how God responds to our attempts to reach out to him (and Peter links this to prayer) but it says it renders offerings useless.

Every husband is expected to treat God’s daughter as the most delicate, priceless and irreplaceable crystal ware. Think of her as a cheap, unbreakable plastic mug, and even on earth you will suffer spiritually. Ride roughshod over her feelings, and God is so much his daughter’s avenger that when he acts, even your prayers for mercy might go unheeded.

* * *

Earlier, when examining Scripture to discover what husbands must do to avoid divine judgment, I cited the context to emphasize that husbands were divinely obligated to act that way. God is not into double standards, however. Peter wrote about how wives should act toward their husbands and then immediately said, “You husbands, in the same way . . . (1 Peter 3:7). This confirms that even if husbands and wives have slightly different roles, there is great similarity between what God expects of each partner. And immediately after that verse, the passage reveals not merely what God expects of husbands but of everyone, regardless of gender or marital status:

    1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (Emphasis mine.)

God excuses arrogance and me-ism in no one. We have already noted that to lord it over someone or manipulate anyone for one’s selfish gain is to set oneself on a collision course with one’s eternal Judge. Scriptures such as the following, of course, apply equally to both genders:

    Philippians 2:5-8 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.

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Beyond Marriage

We have so far spoken often of wives. It is important to understand that a woman’s value extends beyond marriage. Nevertheless, it is a fact of life that most people marry, and it is in marriage that we see men and women side by side, making a comparison of the sexes easier. And it is here that, right from the beginning, the Lord reveals women as Godlike, relative to men. We have seen that God chooses to describe the contribution of women in marriage by using a word similar in meaning to savior. “Besides me, there is no savior,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 43:11; Hosea 13:4). Likewise, the Hebrew word somewhat inadequately translated help or helper is elsewhere in Scripture reserved almost exclusively for God (Proof).

In addition, we all know how vitally important and irreplaceable mothers are. Children deprived of a good mother will suffer the loss for the rest of their lives. It is divinely required that mothers be honored and obeyed, even by their sons, just as much as fathers. This is as basic as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12). We are so aware of this that we take it for granted. It is significant, nonetheless.

Kings’ mothers are frequently named (2 Kings 8:26; 12:1; 14:2; 15:2, 33; 18:2; 21:1; 23:36; 24:8, 18), suggesting they wielded considerable political influence. Ahaziah’s mother certainly did, though brutally (2 Kings 11:1, 3). In 1 Kings 1:11-31 we see Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, taking a key role in helping her son gain the throne, and we see an example of her political power in 1 Kings 2:18-21, where her favor was sought to entreat the king, and she sat at the enthroned king’s right hand.

2 Timothy 1:5 strongly implies Paul was acknowledging the huge impact that both Timothy’s mother and grandmother had had on Timothy’s walk with God.

Nevertheless, as exceedingly valuable as wives and mothers are, it would be wrong to imagine that a woman’s worth peaks in marriage. Scripture is adamant that remaining single is good (1 Corinthians 7:1, 8, 26). The Greek word for good has connotations, not of dour asceticism, but of being wholesome and beautiful. In fact, Scripture goes beyond saying that not marrying is as good as marriage; it says that not marrying is even better (1 Corinthians 7:38).

Elderly widows deprived even of relatives to support them might seem to have little to offer, but that’s not how the Spirit-led early church viewed them. They were the church’s fulltime staff, ministering through prayer and probably other service (Tiny Explanation.) Not even the apostle Paul served fulltime, but divided his time between ministry and earning an income (Acts 18:3-4; 1 Corinthians 9:11-18; 2 Corinthians 12:14-15).

* * *

Insights from a Little-Read Passage

In Romans, Paul sends individual greetings to Christians he esteems. Ten of them are women. For your convenience, I have highlighted each one in Women in Romans 16:1-15.

Let’s look at some of the women specifically named.

There being no US Mail back then (I doubt they even had email, and Paul’s letters were too long for Twitter) letters were usually hand-delivered by a trusted, dependable friend. Theologian, John Murray says “It is highly probable” that Phoebe was honored with the special responsibility of personally delivering to the Christians in Rome Paul’s letter that is now a key book of the Bible. For supporting comments by other scholars, see Further Confirmation.

Murray continues, “But if Phoebe conveyed the epistle there would be an additional reason. . . . Phoebe was a woman who had performed distinguished service to the church and the commendation had to be commensurate with her character and devotion.”

F.F. Bruce says she was a deacon and adds, “That the duties of a deacon could be performed by either men or women is suggested by 1 Timothy 3:11, where ‘the women’ are to be understood as ‘deacons’ (like the men in verses 3-10). . . . Phoebe was evidently to [the city of] Cenchreae what Lydia [another woman] was to Philippi (cf. Acts 16:15).” Likewise, Frédéric Godet wrote, “It seems to us impossible to think that the widows spoken of, 1 Tim. 5:3 et seq. were not persons invested with an ecclesiastical [official, church] office.”

“Both Paul and Luke generally name Prisca (Priscilla) before her husband, perhaps because hers was the most impressive personality,” comments F.F. Bruce on the passage we have been looking at. (For a biblical parallel, see the brief note: ‘Barnabas and Saul’ versus ‘Paul and Barnabas’.)

Hendriksen asks, “Could the reason be that in this case the wife ranked even higher than the husband in her labors for Christ?” If so, she must be quite remarkable because he rightly adds, “her husband too was fully committed to the cause of Christ”.

Everett Harrison says her name appearing first “seems to testify to her great gifts and usefulness in the kingdom of God” but notes that “Priscilla and Aquila represent a splendid image of Christian married life, since they are always mentioned as a couple.

One of the times Priscilla’s name appears first is particularly noteworthy:

    Acts 18:24-27  . . . Apollos . . . was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
    When he had determined to pass over into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he had come, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace . . .

Comments Richard C. H. Lenski on this Scripture, “Luke surely wants his readers to understand that Priscilla was the main teacher.”

Without even considering the significance of Priscilla’s name coming first, however, this Scripture makes it undeniable that “they [not just Aquila] took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (emphasis mine).

At the very least, she clearly played an important role in instructing this man, who was already “mighty in the Scriptures” and “had been instructed in the way of the Lord,” and who “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.”

As suggested by the end of the quote, after receiving Priscilla’s instruction, Apollos went on to become a significant early Christian leader (More).

F.F. Bruce points out that the Mary in Romans 16:6 (see above) is yet another Mary referred to in the Bible and is not mentioned elsewhere.

He also says that although the gender of the bearer of the name Junia is not certain, it is preferable to presume it was a woman. Leon Morris agrees, and refers to an article in which Ray R. Schulz “argues strongly” that it is a woman’s name. Morris is one of many who believe that the original Greek text implies that she was actually an apostle. He cites as one line of evidence the fact that this was precisely Chrysostom’s understanding. (Since Chrysostom was an early Christian scholar, born about 349 AD, one could hardly argue he was influenced by modern feminism.)

Morris, noting the meaning of Tryphaena’s and Tryphosa’s names, writes, “Paul is perhaps using some gentle irony when he commends two ladies called ‘delicate’ and ‘dainty’ for the fact that they work hard ” (emphasis Morris’s).

Commenting on Paul’s touching reference to Rufus’s mother as “his mother and mine,” Hendriksen writes, “. . . here, as often, the apostle again proves that he appreciates what the female members have done and are doing for himself and for the church, for the glory of God.” Clearly, Paul felt warmly and tenderly toward this woman. In fact, he considered each of the women listed as worthy of honor.

* * *

You might think little is said about these women but we rarely pause to realize that the same is surprisingly true about almost everyone else in the New Testament. Every human is of infinite importance to the infinite Lord. For a little more on that last sentence, see Infinitely Important.

The Lord of glory is so staggeringly better than anyone else we have ever encountered that we keep going to appalling extremes in underestimating him. Let’s not let human limitations cause us to doubt not only how much an entire gender means to their Creator and Savior, but how stupendously important to him is the most seemingly insignificant of us.

We would need a freight train to haul around a book recording every human act that in a single moment our Lord considers important. So, rather than detailing all the people whose service God regarded as invaluable, the role of the New Testament is to focus on matters essential for our spiritual well-being.

For example, we learn from Acts 1:21-23 that Joseph and Matthias had been with the apostles “all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, to the day that he was received up from us,” but not one of the Gospels mentions them. They were nominated to replace Judas, and Matthias was chosen. Neither of them was ever cited again in the Bible. This surprises people who forget that the same is true of most of all the other eleven. For example, nine of the new Twelve are never again mentioned in the entire book of Acts, even though they must surely have had significant ministries.

In all the Bible, Judas himself is mentioned only in relation to his betrayal and suicide – other than one Gospel saying he objected to the extravagance of the perfume poured on Jesus’ feet (John 12:4). The other Judas, too, is recorded asking just one question in one gospel (John 14:22) and virtually nothing else. It is not even certain who he is in Matthew’s and Mark’s list of apostles, since they use a different name for him.

Even apostles we feel familiar with are almost never mentioned beyond their names appearing in the list of Jesus’ Twelve. We know that Jesus called Matthew, who then invited his friends and Jesus to his home (Mark 2:14-15), and that’s about all Scripture tells us. We actually know a little more about Zacchaeus, and a number of others, who were not even apostles. Outside the list of apostles, Philip is mentioned only in John.

And these are among the apostles we know most about!

There are ancient traditions of many of the little-mentioned disciples doing significant things. It’s certainly possible – after all, they were hand-picked by our Lord and filled with his Spirit – but there are so many about whom the Bible says astonishingly little.

The Bible mentions Jesus’ mother so much more often than his father that biblical accounts give no proof that he was even alive for most of Jesus’ life.

Even about Jesus’ time on earth, Scripture tells us far less than most of us realize.

* * *

Building on What We Have So Far Learned

We all know the honor showered on the first person to climb Mount Everest, the first person to walk on the moon, and so on. Ponder this: the first person to see the resurrected Lord was a woman (Matthew 28:1, 9; Mark 16:9; John 20:11-17). God does not have accidents. She was divinely chosen for this honor.

If businessmen who finance significant projects are considered important, how important should we regard those who financially supported the Son of God’s earthly mission? Except for Joseph, who gave Jesus his tomb (Matthew 27:59-60) and a few like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) and Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:39-40), I only know of women who even slightly filled this valuable role:

    Luke 8:1-3 . . . he went about through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of God’s Kingdom. With him were the twelve, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; and Joanna, the wife of Chuzas, Herod’s steward; Susanna; and many others; who served them from their possessions. (Emphasis mine.)

Among the “many others” mentioned in the above quote must have been “Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:55-56).

Not only is financial support significant, these women supported our Lord not by mailing a check, but up close and personal; following him from village to village to village; seeing his every miracle, hanging on to his every word, and interacting with him as intimately as his twelve apostles.

We miss so much when, as we inevitably do, we read Scripture with twenty-first-century eyes. Robin Scroggs, who has a greater familiarity with the cultural background to Jesus’ time on earth, says of the women who followed Jesus, attending his needs: “Since these women were not wives of the disciples, a picture emerges of an itinerant traveling entourage of males and females unmarried to each other – a situation which would have been scandalous to the pious Jew.” He goes on to say, “The attention and acceptance given in the gospel tradition to prostitutes and women with other immoral sexual histories is startling, seen against the backdrop of Jewish piety” (Source).

So radically did Jesus’ ways clash with the prejudices and self-righteousness of the religious elite of his day, that it is no coincidence that in the genealogy (usually an all-male document) of the Messiah, we find five women, all of whom, along with their male partners, were involved in some form of sexual impropriety (Explanation). To start a Gospel highlighting this, as Matthew did, must have shocked Jews, even though the Old Testament scriptures made them very familiar with the facts.

* * *

When King Josiah wanted to hear from God, he told the priest and other officials, “Go inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah.” To do so, they consulted a woman; a prophetess who, moved by Spirit of God, spoke a message from God to them (2 Kings 22:12-15).

Both Miriam (Exodus 15:20) and Deborah (Judges 4:4) are specifically called prophetesses. Speaking of Miriam, note the significance of her ministry as indicated by this Scripture:

    Micah 6:4 For I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage. I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

Temple-dwelling Anna is specifically called a prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), and Mary’s ecstatic utterance was clearly prophetic. I believe the same applies to Elizabeth and to Hannah (Details).

In 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, Paul devotes much space developing the argument that prophecy is the greatest of all spiritual gifts, and he writes of women prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5) as if it were an everyday occurrence, as does Acts 2:17 (quoting Joel about the new era of the Spirit). And, much later, Acts 21:9 mentions not one or two, but four women “who prophesied.”

We have also cited biblical evidence for a female apostle.

Significantly, Paul wrote that two women, Euodia and Syntyche, “labored with me in the gospel (Philippians 4:2-3, KJV). Hawthorne says the word here translated “labored with me” means “to fight together side by side with.” He explains that it “is a metaphorical word drawn from the games or the gladiatorial arena. . . . It implies a united struggle in preaching the gospel, on the one hand, and a sharing in the suffering that results from the struggle, on the other.” He explains that the use of this word implies “more than a hint of cooperation on the same level [Emphasis mine]. By using it Paul wishes to say that these women are . . . to be respected highly for their energetic cooperation with him, working at his side as esteemed members of his team.” More on these two women.

Using another Greek word, Paul refers to another woman, Prisca, (along with her husband) as his fellow worker or co-laborer (Romans 16:3). The particular term Paul used here for fellow worker, is what he used elsewhere for such significant people as Timothy (Romans 16:21; 1 Thessalonians 3:2), Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23), Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:6, 9), and Luke and Mark (Philemon 1:24).

Abigail is praised for being wiser than both her husband and David:

    1 Samuel 25:3 Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail. This woman was intelligent . . . but the man was surly and evil in his doings. . . .

    1 Samuel 25:32 David said to Abigail, “Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! Blessed is your discretion, and blessed are you, who have kept me today from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with my own hand. . . .”

In addition to all of this, it might be timely to again remind ourselves that, except for a rare few granted the ability to feel complete without marrying (1 Corinthians 7:7), women are the divinely-ordained deliverers of men who find themselves in a dire predicament.

* * *

2 John is addressed to “the chosen lady and her children” (2 John 1:1, note also 2 John 1:4-5, 13). Ruth Edwards comments, “Though frequently interpreted today as the personification of a church, there is much to be said for the older view that ‘the elect lady’ is an individual (cf. 3 John 1:1) who was in a position of leadership within a Christian group (cf. other references to churches meeting in the houses of individual women, e.g. Acts 12:12).”

Edwards then proceeds to make an interesting comment on Mark 10:12, which speaks of a woman divorcing her husband. “This statement is problematic, since in Jewish law only a man could initiate a divorce, and adultery was an offense against the husband. Either the Markan formulation is an adaption to Jesus’ words to a gentile, possibly Roman, setting, or Jesus is here radically differing from the Jewish position by placing the woman on an equal footing with the man.”

* * *

An Offensive God?

We noted that, in their abilities and characteristics, there is a huge degree of overlap between the sexes. Moreover, God has none of those things that are unique to human males, and he should not even be thought of as having them. Nevertheless, God is by no means an ‘it’. He is so much a person that alongside him, the most warm and caring of us seems cold and insensitive.

We have no pronoun in our language for a genderless person. Forced to choose a pronoun that is either associated with a male or a female, the Lord, for some reason, chose the male one. On the other hand, he deliberately opts for the feminine pronoun for that critically important part of him: wisdom. We cannot expect the one and only God to fit neatly into human categories.

It is tragic if the male pronoun is disconcerting for some dear women who have suffered atrocious at the hands of certain males. There are, however, more males than is commonly acknowledged, who have also suffered atrociously because of men and, for example, reel at the thought of God being called a father. On the other extreme, many people who missed out on having a good father have found special comfort in thinking that in God they have the perfect one.

Likewise, women who ache for a husband they do not have, often find comfort in such Scriptures as:

    Isaiah 62:5  . . . As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

    Isaiah 54:4-5 Don’t be afraid, for you will not be ashamed. . . . You will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more. For your Maker is your husband . . .

For them, seeing God as male means a lot. Men who find themselves without a marriage partner, however, are deprived of such comfort.

* * *

Fear and resentment are natural human reactions to being treated in an ungodly way. Regrettably, these feelings inevitably turn cancerous and spread from the original cause, until we end up feeling this way even toward innocent people. For example, if one male’s cruelty induces fear and resentment in us, it can spread until we find ourselves feeling this way about most males. More alarming still, no one is as innocent as God. When we let our reaction eat away at our relationship with God, it is truly tragic.

A vital aspect of Jesus’ earthly mission was to show us what God is like (John 1:14; 14:9; Hebrews 1:1-3). Almost everything he did offended some people, whether it was eating and drinking with ‘sinners’ (Matthew 9:11; Matthew 11:18-19) pronouncing someone’s sins were forgiven (Mark 2:5-7) healing on the Sabbath (Luke 6:7; 13:14) letting women get close to him (Matthew 15:22-23; 28:9; Mark 5:27-32; Luke 7:39; 10:39-40; 18:15; John 4:27) or whatever.

Astonishingly, what offended some, was often the very thing that greatly blessed someone else. Something that offended virtually everyone, however, was when Jesus spoke of people having to consume his flesh and blood. He could have expressed it another way but, instead, he used it to sort out who truly wanted him:

    John 6:60-61, 66-68 Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?”
    But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? . . .” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?”
    Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. . . . ”

All of us will eventually find something about God that offends, even though there will usually be some people who find it not even slightly off-putting, and possibly even comforting. Not only is the Lord of all mind-bogglingly complicated, even human variability is so frustratingly complicated that it is quite impossible to please everyone – and certainly not until we are willing to let go of prejudices and preconceived ideas and can see beyond our initial emotional response.

Of necessity, anyone seeking a relationship with the infinite Lord who in every way is staggeringly superior to us, has to be willing to tolerate mystery. Though bewildered, those who are genuine, will push through the source of offense and eventually find solace.

* * *

A Sobering Re-Assessment

I know an intelligent family in which every member has been devastated by too many years in a spiritually abusive church. I cringed to sense how hurt and broken they were. The woman described the church as “strongly patriarchal.” Her husband attended faithfully but was not allowed to be a member because he had previously been baptized by a woman. Women were not permitted to serve communion, or even take up the offering. Men were expected to wear suits and ties in church. Even outside church, women could wear only dresses – and very long ones at that – and their hair had to be a certain length. Behind the scenes was a domineering control freak who manipulated everything. Just when I thought I knew where this was going, I was shocked to hear that the powerful manipulator who shattered precious lives was a woman.

Things are not always what they seem.

We are now near the end of this webpage, but near the beginning, I confessed that I often find myself feeling compassion not just for victims but for offenders. I’m at it again. I shudder to think what that domineering manipulator might have suffered to end up that way.

I’m pathetic at righteous anger. The problem is that to have it, one must be righteous. Too often, all we can muster is self-righteousness, which is as useless as self-made banknotes. I dare not attempt assigning blame. The log in my own eye disqualifies me. All I can do is hang my head and sincerely pray, “Lord, have mercy on us all.”

Despite everything said in this webpage, it is vitally important that we remain acutely aware of how terrifyingly easy it is to slump into a sleazy, ungodly view of power and significance. It’s the way to end up envying those who grieve God – and not even know we have fallen into this seductive trap. Divine standards are so astonishingly different from human ways that we ignore to our peril our Lord’s warning that what “is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Worldly acclaim, and what delights God, are popularity poles apart. The beauty of Christlikeness is lost in the glare of the limelight. May we have the wisdom to swap the fame that fizzles, for the glory that gleams for all eternity.

Let’s remind ourselves of what Christlikeness is all about:

    Mark 10:42-45 You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

    John 13:14-15 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

    (Emphasis mine.)

Our Lord kept stressing this principle and applying it to different scenarios. So vital is this that the rest of God’s Word likewise emphasizes it. It is so contrary to the thinking of the world we are immersed in, however, that we keep missing it. See Significant Examples.

Despite some critics angrily misjudging him as arrogant, even the Apostle Paul actually had the heart of a servant. He not only labelled himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), “the least of the apostles,” “not worthy to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9), “less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8, Weymouth New Testament – NIV is almost identical) and as “like an aborted fetus,” he repeatedly said such things as:

    2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. (NIV).

More examples of Paul’s Selflessness.

Some ministries, by their very nature, are upfront and hog the limelight. Teaching is such a ministry, but James sobers us quicker than ice dumped in a hot tub:

    James 3:1 Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.

I’ve compiled an entertaining and moving summary of some of the reasons almost all of us end up with such a distorted view of ministry that it leaves us feeling needlessly inferior. For comfort, encouragement and common sense, see Prominence in the Church versus Prominence in the Heart of God.

* * *

Every part of one’s body wants and needs every other part. As mentioned in the previous link, it’s the same with Christ’s body – every part is vital and should be regarded as such.

Before whizzing on, let’s pause for a moment to consider how astonishing it is that God’s Word says the eternal Son of God is so intimately connected to each of us that we could be thought of as actually being part of the very body of the indescribable Being enthroned in heaven ruling the universe. That’s so staggering that if it were not in the Bible, I would probably have thought it blasphemous. It drives home just how important each of us is to God. “When one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. When one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). And since this is his body, the exalted Lord suffers, too. And if this is true of individuals, consider how much more must it apply to an entire gender.

Like me, you might be familiar with the following but have missed what it is actually saying:

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Don’t you know that you are a temple of God, and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, which you are.

In my teens, I used to conclude from this that my body is God’s temple and I should therefore treat it with care. Regardless of how true that might be (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:19) I was basing it on the wrong Scripture. Clearly, temple is singular in the above quote, but what is not obvious in English is that the Greek for you is plural (Proof).

Paul is not saying here that each individual is a temple of the Holy Spirit, but that all his readers together form one temple. He is saying that collectively – as Christ’s body – we are a temple, and that to harm it is to expose ourselves to divine judgment. It is hard to imagine much greater harm to that sacred temple than to fail to honor not just a few individuals but an entire half of the temple.

Since either gender makes up half of Christ’s body, both genders are critically important, and to devalue either is to offend our Lord.

The key point of the Bible’s teaching on the body of Christ is that it is essential for a fully functional body that there be significant differences between parts:

    1 Corinthians 12:17-20 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? . . . If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, but one body.

Rather than it be our similarities that make us equally valuable, it’s actually our very differences that make us equally needed and irreplaceable. If we were all the same, anyone could replace anyone. In fact, whether it be a human body or the supernatural body of Christ, a bland uniformity among members would be a catastrophe, resulting in a hideously deformed, malfunctional monstrosity. Could there be anything more hideous and malfunctional than a ‘body’ that consists of nothing but one huge tongue or an eyeball? Differences are to be delighted in.

Consider a priceless oil painting: some colors are used more, some might stand out more, some might look drab, but each is vital. What if someone ruined the masterpiece; sincerely believing he was improving it and promoting equality by pouring thick, gray paint over it so that all the colors are the same? ‘Equality’ like that would debase everyone.

For any of us to devalue our uniqueness would end up robbing not just ourselves, but each other, and the non-Christian world that needs our witness infinitely more than it can understand, and even God himself, who both treasures diversity, and created it:

    1 Corinthians 12:4-11“. . . there are various kinds of gifts . . . various kinds of service . . . various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. . . . For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another . . . according to the same Spirit; and to another . . . and to another . . . and to another . . . and to another . . . and to another . . . and to another . . . and to another . . . But the one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing to each one separately as he desires.
    (emphasis mine.)

It has never been God’s wish that in his family there be envy, resentment, fighting for dominance, or thinking oneself superior or inferior. “. . . the members should have the same care [equal care, says the NIV] for one another” declares 1 Corinthians 12:25. It would grieve our Lord, however, if anyone sought to destroy his carefully created diversity; mistakenly thinking that that was the path to harmony.

You might be suffering an injustice that makes you envy some people. If so, my heart goes out to you. Perhaps you have been made to feel second class because of people’s attitudes or, even worse, because of actual things Christians or people claiming to be Christians, have done to you. Their behavior is unacceptable. You might also have been cruelly barraged by slanderous lies from one called “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10, JKV). The devil is an evil trickster who delights in trying to sow discord among God’s people, and in trying to falsely accuse and denounce all who through Christ are approved and cherished.

One day, every one of these malicious assaults will be exposed, and the perpetrators will be eternally shamed. In the meantime, however, we are called to hold on to God’s truth and, with the eyes of faith, see through the oppressive fog fiendishly designed to obscure the Lord’s loving heart. Maintaining that faith can be a tough, prolonged battle. Few would believe – or even care – how much I know this from bitter experience. But God cares, regardless of how intensely it can feel that he doesn’t. No matter how lonely and hopeless and relentless the battle can feel, love and approval is on the side of all who cling to Christ.

The Lord was just as proud of Paul when he was languishing in prison, or too wounded to move after one of his many beatings, as when he was preaching to hundreds. The Almighty was just as proud of him when he was making tents or washing his clothes, as when he was saving souls. If so, our Lord is as proud of the one who, week after week, stays behind to tidy the church, or the one whose prayer battles no earthly person realizes moves heaven from behind closed doors, as the one behind the pulpit. He is just as proud of the elderly lady singing in a choir to an almost empty church, as he is of the solo artist whose songs inspire millions.

In fact, those who get the glory now, are in grave danger of the sad plight of those about whom Jesus said, “they have received their reward” (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). Those who want their reward now are like those who sell for a few dollars shares that will end up worth billions.

* * *

Just as “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9), so it is with those who want to be ‘important’.

The most common and tragic reason for people falling into this trap is not realizing how immensely loved of God and special to God they are. Most of us have enormous difficulty realizing even a tiny fraction of how special we are to God. For help with this I urge you to read How Much does God Love Me? Receiving a Personal Revelation of God’s Love for You.

More Help on Gender Issues

Is God Male or Female? God’s Gender

God as Tender as a Mother?

Husband, Head of a Submissive Wife?

Help for Christians Who Wish They Were the Opposite Sex

Related Pages

God Isn’t Fair?

The Deceptive Power of Low Self-Esteem

[Much More!] [E-Mail Me]
[Daily Quotes]
[My Shame]

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2000, 2007, 2009, 2018, 2019 Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.


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