“Women are good, and men are great” – those were the jarring words escaping my brother’s mouth as he sweetly greeted me and my 4 daughters at grandma’s house.
He beamed as he said it, while bumping fits and adoring his nieces. As a women’s rights advocate and daughter of the King with equal inheritance to the Creator’s blessings, I was confused. What was my worldly, cool, soon-to-be-saved, beloved older brother saying? Part of the confusion was his doting smile. From his vantage point, he was clearly offering a compliment! Of course, I couldn’t let a phrase and ideology like that just waft through the atmosphere among my 4 daughters, lest it found somewhere to take root.
So, I had my brother sit down and explain where he was coming from. He was at pains to emphasize that he was not saying that women were inferior to men or any such notion. He was simply saying that men must be valiant to go to war, to fearlessly and dedicatedly lay their life on the line for the protection and preservation of the family and the nation. In other words, men must be great.
A woman on the other hand, according to him, is good when she can support a man and encourage or convince him to fulfill his responsibility; to always take up the mantle to lead and protect. I agree, at least in part. Offering this encouragement to men is indeed good and helpful to men. The only trouble is that oftentimes some men still fail to be great; fail to take the mantle to lead and protect in spite of encouragement from women, which means its not up to the goodness of a woman for a man to be great.
Furthermore, is the sum total purpose of a woman to encourage a man? Does she not have a broader role in the community? She must only be seen to provide support for another? What about support and encouragement for her and the unique call on her life? Does she not also have dominion (leadership) over the earth? Was that call to have dominion and to be fruitful not given to both the man and the woman? (Genesis 1:28).
Plus, what if she is a single woman? If my brother’s unenlightened view holds, single women would have to be waiting around for a man to make great? That would be her purpose? That would make her ‘good’?
These views need blood-washed redemption.
Moreover, is war the only sign of valiance? What about birthing and breastfeeding the said community we are eager to protect? Yes, birthing and breastfeeding are by God’s design and for his glory, but women are the major players in these acts of greatness.
As I debated with my brother about all this and his main point about protection and community, I remembered the Bible story of Deborah and Jael – 2 great women who stepped forward with their femininity in full force to defend and protect their community (Judges, chapter 4).
A man, Barak, was in fact called by God to defend the people of Israel. God had spoken – but no action was taken. Deborah reminded Barak of God’s call to fight for his people and the promise of victory. But he declared that he would not go to war, unless Deborah herself went with him. Like a champion, Deborah agreed but with a warning, telling Barak that because of what he required, the glory would not be his, but rather that the glory would go to a woman.
During the battle Barak was looking to conquer Sisera, captain of the enemy camp. But as fate would have it, Sisera found himself outside the tent of no less than a woman named, Jael. The short of it is that Sisera goes inside her tent, she offers him warm milk and covers him with a blanket, and when the time was right, she drove a peg through his temple, effectively slaughtering the enemy. Women are great and women are good.
Deborah wasn’t only obedient and discerning of God’s will and word for the season; she was valiant and unafraid of war. Jael wasn’t only domesticated and hospitable, she was a strategic conqueror for her people. Women can be good and great.
And of course, so can men.
Abraham, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Mordecai, Jehoshaphat, Joseph of Nazareth, John the Baptist and Stephen are just a few awesome examples from Scripture.
But the ultimate example of goodness and greatness is found in our Lord Jesus.
He encouraged the brokenhearted. He washed people’s feet. He taught and coddled little children and, like a mother, waged war against anyone who dared to harm them. He healed the sick and powerfully raised the dead. He was sacrificial and put others first. He was lowly and dealt with everyone. He had long and meaningful conversations with people (I particularly liked His talk with the woman at the well). He stood for righteousness and turned over tables when wickedness was happening in His temple. And like a father, He valiantly gave His life for His creation whether they loved or hated Him. And like the ultimate warrior, The Conquering Lion who He is, took the bullet for all mankind and stormed the gates of hell for the keys of death, effectively removing the fear of death and offering eternity with God to all humanity.
Jesus was/is good and great!
Our main claim to any kind of goodness or greatness is emulation of and obedience to Him.
Let us all – men and women – strive to be like Him! Let us have dominion together. Let us honour and encourage one another (women to men and men to women) to do good works. Hebrews 10:24.
You hear me, bro?
And still with all of that being said, putting individual worth and goodness or greatness aside, there is something about what my brother said that creates an opportunity for even more reflection and discussion on the specificity of the design of men versus women.
If we agree that there is specificity in the design of men versus women, then is there not specificity in their roles? (A plane was designed to fly. A ship was designed to sail.) Not lessor or greater roles, just different roles that are generally performed better by man versus a woman, and by a woman versus a man, by design.
We should aim for equality and not conflation of roles.
I believe that the Creator deposited equally great but absolutely unique stuff in the design of a man and the design of a woman, which enables men and women to more ably and aptly fit specific parts of the puzzle of life.
Issues arise however, when we start to elevate some roles as more important than others and deem one gender to be inferior or superior to the other. We need to tap into God’s wisdom and discern what godly gender roles look like, and not be boxed in by un-biblical traditional views where men lord themselves or rule over women. Or where women are docile and are relegated to being someone’s armrest. Last time I checked this was an outcome of the curse that Jesus so valiantly destroyed.
When we fail to abundantly bestow equal validation and respect on each gender and the roles that they perform, I believe we do ourselves a gross injustice and miss out on the effectual magnificence of men and women working together.
Women and men are great!
Shelly-Ann Harris is the President and Founder of Family and Faith Magazine. Leave a reply or send an email to email@example.com
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