Guest post by my son, Jon: God’s design for men and women

Yesterday evening, I finally looked at the responses to the article on Eve and the apple I posted on Friday. To my surprise, it had generated an intense and fascinating discussion. One of the commenters was my oldest son, Jon who blogs here. Some of his comments were so outstanding I’ve compiled them together to create a guest post. Here’s what he wrote:

Some people say from the Genesis account that women are by their nature gullible and need a man to guide them in making decisions. Really? Perhaps it’s us men that are more gullible if we believe someone who tells us that :). I think this is a great example of exactly what God said the result of the fall would be…men trying to rule over and belittle women.

Don’t misunderstand me, there are clear differences between men and women…some areas where women tend to be stronger and other areas where men tend to be stronger. But I’m married to a women and she’s anything but gullible. The truth is I need her as much or more than she needs me when we’re making decisions.

When God created man in his own image, he specifically said “male and female he created them.” There’s something about the different sides of God and his character and personality of which both men and women are each uniquely created to be image bearers.

But I’m tired of men putting down women and using scripture to defend it. That’s exactly the sort of thing that really pissed off Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that Adam and Eve were standing in the garden together when the servant tempted Eve. It’s not like he pulled her aside or away from Adam to tempt her–we know that from the text. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, WHO WAS WITH HER, and he ate it.” I think they’re both equally guilty, Adam could have easily stepped in and saved Eve; he heard the same speech, but he didn’t step in.

I don’t know if we’re supposed to walk away from the first three chapters of Genesis thinking that somehow man or woman screwed up more or less. However, I think the real gold is in what happens next, because it’s here we understand what the curse was about.

I understand it this way…

The way God designed it was that both genders would get their identity and value from Him and Him alone. To see this just read through the first two chapters of Genesis and you’ll see God’s design for men and women and their lives together. Let US make them in OUR image… let THEM rule. It’s a model of unity, of co-leadership. My friend Morgan wrote a great post about it here.

I think the really interesting part in the light of trying to understand the history of Gender Inequality is what happens later in the story when God shows up and explains what the curse is about. He says, the serpent will become enemies with the woman (we know all about that), that the women’s desire is for the man but he will rule over her, and that man will desire the ground but have to work to get food from it.

And from that point on in history women have not only tried to get their identity from men but been held captive and ruled over by men…not the way God designed it at all. This isn’t a good thing; this is the curse. As we read the rest of the story and look at human history it’s clear that women have been the most abused, the most enslaved, the most held captive of any group of people. This isn’t the way God designed it at all; this is exactly what the enemy wanted.

But there’s good news…and the good news is that Jesus came to free us from the curse. When he came he announced his mission with a passage from Isaiah 61, and that passage says He came to heal the broken hearted and to set the captive free. TO SET THE CAPTIVE FREE. The question is who was the most captive since the curse? Who had been most mistreated and enslaved throughout human history? Women, right? The good news was that Jesus came to set the captive free.

Just look at how he treated women compared to society of his day. The women at the well, the women caught in adultery, Mary and Martha…and on and on. He treated women as equals in a society that didn’t.

I’m not sure that I walk away from the first three chapters of Genesis thinking that somehow Adam or Eve screwed up more or less…but I do walk away understanding the origins of all the mistreatment of women that we’ve seen since that time and even today. And when I read the rest of scripture (and for that matter look at human history) with that understanding, with the understanding that so much of what I see is a result of the curse that women will be ruled over by men, it helps me understand human history and patriarchal societies, and even the present day abuses of women. And it makes me want to stand with Jesus and fight to see the captives fully set free, so that men and women can be equal the way the God intended it. As Paul put it in the letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

That’s the good news.

Eve and the apple

A few years ago Paul Young, author of The Shack was the main speaker at a House2House conference. Paul gave some fascinating insights on the account of the Fall in Genesis 3.

I’d often wondered why Adam was blamed for the Fall rather than Eve. I’d always assumed it was because he was the one to whom the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given. However, there may be more to it than that.

As a response to my last post, Chris posted a comment reminding me of what Paul Young had shared at that conference. The following are Chris’s comments:

Amongst a whole lot of other stuff Paul pointed out that the woman has always been in a healthier place than man. When Yahweh questioned the woman she pointed to the snake and said, “He deceived me and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

She spoke the truth.

When Adam was questioned he hurled an accusation against Yahweh, “The woman you gave me…” (Genesis 3:12)

Adam blamed God.

Eve says that she and the serpent did it. Adam says that the Lord and Eve did it.

And where did they look for their sense of worth and significance after the fall? They could no longer find it in the Almighty. Eve looked to Adam (at least she looked to another person). Adam looked to the ground, the soil from which he could raise crops.

She is in a fundamentally better place. Men have such a lot to answer for, we still get our sense of worth from what we do (for the most part). Women find it mostly in relationship. Far healthier.

Interesting! What do you think?

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He will rule over you–descriptive or prescriptive?

One of the verses used to justify the relegation of women to “second-class” citizenship within the church comes in Genesis 3. As a result of the fall, God curses Satan, women and men. To the woman, God says:

Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (verse 16).

This verse has certainly proved true (descriptive) down the ages. Here are several illustrations of the attitudes of men towards women throughout history.

Plato and Aristotle

“If we spend our lives in wrongdoing and in cowardice, afterward Zeus will send us back into this life as women.” (Plato)

“The male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.” (Aristotle)

What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.   (St Augustine)

Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.     (Clement of Alexandria)

If [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth–that is why they are there.     (Martin Luther)

“Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler the universe who has not created me a woman.” (Prayer recited every morning by traditional Jewish men)

These are only a very few of many quotes I could have used. They demonstrate an attitude towards women that has haunted the female half of the human race down the centuries.

In ancient times, women were regarded as property and subservient to men. Even today,it’s often still a man’s world. In some nations, baby girls are more likely to be aborted or left to die at birth. Even here in the West women still make less money than men for doing the same job. Women are more likely to be physically abused or sold into slavery. In many nations girls receive less education than men and are regarded as inferior.

But is this what God wanted (prescribed) or is Genesis 3:16 a description of the result of the Fall? In Genesis 1 and 2, there is no evidence of hierarchy of the man over the woman. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve shared dominion.  The subordination of women was the result of sin. It doesn’t reflect God’s intention for how men and women should relate together. For Christians, the New Covenant should reverse the effects of the Fall to the original goodness of the created order. Jesus died on the cross to free us from the effects of Adam’s sin.

What do you think?

 Photo Credit: Image Editor (Creative Commons)

Three wise women

You do know what would have happened if it had been three wise WOMEN instead of men, don’t you? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought disposable diapers as gifts!

This is all over the Internet so I don’t know who to credit it too.Jim Rutz alerted me to it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE. May you know the presence of the Savior throughout this season.

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Are moms with young kids too busy to involve in the Kingdom?

Is it possible for a busy wife and mother to be involved in Kingdom work? Some people would say that women with young kids simply don’t have the time. But I’ve come across several very creative moms who are living life to the full, enjoying their children–and acting as ambassadors for the Kingdom at the same time. Here’s a great example from Judy Russell who sent me this facebook message a few days ago.

I’ve heard you speak about the role or lack of role of women in Christian communities and thought you would like to hear about something amazing going on over here in Santa Cruz, CA with moms and kids. 

I started a new type of play date group about 3 1/2 years ago called the Bible Experience. Our play dates consist of picking a Bible verse and doing it with our children. We are a mix of moms from different faith backgrounds and current beliefs, but all open to practicing scripture since it reflects common values such as generosity, kindness, creativity, etc.

For example, our next Bible Experience will be held at a local (secular) nursing home. We will be putting into practice Luke 2:11-14 by Christmas Caroling with our children. 

Our previous Bible experience was help at a (secular) family shelter where we put into practice John 4:16 by making placemats with the moms and children staying there. Our children played alongside the resident children and made friends with them. A while back we went to a local park and put up signs for free face painting and the scripture verse 1 Samuel 16:7.

There are many other examples. Check us out on facebook and Pinterest.

Sorry this is so long-winded, but the Bible Experience has reached moms in and outside the church, disciples our children, and is transforming lives. I just wanted to share it you.

What kind of creative ideas have you come across?

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Women as “helpmeets”?

For many years I was taught that my purpose as a wife/woman, was to help my husband. A sort of divinely appointed personal assistant to him. He was the one to take the initiative; I was there to help him fulfill God’s vision and call on his life. If I was to have any kind of strategic role, it was to be through my husband.

While I am happy to serve my husband, there seemed an inherent injustice in how this outworked itself in church life.

This teaching mainly came from Genesis 2:18, which in the King James Version of the Bible says this:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 

More modern versions also describe the woman as a helper for man.

It was very enlightening for me to discover more about this word “helper.” The Hebrew word, ezer, is used 21 times in the Old Testament. Of these, in all but six it refers to God.  Typical examples include, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help (ezer).  My help (ezer) comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2) or “Our help (ezer) is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). It contains the ideas of power and strength, a guide, mentor and shield.

The Hebrew word translated “meet” or “fit” means literally in front of with the understanding of “comparable to.”

The impression is more of a valued consultant than a personal girl Friday.  It’s a delight to be an ezer.

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The role of women in simple churches: challenges

There are some questions that are crucial to the future of the church. The role of women is one of them.

(My blog was hacked a couple of weeks ago while we were in Hong Kong and has been giving me technical problems ever since. I’m working on them!  John Chapman emailed me with some questions since he couldn’t comment on the blog. His comments/questions (in bold) are so important that here’s a whole post devoted to answering them.)

John writes:

I have been reading your posts on women in the Church and the deep concerns you have with regard to them not being given legitimacy as to role and function. I’m on the same page with you theologically. But you raise a couple questions in my head. 

1) Is your concern with a problem that is going on within the Simple Church (Rabbit) structure that you adhere to in your book re Elephant & Rabbit? If so, I get your concern. 

John, yes. When I’ve talked with women (obviously some, not all) in the simple/organic church movement, I have the impression it’s going to require a major shift in understanding for them to take any but a supportive role to their husbands. Even though within the simple church movement in general, there are no theological “stained glass” barriers for women, there are still remarkably few of us taking any kind of strategic roles. We’ve become conditioned to taking a passive role while waiting for a man to take the initiative. Obviously there are other factors too–for example, many women work and they don’t have time outside of their work hours to keep up with all that needs doing within their families, let alone getting more involved in Kingdom activities. But they could come up with other creative ideas such as a lunch time get together with their work colleagues.

However, I get the feeling that your concern with regard to women’s ministry is related to the vertical-top-down (Elephant) structure that the Church has become today. If that is true, then I have a second question.

My concern goes right across the ecclesiological spectrum. While I’m obviously primarily involved in the simple/organic/house church world, I have a deep concern for women within legacy churches.  For those who are totally satisfied with the status quo regarding women, that is fine; I’ve no desire to cause them any angst. But there are many who are very, very frustrated.  However, I believe that is beginning to change. Within the mega-churches in particular, there’s an increasing emphasis on the empowering of women. For example, Exponential in 2013 has a leadership track specifically for women. Some denominations expect full participation from women, willingly ordaining them. (This isn’t the place for a discussion on ordination.)

 
2) What is it about the Elephant way of doing things, that would cause you to expect that an institution whose ecclesiology (“Elephantology” if you will ) that finds its roots in an exegesis, an exposition, a tradition and a teaching that dates back to Constantine, would or could really embrace the NT Simple Church (Rabbit) construct, that everyone, including women, has something valuable to contribute or speak into the Church?
Wow! That turned out to be a very long question :-/ But it is sincere  🙂

John, I  hope I’m understanding your question right. What I hear you ask (far more diplomatically than I’m about to put it) is this: is there any way for traditional churches to change their views on the role of women? They have inherited a hierarchical and patriarchal system since the days of Constantine and are unlikely to change in their thinking.

It will take a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit! So yes, I believe it’s possible.

I personally believe that one of the next major emphases of the Holy Spirit is going to be on the role of women. Already the signs are there. There are an increasing number of books that are coming out on this topic–a year or so ago,  I was hardly aware of any. To see  a major harvest here in the West, women will need to step up to the plate. If women are freed to walk into their calling and destiny, we potentially can double the workforce for the Kingdom.

There’s an increased blurring across old dividing lines in many areas of Kingdom life at the moment. God is up to something. For example, I see little of the old division between charismatic and non-charismatic. Some of my closest friends would not claim any kind of charismatic experience but they are more Spirit-filled and move more in the power of the Spirit than many charismatics I know. Another blurring is coming between house churches and legacy churches. Many legacy churches, both individually and as whole denominations, are applying simple church principles to outreach and missions.

As we focus on the Kingdom, the old divisions seem to play little role. So the topic of women in strategic roles is important across the spectrum. As legacy churches grandparent movements of simple churches, it’s important that they lay good foundations, including the role of women.

Women and slavery

One of the arguments cited against women being free to do whatever the Lord calls them to is that we need to obey the Scriptures, even when they go against our natural inclination. While the argument sounds foolproof–obviously we need to obey the Scriptures–I have considerable reservations about a legalistic application of controversial Scriptures to justify a position that goes against what we see of the nature and character of God.

For example, it was Christians who argued against the abolition of slavery, and they used the Scriptures to justify their position. God endorsed slavery in the Old Testament by giving instructions for slaves, Jesus used slaves and masters in his parables, and Paul gave instructions on the behavior of both slaves and their masters. Therefore, and the Bible is quite clear on this, God must approve of slavery.

NOT!

There isn’t a sane Christian living now who believes that God wants people to be slaves. Why? Because the whole tenor of the Scriptures is towards liberty, not captivity. As Alan Hirsch says in the upcoming book on women that I’m working on:

“I don’t understand how a true evangelical can claim to appropriate the gospel in all its fullness, and countenance, for example, racism. So if someone questions me on issues like these, here’s what I say:

“Can you imagine a situation in heaven, when Jesus is fully king and God reigns completely, where people are traded as slaves, bought and sold as other people’s property?” People reply, “Of course not. There’s no way that would happen in heaven.”

And then I say, “Racism: can we conceive that in heaven there will be some kind of hierarchy of race in heaven?” Everyone says, “Absolutely not!”

Then I take it to the issue of gender. I say, “Can you foresee a situation in heaven when you stand before God, that women are inferior in status or function to men?” It would be very hard to hold a belief in the inferiority of women in light of the weight of glory. Of course I’m reflecting Galatians 3:28 here.

There’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female but Christ is all in all.”

The whole tenor of Scripture is that God is no respecter of gender. Peter, talking on the Day of Pentecost, quotes Joel in Acts 2:17:

In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women,  I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

In the New Testament, we see women, filled with the Holy Spirit, functioning in the five-fold gifts, described as beloved co-workers of Paul and the other apostles.

However, there are disturbing Scriptures that apparently contradict this position. But can they be viewed in another light? Further posts to come.

 

What if: could it take this to see a move of God in the West?

It’s 1983: Tony and I are in Seoul, South Korea. The insurance money from a burglary has given us the excuse to visit Tony’s parents in Hong Kong. We’ve left our kids with them while we visit the largest church in the world–at that time around 350,000 members–where Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho is the pastor. When we get there, the temperature is fifteen degrees below freezing, and with no heating in the church guest facilities (we are the only visitors crazy enough to go at that time of year) we need to go out frequently to warm up.

One of our outings is to the administrative building of the church. We are wandering around the offices, reveling in the central heating, when a man approaches us.

“Would you like to visit with Dr. Cho?”

I have to admit that my first thought is “I’m not dressed appropriately” (jeans and boots and as many layers as I can fit on)!

We have about twenty minutes with this humble man of God. Towards the end of our conversation he says he would like us to communicate three things to our nation. The first two concern prayer and fasting. It’s the third I’ve never forgotten.

“Tell your nation to empower your women. You people in the West will never see a move of God until you use your women.”

Dr. Cho attributes the phenomenal growth of his cell church in part to the fact that he empowers women–47,000 of his 50,000 cells are led by women and two thirds of his 600 associate pastors are women.

Could this be true? In those nations where there’s currently a massive harvest being reaped, women are a vital part of what is going on, being used by God in extraordinary ways. Is our  misunderstanding of the Scriptures and our legalistic following of the letter of the law concerning women actually preventing a move of the Holy Spirit here? When women are relegated to supporting men, the body of Christ is robbed of half its potential.

The group of women I work with spent some months looking at the role of women in revivals. We were investigating whether women in strategic leadership positions have any impact on revivals. One of our conclusion was this: there are classically two types of revival. Some are over very quickly (think Wales, Hebrides, Indonesia etc) while others last for decades (China, Korea, Wesley and Methodism, Zinzendorf and the Moravians). Our conclusion? Those that last for decades empower their women.

What could happen in the West if women were encouraged to step into their full potential without the usual restrictions placed on them? Could this release a move of God?

What do you think?

Photo credit: Christopher Jetton (Creative Commons)

Lessons from our dog…

Tony, my husband, and I used to have a dog called Sugar—a faithful and loyal companion, though of dubious parentage and limited intelligence. Sugar had one major character flaw. She loved to wander. We live in a house with a fenced yard and an electric gate across the driveway. Sugar used to hide, lying in wait until a car went through the gate. Then, just as the gate was closing the final few inches, she would make her bid for freedom. She would return several hours later, exhausted but very happy.

For various reasons, not the least of which we live on a busy road, we decided to put a stop to her adventures, so we installed an invisible fence across the driveway. When a dog approaches too close to an invisible fence, a little battery on their collar gives them a small jolt of electricity. They soon learn their boundaries.

After a couple of, shall we say, shocking experiences, Sugar learned to stay within the confines of our yard. In fact, long after the battery in her collar had died, Sugar would sit, wistfully gazing at the liberty that lay on the other side of an open gate without making any attempt to escape. She had become conditioned to her limitations.

As women in the church, we, too, have been conditioned to live within boundaries. We have learned to live with limitations in the church. Even when we have the freedom–for example to lead, to teach or to take a strategic role, our previous experience of wha a woman was “allowed” to do can prevent us moving into all the freedom God has for us.

Have you found ways to move beyond your boundaries?

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