May 25, 2014

The Goodness of Gender

3 Min Read

The jarring "It is not good for the man to be alone" was not an "oops" moment in the creation story. Adam's aloneness was underscored as he named the animals. There was no creature that corresponded to him, who glorified and enjoyed God with him, who communicated with him. Then, God gave him a helper who was equal but different, and their perfect complementarity reflected the glory of the ontological (pertaining to being or essence) equality and functional diversity of the three-in-one God. It was very good.

God gave man and woman the cultural mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion by extending the beauty and wonder of Eden into all the world. They were created for something bigger than themselves, but they believed Satan's lies and lost it all. Then God gave the gospel promise that the woman's offspring would crush the enemy, and Adam responded by naming his wife Eve, which means life-giver, pointing to the One who would give His life for and to His people.

He named her—naming is an act of headship. After the gospel promise, the headship that was entrusted to Adam at creation remained. Once again, Adam and Eve illustrated the relational nature of the Trinity—authority and submission between equals. We are redeemed for something bigger than ourselves.

Aloneness was not good in Eden, and the same is true in the church. A genderless church is as unthinkable as a genderless Eden as we seek to obey the gospel mandate to multiply by making disciples. Titus 2 makes this commission gender-specific when older women are told to disciple younger women to be life-givers in every relationship and situation.

Jesus' inclusion of women in His ministry is instructive. As He went to villages proclaiming the kingdom of God, the disciples were with Him "and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities...who provided for them out of their means" (Luke 8:2).There is no indication that the women competed with or complained about the men. When women are healed by His wounds (1 Peter 2:24) and the life of Christ fills them, they become life-givers rather than life-takers in their place of ministry.

At the cross, "there were also many women there...who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him" (Matt. 27:55). These women did not turn away from the cosmic horror happening before their eyes as the full force of the Father's wrath fell upon the Son. The Savior they followed did not allow one drop of that wrath to fall on them.

Their gratitude was expressed by an act of loving service. They ministered to the body of Jesus. They brought spices to anoint His body. As they walked to the tomb they asked, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" (Mark 16:3). There was an obstacle too big for them to move, but they still went because their hearts were aflame with love for the One who first loved them. Through no effort of their own, "they saw that the stone had been rolled back" (v. 4). They were the first to hear the good news, "He has risen!" Then Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!...Do not be afraid; go and tell" (Matt. 28:9-10).

As a pastor's wife for fifty years, I have faced many obstacles in loving and serving Christ's church, usually stones in my own heart—doubt, fear, pride, resentment, anger—and sometimes hard people or rocky situations. But I have learned that when I keep praying and serving, God's Spirit softens my heart, sometimes stones are removed, and I see the glorious grace of the risen Christ in unexpected people and places.

Women's ministry in the church is about anointing the body of Christ, because we love Him, because He first loved us.

The enemy has not changed his strategy: "Did God really say you cannot hold an ordained office in the church?" Satan puts a negative spin on God's abundant provision of every tree in the Garden except one. Eating what He forbids does not make us equal with God; it makes us less than a reflection of His glory. The governance of the church is to reflect the created order, which reflects the Creator. Trusting and obeying God's plan is not just radical, it is impossible apart from His transforming grace. His children are the only ones who can display His very good creation design and obey His gospel commission to multiply and extend His kingdom. We daily smash up against the world's hostility to gender distinctiveness, but may we, by the power that is at work within us, celebrate, guard and protect this treasure and give it to the next generation.

I asked our eight-year-old and eleven-year-old granddaughters, "Who is better—boys or girls?" There was immediate consensus: "Girls!" We had a Titus 2 sit-down. Ask them now and they will tell you, "Boys are better at being boys, girls are better at being girls, we are equal but different, and it is very good because God said so."