As much as gender is a sensitive topic, most people can resonate with the sentiment picked up in the title of 1990's best-seller, Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus. In fact, at a time when the differences between men and women were being minimised, this very book was the highest selling non-fiction book of the decade.
Sadly, the church has not fared well in this debate about gender equality. It can be seen as outdated and frankly, anti-women.
But how does biblical wisdom square with our modern sensitivities? Is there a positive vision that the bible offers for the way men and women relate?
True Biblical Wisdom Leads to Women of Strength
What is fascinating in the Old Testament book of Proverbs is that though the book begins by addressing a young boy, it ends by extolling the wonder of a woman of strength.
'A wife of noble character [literally 'a woman of strength'] who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.'
The chapter goes on to describe a woman who deeply blesses those around her through the hard work and deep wisdom that she carries. She is in a sense busy, but never out of fretfulness or sense of worry. In fact we're told she can 'laugh at the days to come' (Proverbs 31:25).
It would seem that where true wisdom is exercised in a community, then women of strength, like the idealised picture in Proverbs 31, will begin to arise.
Providing the Context for Women of Strength to Stand Up
One might wonder, how do we see women of strength arise in our community? Well, the answer could be different to what you might think. It doesn't happen through activism or rules or jostling, but through praise.
'Many women do noble things [literally 'powerful'/ 'strong' things],
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.'
We are instructed, and in the context particularly men are instructed, to praise those women we see living in fear of the LORD. In fact wherever a woman acts to serve and do good to others in the way Proverbs 31 speaks about, that is to be honoured and lifted up. We ought desire for our communities to be those that cheer on especially women, in particular where we see women living for Jesus.
A local men's ministry has the mantra, 'no man ever went backwards with encouragement'. Turns out no women did either.
A Better Way to Think About Equality What if we spent less time debating whether everyone was being treated equally and more time praising and honouring anyone we saw doing something commendable? What if we called out the good, rather than always focusing on the things that still need to change? Jesus Christ came into this world to bear my sin and faults (and yours), so that he could cheer us on as we live a renewed life in him. He became a servant, so that he might speak to me on the last day, 'well done'. What would it look like to have those words on your lips, especially towards other women in your life, today?
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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