by H. Lynn Gardner
A young man considered every girl he dated a beautiful rose. Not wanting to damage her in any way, he wanted to leave each girl as beautiful as she was when he met her. Unfortunately not all men respect women this way.
God found the universe incomplete after making animals and man. He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).God made woman as his crowning creative act before resting on the seventh day. We have all been born of a woman who became the earliest influence in our lives.
Tony Dungy said, “The way you treat women will impact every other area of your life at some point.” Alexander Campbell observed that how a society regards, educates, and honors women is the best index of its quality.
Disrespect and Mistreatment
Ancient societies mistreated women and children. The Roman man had absolute power over his wife and children. The man could have mistresses but expected his wife to be faithful. In many societies the father could kill his children or sell them into slavery. Girl babies were especially vulnerable; a pagan family rarely raised more than one daughter.
A historian stated, “The dignity of marriage was restored by the Christians.” Much credit goes to Christian women for their dedication to being wives and mothers. A pagan author exclaimed, “What women these Christians have!” Jesus opened a whole new era for women recognizing their inherent dignity.
Women still face disrespect and mistreatment. According to a 1993 United Nation’s Report, “No country treats its women as well as it treats its men.” Often women are denied basic human rights, discriminated against, overworked, and underpaid. Many women have no property rights, no rights to their children, and little or no legal recourse from an abusive husband. Divorce often leaves the woman responsible for children and impoverished.
Women suffer dehumanizing treatment, including beatings, rape, and sex trafficking. Pornography degrades women and promotes increased misuse of women. Muslim women face repression and death if they question male authorities. Parents in China and India commonly abort unborn girls, preferring boys. In India a pregnant girl had an emergency C-section. The crying mother exclaimed angrily, “We just wasted so much money for a . . . girl. If I had known, I would have let it die. A girl is worthless. Worthless!”
Abuse occurs among Christians when men view women as inferior. Misinterpreting the biblical statements about headship and submission, they justify selfish, harsh treatment, and violence against women. Such male chauvinistic arrogance is sinful. Scripture addresses battering, violence, rape, incest, stalking, threats, and intimidation. Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse make one unfit to be a leader in Christ’s church (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7).
Many women struggle with feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem due to mistreatment:
“As a child I was told that I was worthless. I believed that I was. I still have trouble with self-confidence.”
“I had an abusive childhood; I’ve never been able to trust people.”
“My ex-husband constantly put me down; he destroyed my self-esteem.”
Abuse does long-lasting social, psychological, and spiritual harm to victims and their families. Selfish hearts in rebellion against God mistreat women. When abuse occurs, God-fearing people have a responsibility to help deliver the victim from the abuser. We must hold the offender accountable for his or her deeds. Christians should function as agents of healing for the victim and the offender.
Ironically a movement advocating better treatment of women has in fact demeaned womanhood. Some feminists called for women to be free from a masculine society that ties women down to a house and children, rejecting traditional roles for men and women. They considered stay-at-home moms and traditional “housewives as having been brainwashed into accepting the role of the domestic slave and concubine.”
They insist that women are equal with men in every respect. Men and women become faceless interchangeable parts in the machinery of society. Rather than a concern for what it means to be a woman, they have encouraged a struggle for power, authority, and money. The secular world cares little about godly womanhood and disrespects women by influencing them to define themselves as competitors with men.
Political correctness rather than the author’s intended meaning shapes these crusaders’ understanding of Scripture. Virginia Mollenkott defined her task “as the attempt to interpret the Bible in a fashion favorable to equality.” She and others reject or explain away passages teaching male leadership in the church and home.
Biblical teaching concerning headship and submission and role responsibilities of men and women are rooted in God’s creative design. A woman does not find her real fulfillment and beauty in being equal with men but in being a woman as God designed her. God built wonderful differences into the sexes. How sad to see young people and adults confused about what it means to be a man or woman. This results not in more freedom and fulfillment but more homosexuality, divorce, sexual immorality, and abuse because people have lost respect for their God-given identity.
Dignity and Worth
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27; 5:1, 2). Men and women share equally in personhood, dignity, and worth. We glorify God by joyfully accepting and fulfilling what God designed us to be.
Our masculinity and femininity reach deeper than physical anatomy, permeating our entire being and defining who we are. Each woman, whether married, a mother, or single, has inherent worth and dignity as a person loved and created by God—not because she gains it by merit or achievement. Only when we know God and our origin as his creation can we know who we are and what is best for us. Accepting ourselves as God made us in our maleness and femaleness is essential to finding personal fulfillment and spiritual maturity.
God designed the marital sexual relationship to be one of mutual love and consent. Cruelty and coercion have no place. The husband doesn’t own his wife as property. “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Husbands need to respect and be considerate of their wives as joint-heirs in Christ (1 Peter 3:7). God’s will is that we abstain from sexual immorality and practice holy self-control (1 Thessalonians 4:4, 5).
In contrast with Jewish rabbis who treated women as inferior and forbade conversation with a woman, Jesus treated women as equal in dignity and importance as men. He healed, taught, and spoke with women (John 4; Luke 10; 13). Women followed and financially supported Jesus (Luke 8:1-3). They were present at the cross and empty tomb and visible and active in the churches in the New Testament. In our relationship to Christ no distinction exists between men and women (Galatians 3:28). As sinners saved by grace we all stand on equal footing before Christ.
Women who try to be the same as men in every respect assume a false masculinity and diminish their womanhood. God created women to help men, not compete with men (see Genesis 2:18). He designed woman to be wife and mother with a primary responsibility of caring for children. When appropriate, women participated in civil matters and business (Judges 4; Proverbs 31; Acts 16). Man, as husband and father, has the primary responsibility of providing and protecting. Mankind’s fall into sin has corrupted and confused these differences.
The wife’s submission to her husband is in the context of mutual submission to Christ. The spirit of Christ’s love and self-sacrifice for the church must define the husband’s headship (Ephesians 5:21-25). This teaching in no way implies the wife is inferior nor justifies mistreatment.
By example and direction fathers teach their children to respect women. Young girls and women who do not respect themselves lose purpose and commitment to moral standards. Selfish men will be as bad as women will allow them to be.
When men abdicate the responsibility of spiritual leadership, godly women have to step forth to carry on God’s work. Many women have been effective crusaders against social evils such as abortion, alcohol, discrimination, and abuse.
In the home and in the church we are responsible to serve one another. Elisabeth Elliot wrote,
Here we acknowledge gladly our inequalities, we forget about a power struggle or competition or aggression or even so-called ‘rights,’ and we accept ourselves and one another for what God has made us, recognizing that, as in a human body, each member contributes to the good of the whole—the hand performing its peculiar function without despising the work of the foot or envying the ability of the eye. One woman may be a corporation lawyer in the world, a devoted wife at home, and a humble communicant at church without violating the design of the Maker.
A gentle spirit humbly obedient to the will of God characterizes true womanhood.
Women excel in sensitivity of feeling, longsuffering endurance, steadfastness of love, moral courage, and in spiritual devotion. In whatever endeavor the more a woman gives loving service to others, the more influential and powerful she becomes. Women glorify God by being godly women.
H. Lynn Gardner is a freelance writer in Carl Junction, Missouri.
What’s Your Mom Worth?
As you think about your mom or a significant woman in your life on Mother’s Day, consider the jobs she did on a daily basis for your family. What do you think she should have gotten paid for such hard work?
Salary.com tried to come up with a wage that moms should earn for their annual work, based on all of the jobs they juggle. According to the site’s calculations: “The job titles that best matched a mom’s definition of her work are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, facilities manager, van driver, psychologist, laundry machine operator, janitor, and chief executive officer.”
Discover the average salary this suggests: