Men and Women on the Frontlines

Wonder Woman

Posted by David

Lenten Reflections

There lives a desire in each man and each woman to be a hero or a heroine. You’ve probably had the hero fantasy before where you “saved the day” for someone you love. When a friend of mine was a girl, she played wonder woman as an imaginary game. She even had a theme song:

Wonder Woman’s
Comin’ to town
Taking all the bad guys
And puttin’ them in ja-il.
Wonder Woman
Just wants to have…

I expect that each of us have these sorts of fantasies or dreams at periods in life. But as we engage in life, events rarely play out with such boldness and excitement. The only time I ever acted out the superhero character was when I was about 27 and saved a dog that had fallen over a waterfall into a deep canyon that drained by waterfall into an even deeper canyon. I was asked by the owner if I had any rope, which I did. So I ended up I rappelling down to the rock where the dog was safely perched and harnessing the dog onto the rope. The owner was then able to pull the dog up the cliff to safety.

Of course, I’ve helped actual people out in the past, but never with such drama.

I remember being helped out twice by an unknown person with one glass eye. On two different occasions this person ‘saved my day’ while stranded on the road. Never did I see him again—a true masked man.

But heroic acts are rarely so straightforward and clear. Since this is Holy Week, in the Christian Church, I’m reflecting on Christ on the Cross and his humble heroism. Among other things that makes this heroic feat odd was that he entered into Jerusalem on a donkey, he washed his disciples feet, and he was hung and died on a tree. This is not your normal heroic act. It’s not one of the hero games that children play. But this is the model of true heroism and is the archetype toward which each of us should strive.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been studying 1 Timothy. It has a number of confusing passages that Paul writes to Timothy and the Ephesian Church in the First Century. Specifically, I was studying the roles of men and women in the Church.

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 2: 8-15

This is clearly a difficult passage for Christians to understand today. Being that it is in the body of Scripture, we’re forced to grapple with it.

When we seek to understand Paul, we must always look to Jesus to understand him. He can’t be understood based on his own light. None of us can be understood on our own. We must all be understood through the light of Jesus, Christian or not.

For me, the key to this passage is the mysterious phrase: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing.” I believe Paul derives this bold statement through his understanding of Mary and her fiat to God when she said to the angel who had brought the news of her pregnancy, “Let it be done unto me according to Your Will.” All of God’s children are saved through the Jesus Christ that was born of the woman Mary.

Even today, women and men alike have the ability to give birth to the saving graces of God, but it means submitting to the will of God in faith, love and holiness, with self-control. In fact, this is the same way that Jesus outlines in his Gospel for us to be saved.  In submitting to God’s will in faith, love and holiness, with self-control we actually allow God to conceive through us Christ as the Holy Spirit to others. It is in our spiritual wombs that emerges the Holy Spirit of God. It is only through submission to God that we can truly be heros and heroines.

But why does Paul express so boldly that women should not be teachers and hold authority over men? In this day and age, that seems so passé. Might have Paul been exhorting this mandate to a particular problem that was occurring in Ephesus at the time? I expect that Paul was acting like a big brother to his sisters in Christ in all times and places.  Jesus and the New Testament writers all make it clear that the Kingdom of God is for the humble.

But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.

Parable of the Wedding Feast, Luke 14: 7-11

And James explains:

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

James 2:5

None of us should seek the position as teacher or authority over others—women or men alike. In doing so, we actually put ourselves in harms way.  Instead, we should place ourselves at the most humble servant-level and then if God wishes to move us into an authoritative position, he does so by his own will. Should we approach that position through our own personal desire? If we do so, we may be doing it out of lust for power.

As a man, I am called to take care of my sisters. Every brother knows that he must shelter his sister from the onslaught of vipers that are out there. Would you send your sister into the bloody onslaught of a battle? Clearly not.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

James 3:1

As teachers in authority, we place ourselves in a position of greater judgment. Paul is protecting his sisters in Ephesus from God’s wrath. And today, I stand with Paul and wish to protect my sisters from the perils that lie on frontlines of battle. I suppose in a real sense there are frontlines everywhere, for God’s love is desperately needed everywhere. But there’s a special stench that exists in the places of authoritative power on Earth.

Part of the reason men and women desire authoritative position is due to our hero impulse. But the hero impulse has a deep, dark side: powerlust. As a husband and a father, I find that character trait lurking, like the serpent in the Garden, always trying to seek me out as prey. The only way to battle that urge, that instinct, is to seek forgiveness, to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). Powerlust is ugly and is the dominant species in the upper echelon of society and probably of our churches. Never would I send my sister into that hostile, wormy, rotten confine of death. And I would only go there if my God demanded it of me.

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Luke 22:42


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