Doug Serven RUF Bible Study November 5, 2003 Women1 Proverbs 31:10-31, 1 Peter 3:1-7 I thank you , Lord, that you have permitted me, and wanted me in the number of your women. – St. Catherine Ladies, I‟m talking to you tonight. Some of you were smiling as I hammered the guys last week, but now it‟s your turn. I‟ll try to be gentle, but you know I‟ll be firm. It‟s tougher I think to pick a passage on womanhood, but we‟re going to join together Proverbs 31 and 1 Peter 3:1-7. My hope is to tell you what these verses mean and what implications they have for you, as well as interject my own thoughts along the way. Men, you need to be here to listen, to hear what you should be looking for and praying for in a wife, and so you can encourage the women to be what God wants them to be. Now, we can‟t say everything about everything every time, so you‟re going to have to cut me a little slack. I‟m not giving the definitive word on women tonight. I‟m not a woman. Never have been. I don‟t claim to know what it‟s like. If a genie could grant it, one of my three wishes would be to switch with Julie for a day, week or month, to see what it is like to live inside her head and body for that time. It would be very helpful and fascinating. My only qualifications to speak to this issue are: 1) I can read and interpret the Scripture 2) I‟ve been married for ten years and have two daughters, and 3) I‟ve read probably more books on women than all of you put together. To me it‟s a fascinating topic, one that I don‟t I‟ll ever get tired of exploring, but one that I never fully expect to understand. 3:1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives— 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external— the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. I‟ve said this before, but I think that one of the absolute hardest things to be in the world is – are you guessing what I‟m going to say? (nuclear physicist, NBA power forward, Miss America, billionaire, honest SEC football coach?) – is a 18-30 year old woman. Especially if you‟re smart, talented and beautiful. Really. The odds of you truly understanding who you are and what is important in the world are completely stacked against you. Television, movies, music, images and magazines tell you what it is you‟re supposed to be. Role models give a message, and many of your mothers didn‟t help at all to give you the right bearings for life. Evangelical Christianity often has only a limited message to say – don‟t have premarital sex and don‟t dress like a slut. That‟s about all the help you get to deal with your femininity. Christianity in the mainstream gets co-opted by the world, and offers very little resistance. Liberal Christianity seeks to take a feminist approach, blurring the distinctions between men and women, and thereby seemingly to affirm the world‟s take on what a woman is. Does the Bible have things to say about being a woman? If so, are these, like we‟re so afraid of, oppressive and repressive to women? Does the Bible teach that women can do anything they want – or that they can‟t do anything they want? Let me state first that men and women are the most alike things in the world. We share 90% of the same things physiologically,2 we are created in the image of God. In the main, the Bible tells us what we as people should be. We affirm the overwhelming alikeness between us. But that is not all there is to say. Anyone would look at men and women and say that they are different. Anyone who spends time with men and women can see that we have differences that go beyond looks. The questions are which of those are real and true and which of those are stereotypes or peculiarities not associated to gender but personality. It can get pretty confusing and we can cause real damage if we get it wrong. You‟ve got to see and believe that God does have something to say about being a woman. He has given us some guidelines that are for our good. Some of them can appear to restrict our freedom, however. Imagine that tonight while we go home and sleep all the street signs, white lines, and stop lights, speed limits and yellow lines magically disappeared. Legislation was passed that decreed that these rules were too limiting and each person had the right to decide how to drive, where to drive, and how fast to drive. What would happen? Disaster. Wrecks. Death. What if we just took out stop signs only? Chaos. You‟ve pulled up to a four-way stop and not known who should go next, right? Someone pulls out, and you‟re like, hey, wait, I was next in line. 1 Sources for this: John Stone‟s messages to RUF at Un. of Tenn-Knoxville, Backlash – Susan Faludi, Eve’s Revenge – Dr. Lilian Calles Barger, Gender – Frederica Matthewes Green, Reviving Ophelia – Mary Pipher, John Piper sermon from desiringGod.com, Rob Rayburn sermon from faithtacoma.org, 2 I have no idea what the real percentage is. I just made 90% up. But at least everyone stopped. You and I are constantly and continually benefiting from the restrictions placed on driving, ones that we don‟t even think about any more.3 God made you to be women, he made you feminine. That has a meaning, an importance for your lives. These texts give us freedom, not bondage if we choose to understand and live by them. Remember the glory that was Eve when she was created. Remember how men and women are co-heirs of creation. How they are the king and queen of everything. We‟re going to talk about roles in a later discussion, so I don‟t want to get into the whole topic of submission right now. But it is in front of us, so we have to at least touch on it. The amazing thing about this 1 Peter text is that Peter talks to women as independent moral agents. The context is Christian women who have unbelieving husbands. Peter gives them advice on how to live and think in that scenario, something that we‟re saying has a larger impact than on only that situation. However, the cultural backdrop is that women followed their husbands in everything. What he does, she does. What he says, she says. What he thinks, she thinks. What he believes, she believes. Peter, however, speaks to her. Not to him, but to her. He says that she should remain a Christian, that she should think on her own, that she should do things that her husband might in fact disagree with. That is tremendously “subversive” and empowering to women. “This is quite a revolutionary attitude for that culture.” 4 Let‟s delve in. Because of their dignity and worth, women must fear God. Look at Proverbs 31 first. Think about how amazing this woman is. She is most likely a composite of Women, and one way we know that that is true is that the poem is written in an acrostic, using the Hebrew alphabet as its first letter of each line. This seems to imply that we‟re talking about womanhood personified in this wife. Anyway, if you did all of this stuff we would have to say one thing about you for sure – you need counseling. This lady is incredible. She is powerful, smart, takes initiative, handles money, makes business decisions, manages her household, bakes and sews, shows hospitality, and everyone thinks she is tremendous. Whew. But there are things on this list that you don‟t have to do to be a godly woman and things that a godly woman has to do that aren‟t on this list. The big thing to focus on is to look at all the things this woman does and then notice that there is one thing that she is noted for. A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. That‟s the key. You see, what we need, ladies, is women who fear the Lord. The world is going to tell you that the rest of the things in that passage are what will fulfill you. That you have to be things, that you need to pursue positions and titles and paychecks and status in order to be considered significant. But that isn‟t what God says. He says that it‟s the fear of the Lord that matters, that he wants you to submit all of those desires and pursuits to him. We need women who are passionate about Jesus, about obeying and loving God with everything they have. It‟s an uncommon thing. Getting into 1 Peter for a second, we need to note that feminism was strong in Peter‟s day. It‟s a myth to think it‟s a new thing. They were being told to leave their family and get jobs to be fulfilled. Does that sound familiar? They were afraid that they were missing something if they didn‟t do this. But Peter says that that wasn‟t true. Women are pressured by this all the time. What hope do you have? Putting your hope in God alone is to reject the world‟s view of femininity. Think about what is happening since we‟ve started burning bras and demanding more freedom. In recent years, more women have left their husbands than husbands left their wives. Second marriages have four times more likeliness of ending in divorce. No fault divorce has been disastrous for women. Abortion has been the same. The pursuit of freedom without fear of God is killing women. It‟s leading them away from happiness instead of toward it. The gospel is a woman‟s only hope for fulfillment, love, meaning and security. You can have all the other stuff and it won‟t make you happy. We all, men and women, were created to rest in God. You will find no rest until you find rest in God. Not in beauty, not in money, not in career, not in position, not in sex, not in anything until you find rest in God. The Prov. 31 woman does an awful lot of stuff, but her real honor is that she fears the Lord and finds herself in him. Women, are you pursuing all of the stuff or are you pursuing God. What would the fear of the Lord look like? It would look like a woman who sits at Jesus‟ feet to hear his words, seen now in reading, Bible studies, hearing the Word preached and taught and leading others to do so. You can find her in prayer, and showing hospitality to others. She is diligent with her time. She plans for the future. Why? Not to earn a boy‟s favor, or to earn God‟s favor, but because she is resting in and delighting in the love of Christ, the love of the Father given to her through the life, death and resurrection of her Savior. Men, do you want to date and marry a woman like that? Are you looking for a woman who fears the Lord? Or are you asking out women that have all the outward things without that inner passion for Christ? Women do a lot of stuff. I think they/you are amazing. I think you are more talented and able in most areas than men are. But it‟s a trap, because so often that only fuels the problem because it doesn‟t take care of the inner issue of dependence on Christ alone. Ladies, we‟re in tornado alley here, right? When the tornadoes storm through Moore, Oklahoma, what are the first things to go? What buildings do you most not want to be in? Yep. Mobile homes. Trailer parks. Right. You don‟t want to be in those. Why not? No foundation. The very thing that makes them attractive – the fact that you can move them around (supposedly), is the very thing that makes them the most dangerous. Foundations cost money. They take up space. They‟re a pain. But without them, you‟ll be blown around in the high winds. You‟ll be destroyed. 3 From John Stone‟s message on this topic. 4 Peter H. Davids, p. 116. The fear of the Lord. Loving Jesus. Resting in Him. Is that your foundation? Because of their dignity and worth, women must pursue and delight in inner beauty. Peter is talking to women married to non-Christian husbands. She says that they should win them over by their actions, by their husband seeing Christ in them. By their service and forbearance and patience and love and respect. He then goes on to say that they should eschew the adorning of the external – fancy hairdos, too much jewelry, designer clothes – and focus on the inner beauty that God desires. Why is Peter saying this? Peter taps into one of the things that haunt women, their looks and bodies. These are two different, yet obviously connected struggles that women have. Whereas men struggle with thinking about sex all the time, it seems to me (and has been confirmed by the women that I‟ve asked) that women struggle with thinking about their bodies all the time. Just as women cannot fathom how men can think of sex every two seconds, men cannot comprehend how women have their bodies in the back of their minds every waking moment. There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for this of course. 5 Women are more in touch with their bodies (I know a woman who says she can tell when her egg drops each month – I don‟t even think I know what that means exactly!), and I think Satan uses that good thing and turns it into a very bad thing. Guys, in general, just don‟t think about their bodies in this way. Women don‟t know what to do about it, and many either totally give into the power of the wrong-headed idolatry or they reject that the body has anything to say at all. It is a multi-faceted thing, so let‟s consider it for a minute. In our society, and in every society, there is a feminine ideal. Naomi Wolf calls this the Beauty Myth in a book by that title. Much of my thought on this has been shaped by the book, Eve’s Revenge, written by Lilian Calles Barger, which I highly recommend. The images on the covers of fashion magazines start with an average model who is five feet eleven inches and weighs 117 pounds. With these measurements, she represents only 2 percent of American women. Even these women have been changed and nipped and tucked and augmented. I remember hearing that even Julia Roberts had a body double whenever she had to do nude scenes. These images aren‟t real women, but they have the power to pound real women into thinking that it is real, it is beauty and it is attainable. Men buy into this equally. The idealized female images projected by media dovetail with the fact that men have not changed much; they still respond to “beautiful women.” A survey of two hundred college women found that no matter how these women felt about themselves, their dating activity was directly related to how men saw them. According to the researchers, if you are perceived as unattractive [according to the female ideal] and overweight, men may have little to do with you when it comes to dating. But haven‟t women known this all along. Author Dorothy Parker says she had never seen a man forsake a beautiful woman to flock around a brilliant one. Nor a successful one, I would add. I‟ve known plenty of brilliant and fascinating women of all ages with no man in sight. But rarely have I seen a knockout waiting to dance. One woman commented to me, „Inner beauty never gets you picked up at a party.‟ Thank goodness for the older women who consoled me as a teen with the words, „There is somebody for everybody‟ while my prettier cousin attracted all the boyfriends. The commodification of beauty has become the currency of the relationship market, and men expect women to attempt to meet the standard. Through participation in the beauty cult we hope to acquire not only self-actualization but also love… Sexually liberated, we seize the opportunities to use physical attraction to get the power we still lack. Through consumption of the beauty culture, any daring woman can now attempt to play the part of a man-eating vixen. The problem is that in the end a flesh-and- blood woman cannot compete with the fantasy of the feminine ideal. We always fall short with the messiness of our bodies.” 6 The symbol for this right now is the breast. It‟s all about the breasts. Just look at the magazines and the clothes that are now in the mainstream. “Historically, the breast as a symbol of femininity has been a frequent site of attention. Based on constantly changing fashion, what‟s vogue has moved from the flat-chested flappers of the 1920s to the current buxom Lara Croft. Even as one group of medical doctors extols the healthful benefits of the breast as a source of nurturing for mother and child, another group is ready to put the knife to them. With breast-feeding socially marginalized and robbed of maternal meaning, breasts have become the premier sexual toy that can be purchased. In many areas, augmentation has become a rite of passage into womanhood and a suitable high school graduation gift as small breasts are increasingly considered a deformity.” 7 Furthermore, and to get the foothold in even deeper, the culture wields its power in defining beauty with cosmetics and dieting. The diet industry is $40-billion a year business. “As media critic Jean Kilborne has pointed out, overcoming food temptation has replaced sexual chastity as the symbol of female virtue. We‟ve been told, „You can never be too rich or too thin,‟ and some of us are out to prove it – literally. When was the last time you heard a woman talk about dieting for health reasons rather than looks? As a way to use the language of the body, excessive dieting seems to prove a woman‟s ability to control an otherwise uncontrollable life and to attain social legitimacy.” 8 “The beauty cult is a $25 billion-a-year cosmetic industry. It is ready and willing to feed women‟s insecurity and help us find our „true‟ selves. The beauty cult assumes that the body stands in the way of self-actualization and offers means to manipulate 5 Think about all the thing women have to think about. Men looking at them, their breasts, having a period, walking alone at night in the dark, someone knocking on the door, being pregnant, breast feeding, etc. These just aren‟t guy issues at all. 6 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 22. 7 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 20. 8 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 19. it and control its intrusion. In providing prescriptions for our disconnected selves, the beauty cult understands our spiritual need to be who we „really‟ are and preys upon that need.”9 It‟s unbelievable to me what the body dissatisfaction rate is – 60% in high school and 80% in college. 42% of girls in first to third grades express a desire to be thinner. 15% of women would sacrifice more than five years of their life to attain the weight they desire. There are at least 8 million sufferers of anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other associated eating disorders in America (90% of these are women). This hasn‟t always been the case. Yes, women have always struggled with going to their bodies for their significance and worth, but it‟s been just that – a struggle. It‟s not a struggle any more. It‟s a given. In her book, The Body Project, Joan Jacobs Brumberg exposes this by comparing American girls and women of today with those of the 1800s. In the nineteenth century, as evidenced from their writing in their journals, girls were talking about character and virtues: self-control, charity, love, service to others. In looking at the diaries of modern girls, Brumberg found almost a total obsession with outward appearance. Girls from 200 years ago still cared about how they looked of course, but it wasn‟t the center of their identities. They sought to cultivate inner character as true beauty. “At a time when women of many classes and races have greater economic, political and social access, the camera that ought to reflect the multiplicity of ways women are women has instead narrowed the concept of beauty and made it more demanding…. There is not only an almost universally prescribed beauty ideal but also a universal belief that any woman can attain it through consumption. By paying the price and buying the right clothes, haircut, hair and skin products, and makeup, girls as young as eleven can be transformed – or so says the myth.”10 What is going on here? What is happening to women? Beauty has become an idol in our lives, and it is killing women. The spiritual role of all human desire is to take us beyond the thing pursued and point us to God. Our desires for social acceptance and beauty reflect our spiritual needs to enter into the divine community. The pursuit of something on earth, like beauty and relationships, can awaken a desire for God because the object pursued can never be fully possessed… [this lack of contentment] is because of a mislocated desire. Nothing in this world can be fully apprehended; the lack always remains, for the nature of things on earth is to awaken our desire for something more, ultimately God. Only when we recognize this ever-present lack in ourselves and in the world will be able to live in freedom from cravings and yearnings. By listening to the lack that is evident in the world, in ourselves and revealed in our desires, we will be propelled toward true fulfillment.”11 Beauty as an unachievable ideal – it‟s an idol. Idols provide meaning for us as they make us worship them. “They give us clarity. They tell us how to live and who we are. The claim they have on us is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to escape, and we are driven to serve them. The alternative is to be excluded, and that is to find ourselves socially adrift. What the idol promises in exchange for our devotion is an illusion of power over our life, illusory agency to become what we wish, and a fraudulent identity from which to speak…. Under the idol, all the practices in which we engage our bodies, such as the use of cosmetics, dieting, exercise, and cosmetic surgery, become spiritual service. In such a spiritual role, the body is the place of redemption. It is the altar on which we atone for failing to meet the expectations of the idols of the beauty or of the world. We have a deep desire to be acceptable, to pay for our shortcomings in ways that affect many areas of our lives beyond the realm of the feminine ideal.”12 Isn‟t this supposed to be the age of women‟s enlightenment? Yes, there have always been problems in the world. But in an age where women have more rights, more freedom, more money, more stuff, more access, more, more, more – what else do they have? More divorce. More suicide. More crime. More diseases. More eating disorders. More killing babies. More pursuit of things that will never be attained. More death. More. Is it worth it? Are people happier? Women are at war with their bodies and with the way God made them. We‟ve assessed the situation (maybe over- assessed). How can you change and think differently about this? We‟re going to talk about your identity no longer coming from outer things, but from the Lord. We‟re going to talk about how we must begin to define beauty not by charm, or by outward beauty, but by character. But first you need to appreciate your body and be who God made you to be. You need to stop waging war against yourself and allow yourself to be manifested in your body. You are a woman. On the cross, we see the world‟s attempt to reduce Jesus to just a crucified body. Jesus becomes on the cross an object of scorn, absorbing the contemptuous gaze of the world. He is mocked and taunted by his crucifiers, even those being crucified with him. They dare him to save himself and come down from the cross. The world‟s gaze seeks to control Jesus by nailing and reducing him to a cross. It seeks to define the terms of his life. But Jesus is God and can never be objectified or consumed. He can‟t be contained… As he absorbs the gaze of the world, Jesus also experiences the withdrawal of God‟s gaze of love. On the cross, Jesus takes our shame. It is a gross thing. If you are looking for a slick and appealing beauty, you wouldn‟t be looking at the cross in its bloodiness and debasement and shame. But we are called by the women at the foot of the cross to do just that. Maybe they are more familiar with blood and sweat and tears and body than we are. They can stand to look, and what do they see? They see beauty because they see love. They see a self-giving nature of a man, something that has the power to displace you from being your own center, from being your own definer, from being your own god. Can you see Jesus looking up – something about him draws you to look in his eyes. He looks at you as he dies for you. He loves you and it is beautiful in its horror 9 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 15. 10 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 44. 11 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 29. 12 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 49. and purity. As we look at him, we turn away from our cultural idols. As our gaze meets his, other things lose their hold on us, they lose their focus and call on our lives. We see that Jesus sees us as beautiful and that frees us from the pursuit of the feminine ideal. On the cross, Jesus had to have a body. You can‟t crucify a spirit. “This is my body.” On the cross, we receive atonement for who we are and we can find peace with our bodies. What does that mean for you? Are you putting your identity in outer beauty? Are you capitulating to what the world defines as beauty? Are you spending more time and energy and money on dieting, exercising and clothes than on God, mercy and people? Are you getting in the face of your friends who buying into the world‟s standards even though they claim to be a Christian? Are you talking to counselors and pastors about your eating disorders? You need to get help. I mentioned that the women should take up an anti-pornography fund, but the guys need to establish the same thing for women to get help with their body issues. You need to be proud of the fact that you are women. You are amazing things. We men are amazed at you, your bodies, your thoughts and talents. You need to delight in those. You can grow humans inside of you. How crazy is that? You should seek to be beautiful without being brazen and too revealing. “Peter does not say that a woman should refrain from adorning herself. He writes no prohibition against using cosmetics or wearing attractive apparel. „Peter‟s emphasis is not on prohibition but on a proper sense of values.‟” 13 We all want you to be beautiful women. That‟s what is attractive about you. Your difference from us. Guys, what about you? Are you playing into this problem by only asking out girls whom you perceive to measure up the feminine ideal? Are you looking for inner beauty and upholding that as a value that women should pursue? Are you betraying your disingenuineness by only asking out girls that are from your preferred body type? Ladies, you are not what you do or how you look. You want to please and you‟ll define yourself by that. Externally look great and achieving all kinds of amazing things, but internally you‟re broken broken up and dying. You know that you‟re either going to die or hit 80 someday. Spend time cultivating the inner beauty, the very thing that God says is his delight should be yours as well. Girls, I‟m with John Stone when he asks, Why are men not getting slapped more? There should be more slapping going on on this campus. You realize that these guys who don‟t understand sex, who are messed up by objectifying women and wanting them to serve their every sexual fantasy, these men who don‟t know how to listen and love and respect women – these men are sleeping with women! Women are letting this happen. You are kissing boys without much resistance. You are letting them touch you because you so want to be wanted. You are not helping. Start slapping. And John says that the greatest thing we could have would be the slap and then the boy says, wow, I‟m so sorry. You‟re so right to slap me. Can we go out next week without all this touching. And she says, sure, I‟d love to. Guys, if she doesn‟t hold up the defenses, you have to wonder. You‟re both to blame, but let‟s pursue purity here because we love Jesus. Because of their dignity and worth, women must pursue and delight in a noble character. Okay, if we‟re supposed to love and fear God, and if we‟re going to reject the beauty myth, stop starving ourselves and believing we‟ll be happier with sexier bodies, more makeup and trendier clothes, what are we supposed to do instead? Peter writes, “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in God‟s sight very precious.” He is saying that a woman who fears God has a noble character. She pursues holiness, which isn‟t defined by time or cultural standards, the point he makes by tying this sort of holiness into the past. A woman of noble character is gentle – amiable friendliness that is contrasted with roughness, bad temper, or brusquness; does not attack back, waits on God to judge in the end, knows God is just, suffers evil without bitterness and vengeance; calm, peaceful and tranquil as opposed to restless, rebellious, disturbed or insubordinate. 14 This gentleness is connected with Christlikeness. “The Greek word which is translated “gentle” occurs only four times in the New Testament; two instances are self-descriptions of Jesus (Matt 11:29, 21:5); one is a beatitude spoken by Jesus (“Blessed are the meek [gentle],” Matt 5:5); and the last one is Peter‟s exhortation in 3:4. Peter exhorts the female readers to display the same gentle spirit Jesus had during his ministry. Furthermore, the Christian woman must have a “quiet” spirit. A woman with a weak and quiet spirit ought never to be underestimated, for meekness is not the same as weakness, and quietness is not synonymous with dullness. The most effective women are those who possess the inner qualities of gentleness and quietness. Because of these qualities, Christian women receive favor in God‟s sight.” 15 In other words, unless you look to Christ, you cannot be this sort of gentleness. It isn‟t just acting gentle, but it‟s being gentle through and through. This is another of these attributes and characteristics that isn‟t promoted in our society. Who earns points by being gentle? Meek? Tender? Quiet? But God says that these are godly attributes, to be pursued by both men and women. He is calling us to be not perfect, but holy – their relationship to God was one in which He appreciated their gentle and quiet spirits. They hoped in God. (1 Tim 5:5) They knew that God would never fail them, whatever their circumstances. Is that true for you? Do you hope in God? Do you know that God will never fail you, regardless of the circumstances you are facing? You may never have the career you would want. You may end with a husband you think is unsatisfactory. You may get kids who are ugly and mean. You may have your car smashed by a lady who has no insurance and be out thousands and thousands 13 Hendrickson, p. 120, also quoting Blum from the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 237. 14 Davids, p. 119. 15 Hedrickson, p. 121. of dollars to fix something that wasn‟t your fault. You may not get the grades you want. You may not be able to afford the clothes everyone is wearing. You may lose the child you‟ve been carrying. You are going to be disappointed at some point, ladies. You cannot control life like that. What then? We sing “Whate‟er My God Ordains is Right,” right? The only way you can sing that is to really believe it. The only way you can really believe it is to trust that God is good and that He loves us and that everything under His control turns out for the good. But that should produce something in you. A peace. A gentleness. A release of control. A submissiveness to His will and working in our lives. You have to be resting in God and His goodness. Pastor Rob Rayburn says it this way: “Let‟s be candid about this. The real difference between biblical teaching and so-called Christian feminism lies right here. The Bible wants Christian women, Christian wives, to live as strangers and aliens in this world, and to view their life and their conduct sub specie aeternitatis, that is, from the vantage point of eternity. A great deal of what the Bible demands of us makes no sense if there is no judgment day, if there is no heaven, if there is no God who will someday delight to receive and reward those who did what pleased him. If this world and this life is all there is, and the rewards one may obtain here are all the rewards that a man or woman will ever enjoy, then it makes sense for women to grab all the power they can while they can and it makes sense to judge everything by the effect it has on people here and now. The woman seems to be just throwing her life away who is submissive to a pagan husband 16 and dedicates herself to the cultivation of a quiet and gentle spirit if, in fact, these things are not of great worth in God‟s sight and it will never be demonstrated that they are. But that is precisely what Christians believe on the authority of the Word of God. That everything in this world and in this life must be evaluated in terms of its meaning and its significance in the world to come.”17 In verse 7 we even read something that makes some of you cringe – you are weaker vessels. But that doesn‟t mean weaker as in less important, less strong, etc. Think of it this way. A Ming vase is weaker than a ballpeen hammer. A Monet painting is weaker than a concrete basketball court. Mother Theresa is weaker than Mike Tyson. 18 Men should be protective of their wives in particular and all women in general. This is a good thing. That submissiveness to His order of things puts it all in the proper context. I think that in the family and in the church God has told us that men should be leaders. Peter doesn‟t even argue this point. He assumes you know and understand it. We don‟t know and understand it anymore. And we have time to get into all of what that means, but it doesn‟t mean two things right off the bat. It doesn‟t mean that men get to do whatever they want and women have to just tough it out without saying anything. 19 But it also doesn‟t mean that it doesn‟t mean anything. That we‟re egalitarian in our approach to life. So without nailing it down tonight, submission means something inbetween those two extremes. And God says that, whatever that definition is, it is good and helpful to you. That you should desire it. John Piper says this: “What then is submission? It is the disposition to follow a husband‟s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, „I delight for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don‟t flourish when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.‟ But the attitude of Christian submission also says, „It grieves me when you venture into sinful acts and want to take me with you. You know I can‟t do that. I have no desire to resist you. On the contrary, I flourish most when I can respond creatively and joyfully to your lead; but I can‟t follow you into sin, as much as I love to honor your leadership in our marriage.” 20 Are you open to that? Willing to follow a man who is following Christ? If you are taking these verses seriously, you need to find someone whom you are willing to follow like that. Someone who leads well that you can respect. That sort of attitude flows out of a love for Christ and a resting in Him. Sarah‟s interactions with her husband wasn‟t righteous in an of itself – but it reflected an understanding of her faith and holiness inside. So should yours. You display that by a willingness to follow, to learn, to lead with respect and gentleness. To be known. In that freedom then, you are able to flourish. Your outward achievements flow out of your inner beauty instead of idolatry. You develop and use your gifts for others and not for yourself. You‟re not helpless by any means – you help others. You‟re a hardworker, diligent, prepared for the future, dressed nicely, hospitable, have great kids, bring your husband respect. You display the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 women because you love Jesus with all you have. You have a husband who hears people say without any kind of reservation “You have an awesome wife!” “His concern is that the church not be known for its production of rebellious wives who have an attitude of superiority, but of women who, because they know God will reward them and set everything right, demonstrate the virtue of gentle submission where Christianity is possible. The OT “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) is cheering them on.” 21 You have all the Christian women in the Bible to cheer you to pursue this sort of gentle spirit. And you‟re going to need them, because the voices in our society don‟t help much. You‟re going to need a Christian community, one that is authentic in talking about what it means to really be a Christian woman. You have to have this community to repair and restore the vision that has been marred by sin, experience and repeated images beaten into your psyche. 16 The greatest example of this is Monica, Augustine‟s mother who lived with her non-believing husband until, on his deathbed he repented and came to Christ. See Confessions IX, 19-22. 17 Rayburn. 18 From Rob Rayburn‟s message on this. 19 Piper writes this: “Others distort and misuse them – I actually sat in my office once with a husband who believed that submission meant his wife should not go from one room to the other in the house without asking his permission.” Sermon entitled, “Women of Value for Non-Promise Keepers.” 20 Piper, same as above. 21 Davids, p. 120. Hear Lilian Calles Barger: “In community, across cultures, and through language, we create alternate diverse narratives by which to live. We define the world for each other. We name and give meaning to our experiences. Together we create stories by which we understand our lives, and we pass on the stories to subsequent generations. But in our assignment of meaning, we want more than an explanation of why things are the way they are. We want a narrative that embraces the life we live in the body – the mundanity of vulnerable flesh. For the followers of Jesus, the biblical narrative is a sacred text that defines the world, corresponding to what is true and real about the Creator ourselves. This sacred text, the eternal Word, has become fully embodied in Jesus and is made flesh in us by faith. The only way for us to escape the world‟s oppressive paradigm is for God‟s self- revelation to become embodied in our everyday life. I believe the crux of the postmodern search for meaning is the need for the Word to be made flesh. It is the only way to escape the cultural dictates and to live a new story.” 22 There are all kinds of issues that need to be dealt with, but we don‟t simply don‟t have the time (whew): the female‟s body as instructive for sex, the pill as a contraceptive device and its repercussions, abortion, childlessness and careers. You can ask me or Julie or the women of the church later. Please do. Lottie Moon23, an early missionary to China, broke her engagement with her husband because he adopted Darwin‟s theories on evolution. Now we can debate the wisdom of that decision if you‟d like but here‟s what Lottie Moon said about breaking up with him. “God had first claim in my life and since the two ideas were in conflict, there was no question about the result.” That is taking your commitment to the Lord seriously. That Jesus matters to you above all else. That shows that your love for Jesus matters more than your looks or your date on Friday night, or mugging on the couch with him because he tells you you‟re beautiful. May we put our hope in the cross. -------------- Recommended Reading: Eve’s Revenge – Dr. Lilian Calles Barger (info about her and her work at damarisproject.org) Gender – Frederica Matthewes Green (see Frederica‟s essays online at Frederica.com) Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Piper and Grudem (note: you can get this whole book online at cbmw.org) Reviving Ophelia – Mary Pipher Backlash – Susan Faludi -------------- Here are three quotes I found especially relevant, but couldn‟t seem to work into my message. “Young women, particularly young Christian women, look at contemporary feminism with understandable puzzlement. It is true that, some twenty or thirty years ago, women were not expected to be capable of succeeding in typically male professions. It‟s true that they were dismissed as fluff-heads, “woman drivers,” charming incompetents. It is further true that the determination of many strong and talented women has reversed that stereotype, and now being a woman in frequently an asset, for tokenist reasons if nothing else. On the other hand, some things have gotten worse. The expectation that women would place that forbidden and hard-won career ahead of children and family turned out to be a disaster. But you can only deny biology so long; now the fastest-growing type of household is the housewife-workadaddy model, with younger couples taking the lead. Young moms state their determination to raise their own children; they and their husbands know from experience what it is like to have a mom who placed career first, and they want no part of it. The sexual revolution, likewise was a disaster for women. For women, sex is connected with love, love with commitment, commitment with marriage, and all this with the stability necessary for raising a child. Anything that lessens the pressures on men to be faithful to women, to support them and fulfill their family obligations, hurts women in the long run. In arenas like these, women have far to go before they achieve the king of social changes they need… In advising young women about feminism, I would say, listen carefully to what women‟s real needs are. If you imagine a composite of all women, of all ages, from all over the world and through all time, the central fact of shared existence would be childrearing. So women need, more than anything else, faithful men. Some aspects of contemporary feminism may be aimed at that goal; some may not… Long ago I realized that being a feminist was doing something to me, something bad. I was angry all the time and, worse, taking a perverse pleasure in being angry. I was becoming contemptuous and sour. My view of reality was being distorted. For this reason, I pulled back from my feminist connections and weaned myself from some of the more noxious reading and activities. I didn‟t disagree with feminism‟s goals at that point, but I knew that, in practice, it was destroying me… I can understand how appealing it [feminism‟s message] is, how nearly compelling, how strong and true it is. And I know that it is poison.” 24 22 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge. 23 Learn more about her at ime.imb.org. 24 Matthews-Green, Gender, p. 85. “I have a vagina, ovaries, and yes, even a womb; this tells me something about the sexual relationship that can fully embrace this reality. Female physiology is such that sexual response is not solely a pleasure response. It has a function that is instructive. Research has shown that female orgasm opens up the cervix and propels semen into the uterus. The body itself seems to assume that there is sexual correspondence between the sexes. But in pursuit of unrestrained sexual pleasure and an “authentic” self, we have cut off the role of the body in informing the nature of personal authenticity. It no longer tells us anything about how to live as women (and men) because it has been silenced.”25 ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER ON MADONNA How could Madonna do this to me? I had to go back to my mom and tell her she was right. Madonna never really did have a message. It was all just shock for the sake of being shocking and my mom knew it all along. But my generation really thought Madonna had something to say....But when she kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera on MTV's Video Music Awards, and recently made statements to diminish her past behavior, Madonna became disappointingly transparent and undeniably hollow. After 20 years, all these symbols of manipulated hype - the virginal lace, the cone bras, the sex book - never conveyed a unifying purpose. And time's up....The antics pushed us further in a direction where a female's chance of getting noticed is directly correlated to viewing her underwear. As a generation, we stuck up for Madonna's infamous behavior. But our parents were right all along. She was doing the timeless routine of using sex to sell and revealed she was simply a rebel without a cause. Thanks a lot, Madonna. --Hilary Smith in The Orange County Register 25 Calles Barger, Eve’s Revenge, p. 59.
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