Saturday, June 29, 2013

Equality



This week on the way to vacation Bible school, my son would read the Bible text for the day's lesson to me in the car.  Our theme was "Jesus is the only way to the Father" so all the Biblical texts were from the gospels.  In simply listening to him read I was struck again with the fact that Christ Himself was ministered to by women.

Women were a vital part of His ministry.  

Women are amazing.  I know I'm of that gender, but I am fascinated by the creativity and gifts of women.  Women are so nurturing and empathetic, complex and multi-gifted.  Women wear so many different hats and can master many talents.  I have never seen a woman I didn't think was beautiful externally.  God created each of us an ambulatory work of art. Look how many artists painted beautiful paintings of women of different varieties in many different settings!

Women are nurturers by nature.  God created us, "male and female, in His image" giving women an intuition, or sixth sense of sorts, to know how to meet people's emotional and physical needs.  We are image-bearers of the Living God, Himself, portraying His nurturing side.  A man and woman cohesively bear the image of God within the covenant of marriage.  God created a male and a female to work together, with our differing roles, in His garden to accomplish His purposes.  And, thusly, while Christ never had a romantic relationship with a woman, many women came alongside and helped Christ in His ministry.

While Christ was teaching, healing, and meeting the needs of multitudes of needy people and walking with His disciples, the women in Christ's company of believers ministered to His physical needs for food, shelter, clothing, and respite.  They offered hospitality and nurture to Christ and His weary followers so they could minister to many more.  Many of the women who walked with Christ were women of means from families of standing and had the ability to help in many ways.  They used their gifts and resources wisely.

But even before Christ enters the world clothed in human skin, God shows his love and respect for women throughout the Old Testament by caring for several individuals.  The first one that comes to my mind is the Egyptian servant, Hagar in Genesis 16, mother of Abraham's first son, Ishmael.  Sarah throws her out in jealousy after Sarah gave her to Abraham as another wife for the purpose of bearing him a son.  Hagar runs into the wilderness where she is intercepted by an angel at a spring of water.  The angel kindly tells her not to be afraid and tells her to return to Sarah and Abraham and that she will bear a son and he will be a great nation.  She gratefully says, "Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me."  God takes care of a female servant outcast!


It's interesting because I have always had a little bit of disdain for Hagar, being Abraham's infidelity wife when he and Sarah didn't trust God enough for the promised son, but God was so kind and nurturing to Hagar, even promising her offspring would be great.  She fled a second time when Sarah got angry at her for making fun of Isaac and God met her a second time - saving Ishmael from death and giving Hagar a secure place to live.  What a gracious God to nurture a used, abandoned, forlorn woman, who had no status and no place in the future Israel. But He had a plan for her.

In fact, some of the other women elevated to scriptural fame coming to mind were not blood descendents of Israel either:  Ruth, the Moabite widow of Naomi's son.  God provided her Boaz, an Israelite kinsman redeemer, who was a gracious man of means.  He took pity on her after her husband died, meeting her immediate needs, and eventually marrying her.  King David was their great grandson.  Rahab, the harlot from Jericho, who protected Joshua and Caleb from the Jericho authorities when they snuck in to the city as spies.  She helped them escape and God mercifully rescued her and her whole family when Israel attacked the city.  Rahab is one of Jesus' ancestors.  Deborah the Judge was a famed ruler of Israel, humble Queen Esther saved the entire Jewish race, and Mary, mother of Jesus, the Bible calls, "most blessed among women." 

So many more names come to mind: Anna, the elderly widow in the temple; Mary Magdelene, and the sisters, Mary and Martha, all of whom served Christ; Mary was the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection; the fact that God ordained women to be the first to see the empty tomb!  Rhoda, the little servant girl who received Peter into the house after his jail eviction; and Lydia, the clothing entrepreneur.  Other honorably mentioned NT saintesses:  Phoebe, Julia, Junia, Priscilla, Aquila, Olympus, Lois, and Eunice.  There are many other Old Testament women God singles out in His narrative whom He used to accomplish His purposes too.

We women have come a long way!  We have equal rights with men in America.  Interestingly, women of the Old Testament, and probably the NT societies, had no status.  They were property.  But this is not according to God's design.  Moses makes a point in his account of creation that a woman was made for a special place beside a man, helping him in his calling to tend the garden (wherever God has given them dominion): nurturing little worshipers of God, nurturing him so he can do what God has called him to, and using her gifts and talents as is beneficial.


Of course not all women (or men) are called to marry.  What then?  Are they fulfilling their purpose?  OF COURSE!!!!! Isn't God sovereign in all His plans?  Does He not govern every aspect of our lives?  Psalm 139 says that every day of our lives was written in His book before the foundation of the earth!  His plans for each of us are stamped with His grace and mercy and purpose, causing us to persevere to the end.

Earthly covenant marriage does not complete a man or a woman, Christ does!  Christ is the bridegroom, the church is the bride.  Even Paul addresses this mystery after he speaks of how husbands and wives are to relate to one another in Eph. 5:32, "This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."    Our collective marriage to Christ is the ultimate covenant relationship.  It is interesting to me that women in the church spear head the mercy ministries of the church:  meals, charity, children, outreach.  The women's ministries in the church compliment the vision of each church.  Women play a vital role in being the hands and the feet of the local body (among other gifts, of course).


So, while we have different roles and gifts than men, we have equality with men in eyes of God.  We are just as special and valuable.  Where we get confused is in buying into the myth that we are identical to men and therefore should have the same calling and purpose as men.  God did not create Adam and Eve at the same time and divide up the work 50/50 between them.  He created Adam, then when "no suitable helper was found," Gen. 2:20, God made Eve from Adam's body, to serve as a help beside Adam - equal in value, different in nature and nurture and purpose.




God is a complementarian.  Not an egalitarian.  He creates communities of individuals, unity within diversity, harmony from dissonance, calm in the eye of the storm.  All of creation, including marriage and the church body, is indicative of His complementarian nature.  The trinity itself functions in this manner, each member having equal value and glory and yet, different economic roles.  So our covenant relationships function the same way.

Perhaps how I was struck this week was in how honoring Christ was to the women He chose to serve with Him and on which He bestowed the love of the Father.  He elevated us to our rightful standing as ontological (the essence of being) equals with men.  While societies have stifled women's value and purpose, God rightly restored us and our identity through Christ's treatment of women in the gospels.










And we certainly can't forget to reflect on the Proverbs 31 woman.  She worked at home, in the marketplace, researching and retrieving the best resources, brought her husband honor, was charitable to the needy; purposeful and joyful in all her tasks and how is she honored?








Prov. 31:28-31

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her: 
 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.” 
 Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 
 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.


Soli Deo Gloria.


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