Between the Women’s March and the March for Life, we have seen widely different interpretations on what it means to be a woman. It’s easy to see where the different views clash, but it’s a bit harder to figure out where true womanhood lies.
Are women equal to men? Should they have different roles? What should a woman wear? How does a true woman act? Popular culture has their own answers, while ultraconservatives have other answers, which often disagree. Where is truth?
When we seek the truth on any subject, we have to be careful to distinguish between God’s TRUTH and man’s TRADITION. Some religious traditions insist that I fix my hair in fashionable styles and keep my makeup perfect at all times. Still others forbid the use of makeup and limit hairstyles to buns or long hair. Clearly we cannot depend on religious tradition as we look for truth. Some cultures forbid women to drive, while others encourage them to fight alongside male soldiers. Obviously, we can’t depend on cultural tradition either!
Let’s look at what God says about women in Genesis 2-3, the first mention of the first woman in the Bible. The Bible says much more about women, but this is a good starting point.
Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”Genesis 2:22-23 NIV
God made the first woman from the rib of the first man.
Even though man was created first from the earth’s dirt, woman was created from an central part of man’s body. The rib cage protects a man’s heart and lungs. This seems to imply that woman is special, to be cherished by man while in turn protecting his heart and vitality. While she wasn’t first in the hierarchy, she is by his side as an equal in importance. She is man’s beloved companion, his equal.
Woman was the first human to sin.Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. –Genesis 3:1-6 NIV
I don’t like this fact, but there it is. Woman is fully capable of misinterpreting and adding to God’s laws. In turn, she let the serpent deceive about God’s goodness as he appealed to her pride, her desire to be like God. That seed of doubt led to her own sin. And if that weren’t enough, she influenced her husband to sin, too. What an awful fall! Because of this first sin, all of mankind had to leave the perfect paradise God created for them. Woman lost her protected status as she entered a sin-cursed world.
Woman’s disobedience drew a curse from God.
Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”Genesis 3:16 NLTThis hurts, too. Since the fall, woman has been fighting for equality and even superiority over man. Yet God clearly says that man would rule over woman. Like it or not, the first woman brought this struggle upon us. Part of our curse is to struggle under the control of men. As discouraging as this sounds, please notice what God did NOT say. He did not say that woman is less important, less intelligent, less capable, or less deserving of respect. He did not say that man should trample on woman’s dignity or treat her like a servant. Those traditions were added later by men.
And I will cause hostility between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.Genesis 3:15 NLT
God redeemed woman’s curse to bring the world the greatest blessing.
Ironically, God chose the curse of painful childbirth to be the avenue for woman’s triumph. Far in the future, another woman (Mary) would give birth to a Son who would forever conquer the power of sin. This Son would be called Jesus, Savior, Messiah. His death and resurrection would bring reconciliation between woman and her God. In His dying moments, Jesus would charge the Apostle John with this sweet mother’s care. (John 19:26-27) Jesus would exalt the importance of women by first appearing to women after His resurrection. (Luke 24) In a society where women were seen as inferior, Jesus, and later His 12 apostles, treated them with a respect unusual in their culture. (More on that in another post!)
By looking at the story of the first woman, we can gather a lot of insight into ourselves. I can identify with Eve as I desire to be cherished and loved, while wanting to be seen as equal in importance. I feel my own guilt for being vulnerable to deception, pride, and sin. I can sympathize with her power struggle in marriage. I feel blessed beyond measure that God valued my gender enough to include a woman in His plan to redeem humanity.
Tradition, whether religious or secular, will force us into a narrow mold. It will require that we look and behave in certain ways. Whether those traditions demand subservience or liberation, they cannot define us without our permission. However, God’s TRUTH says we are valuable. It says we are loved. While it says that a wife is under her husband’s authority, it does not say that we are less important. It says that our failures are not too great for God’s beautiful redemption. Jesus paid the price for us to be restored to our original relationship with our Creator…so we can again be loved, cherished, and valued.
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.Proverbs 31:30-31 NIV