The Joint Mission of the Sexes

I want us to go to the Bible. I want you to be able to handle the Word in explaining what you do and do not believe. If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine; God will not be asking you about that when you stand before Him. But I do want you to look at the questions and the topics from all angles, using all of the Bible. The Bible is supposed to inform how we live, and if we have weird theology we do one of two things. 1. We ignore the theology and live in a way that makes sense. That is clearly a problem. It might be because we know that the theology is wrong but we don’t know how to show that from the Bible. It might be because the theology opposes things that we can see in real life. God is intensely practical. (And no, I do not mean that He always makes sense to us.) 2. We try to live by the theology and then wonder why it’s not working out very well, especially for certain groups of people

I’m going to be doing Instagram stories about this and saving them in a highlight. Some of this is much easier to talk through than write about and I’ll also be addressing questions and things I see on the internet. Follow me there to stay caught up with those.

I’m going to try to blog about this in some sort of order. That would, of course, be easier if I wrote it all out beforehand and rearranged it. I won’t be doing that. I’ll do the best I can with the time I have.

This matters. It matters for the church, our families, and our mission to reach the world. Thanks for coming along with me!

God made male and female. (There are medical issues to be discussed here, but they are outside the scope of this context.) Men and women are different and complimentary. I believe that marriage is supposed to be a union of one man and one woman; this is the cohesive story of the Bible. I also believe we are designed to work together, not separately; as equals, not in a hierarchy. You are uniquely the person (a man or a woman) that God made you to be. Your becoming more like Jesus will only make you more the man or woman that God wants you to be. But you pursue being like Jesus because that’s what the Bible teaches and you cannot actually become more a man or a woman.

Men and women are assigned the same calling all throughout the Bible. There will be variety in how we live out those callings, both among the genders and individuals; but we are equally tasked to the same callings.

I’ve written a little on this topic before because I hear all sorts of things. I hear people state that men and women have different missions in life. I hear people teach that men have a calling from God and women help men with their callings. I hear others teach that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling or that women were made to be wives. I hear people teach that work is man’s calling.

Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that God assigned both men and women the task of work and family, jobs and people. God created humanity (the word “man”) in His image as male and female. We can also see this in Genesis 5:1-2. Men and women are equal image-bearers and they were both tasked to multiply and have dominion.

Humans were created to bear God’s image in both what they did and how they did it. They were to continue His work here on the earth. We are multiplying and creating and building places and lives where humans can flourish. Genesis 2 goes on to tell us a slightly more detailed version of the story. We learn that Adam was created first (we will come back to this later in the series) and left alone to discover that he was alone. That’s the first thing God said wasn’t good. Adam was alone. There was something missing.

God already has the solution to that problem. He creates a help for Adam. This is fabulous, right? I completely agree; it is. How we define that word “help” is not so fabulous. It does not mean assistant, subordinate, or servant. She’s not his assistant or the manager of his home. That word is the Hebrew word “ezer” that means “help, succour, one who helps.”

2019 is a great time to be alive. We have many resources and we can easily, without knowing Hebrew, look up all the places that this particular Hebrew word is used. It’s used twice of woman, three times of a foreign army that comes to Israel’s rescue, and sixteen times of God as Israel’s helper (for example, Deuteronomy 33:29 and Psalm 121:1-2). We would never use the image of an assistant or an underling to describe either of the other situations, and we shouldn’t use them to describe the purpose of woman either. Knowing how that Hebrew word is used throughout the Bible changes the way we describe “helper” doesn’t it? This help is a warrior, a rescuing agent. Read some more here.

Man and woman have the same mission: bear God’s image in the world. Of course, they don’t do it very well. But Jesus came, as perfect humanity, and is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Now we are being remade into what He is (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:24, 1 John 3:2). After Jesus’ ascension, he again tasks his followers with one job. Matthew 28:18 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Now we are to go and make disciples; we teach and we baptize. This is our calling as believers.

All of us, men and women, are here to bear God’s image in work and in relationships with people. We are to make disciples and be ministers of the new covenant, offering God’s reconciliation to the world (2 Corinthians 3:6, 5:17-20).

This means, for a practical example, that mothers are not more called to be parents than fathers are. Yes, women are more involved initially; mothers carry, birth, and nurse the babies. But fathers are just as important. We’ve told this narrative that women are responsible for the children, realized we dismissed fathers and that we need them, and instead of simply calling them to their place, we made up a story where their presence is somehow “more” (more authoritative, more influential, etc) than mothers. We do not have to demean the contribution of one gender to recognize the value of both. And we certainly shouldn’t have to appeal to ego and pride to get a believer to do what God has called him to do. That is the opposite of how Christians should operate. Your contribution should not have to be greater than someone else’s in order for you to live a life of obedience.

In the same turn, women’s contributions to the outside working world are necessary and valuable. There is plenty of secular research (do some googling here) on the value of diversity in the workplace and how much better organizations function when men and women are working together. The whole idea of working “outside the home” is a relatively new idea to society anyway. We are all supposed to be working where God has us without rating whose work is more important.

I’m not trying to dismiss stay-at-home moms. I am one because that is where God has our family in this season, not because it’s the only right way to do family. We have to recognize that this is a position that reveals our privilege. It is economic (and often racial) privilege that allows us to function as single-income families. This is not the case for most women and/or families in the US or around the world. We are making up a narrative that excludes much of the world simply because we never look beyond our bubble. Many families survive simply because every person who can draw any income (including older children) do just that. Can you imagine telling those women that their work counts less (because they are women) or that they shouldn’t be “working” at all (as if work at home isn’t real work)?

Men and women are designed to do God’s work together, as partners. The New Testament insists that believers interact as brothers and sisters. We are family. Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Jesus also says something similar in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

My husband is my brother-in-Christ first. We were siblings in Christ before we got married and we still are. We added a layer to our relationship; we didn’t take anything about basic Christian behavior away. All other Christian men are my brothers. I am their sister. This should shape how we interact with each other.

A typical pattern among unbelievers is that women are objects of lust. They are admired for their bodies, often victimized for their bodies. Frequently, I’ve found in the church that women are objects of fear. They are feared because of their bodies; their bodies are presented as a problem. They are relegated to other rooms and spaces in the name of purity. That’s not how God says to deal with lust. In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

Should we be wise in our behavior? Of course. But we aren’t to alienate one another in the name of purity. We are called to live in a completely different way. We are to embrace each other as family and build one another up. We are to live to benefit those around us.

Men and women are to be striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). They labor side by side in the gospel (Philippians 4:3). They are to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). They are filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Romans 15:14). They are to pursue mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). We are all God’s fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9). We are fellow heirs with Christ and each other (Romans 8:17).

We have a joint mission. We are to image God and we are to make disciples. We are to continue the practice of living in the kingdom of God and not the kingdoms of the world.

Part 1: Why is this conversation necessary?
Part 3: The things we know that aren’t so
Part 4: Tracing marriage through the Bible
Part 5: A woman’s place and the implications of our theology

 

2 Comments

  1. Madeleine

    This was excellent, and one would think basic knowledge, but so much of what we “know” has been skewed. So thank you for this good reminder.
    Also looking up the word “ezer” for myself was such an emotional and exciting experience – wow. Changes everything.

    • I’m so glad! I loved finding out the meaning of “ezer” as well! We need to revisit what we think we know sometimes!

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