August 2, 2008

Leftover Cloth

They say the test of a good tailor is how much material is lying on the floor when he's finished making a suit. Honestly, I am not sure whether their is supposed to be a little or a lot! Nevertheless, as I was crafting a suit out of the topic "Mankind" in our Theology 101 series, I had some material left-over ... a section on the distinction between male and female that I had not room for. I hated to just leave it on the floor, or throw it in the trash can, so I figured I'd hang it here in the window and see if anyone could use it.

So, if the suit fits, you can wear it ...

There is a distinction within the human race. Now we could, perhaps, draw up a list of numerous supposed distinctions between humans. But Genesis 1 says nothing about race, or tribe, or nationality, or educational background, or economic status. And therefore we should not be overly concerned to draw distinctions along any of those lines either. Genesis 1 only draws one line of distinction within the human race. There is only one difference among us that warrants mention in the definitive chapter on the origins and value of mankind. We find it stated clearly in verse 27: “In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Now, seventh grade biology class made it embarrassingly clear that there is, at least, an anatomical distinction between the sexes. And, despite the massive amount of money and political energy that is currently being poured into convincing the American public that this distinction is really not that significant; that it is not abnormal for two people of the same sex to overlook what seventh grade anatomy made so clear … I do not think I need to spend much time arguing this point. We do not even need the special teaching of Scripture to understand that there is a difference between male and female … and not only physically so, but emotionally as well … and that there are obvious practical principles that flow from that.

However, I think we may need some reminding of the distinctions between men and women in some less obvious areas. While the Bible makes it clear that God created us all in His image (“male and female”), and therefore urges us not to discriminate, not to look down upon one another, and not to see one sex as more valuable than the other … the Bible also makes it clear that men and women – equally created in the image of God – do sometimes have distinct roles. We see this especially emphasized as it relates both to the home and the church.

Now we do not have to like it, but the Bible makes it patently clear that men and women play equally valuable, but obviously different, roles in the home. The man, and not his wife, is uniquely handed both the authority and the responsibility and potential repercussions that come with being the head of the household (see Ephesians 5.22 and following). And wives, more so than their husbands, are charged with the privilege and difficulty of submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5.22) and being “workers at home” (Titus 2.5) – caring for the house, nurturing the children, showing hospitality, and so on. Sometimes there will be some overlap, obviously. Men can nurture children, and women can make decisions. But overall, the distinction is clear. Husbands are to lead and to bear the brunt of responsibility for how well they do so. Wives are to nurture, and make sure that the home is a home. We mustn’t be wiser than God. Even if we do not feel particularly suited to or desirous of our God-given role, the fact that it is God-given ends the discussion for us. Husbands and wives are equal in value, but distinct in role.

The same principle carries over into the church. Men, women, and children are all on equal footing beneath the cross of Jesus. But there are decisions to be made; lessons to be taught; leaders to be ordained. And, in those situations, God has made it clear that, though they are no better (and not necessarily always more capable) than their female counterparts, men are to play these roles. “I do not allow a woman to teach or be in authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2.12).

Now last week Julia mentioned the possibility that she might like to someday follow in her daddy’s footsteps and become a preacher. So I kindly walked her through the verse I just read to you – 1 Timothy 2.12. And then she asked: ‘Why?’ Why what? ‘Why are only boys supposed to be preachers?’ Well, because only boys are supposed to be heads of their households and it would be confusing if daddy were in charge at home and mommy were the leader at church. ‘But why are only boys supposed to be in charge at home?’ she asked. And at that point I had to admit that the Bible doesn’t give an extremely clear and decisive answer. It just says that’s the way it is. We know it is not because men are more “in the image of God” than women. Genesis 1 won’t allow that line of thinking. So I just had to tell Julia: ‘because that’s the way God wants it.’ And, at the end of the day, that has to be good enough for us.

Since we know that God loves us and has our best interest in mind, we should be content to accept the fact that God has made men and women equal in terms of value and dignity, but distinct in terms of their personalities and roles. So I ask you: Are you content with God’s plan? Or is there some way, in your heart or home, that this biblical truth needs to be more faithfully embraced and applied?

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