Christian Feminine Conduct
Dr. George Mair, a Specialist in general surgery, presents in this and subsequent articles, principles of Christian conduct pertinent to prevailing conditions.
One of the fast changing aspects of modern life is the position of women in society and in churches. Feminist propaganda criticizes Christian tradition and scriptural teaching. The Apostle Paul is especially condemned.
What does Scripture teach?
Surely Scripture teaches that men and women are equal before God. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither is the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). The Lord also teaches that their destinies are the same. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in Heaven” (Matt. 22:30).
Nevertheless, for the present they have different roles to fill with the male in authority and the female in submission. Referring to Eden (Gen. 3), Paul says, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). Then for biological reasons God said, “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Gen. 3:16). In any organization, even a simple one like the family, there must be a division of responsibility. It is natural that the mother should devote her natural talents within the home to her children, while the husband devotes his to providing for and protecting his family and supplying leadership. But lastly, there are symbolic reasons. Paul says, “Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands” (Eph. 5:24). One of the pictures God uses of the Church is as the Bride of Christ. This love story is beautifully anticipated in the Song of Solomon and it seems to be God’s wish that every marriage on earth be a model of this union. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery but I speak concerning Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:31-32). In symbol therefore during this age, the husband is the type of Christ and the wife is the type of the Church. How could the Church usurp authority over the Lord?
Marriage is not just a Christian institution. God devised it according to Genesis 2 for the benefit of the whole human race, for He knows it is essential for the fullest happiness of men and women and for the welfare of the children, but Christians should especially honour it in obedience to God’s law, fully aware of its symbolic significance.
In Ephesians 5 we read, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as unto the Lord.” Everyone knows this command and how many women resent it! How many brides-to-be would like this part deleted from the wedding ceremony! Centuries of abuse have made it unacceptable. Did the Lord make a mistake? Was Paul just passing on old Jewish prejudice? Look how Scripture continues in verse 25 “Husbands, love your wives…” and the verb Paul uses for love is agapao — completely devoted self sacrificing love, but just in case you don’t like Greek verbs, Paul continues, “As Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it.” I am sure, knowing the female attitude, that if her husband fulfilled his obligation, the normal emotionally stable wife would find it a pleasure to fulfil hers.
What wisdom is found in the Scriptures! This is really not surprising for the God who inspired Paul to give these rules was the God who created male and female biology in the first place. Surely the Maker knows how to get the most out of His product.
How typical of man is his arrogance and selfishness to remember only the part that suits him! Yet how much he loses! “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred” (Prov. 15:17). Nevertheless, it is evident that wherever the gospel message has spread and Christian ethics have been taught (e.g. in the Western World) the position of women has improved tremendously.
Modern dress for both men and women is very different from dress of biblical times. You could not compare it with Eastern dress or even European dress of biblical times. Can Scripture then guide us in these days?
The Levitical Law forbids one sex to wear the clothing of the other sex, no doubt to prevent the sexual sin of transvestism. Should then women not wear slacks nor Scotsmen kilts? Or are these legitimate items of modern clothing? Although, therefore, it may be difficult in the 1st century to legislate details for the 20th century, general principles never change.
The Apostle Paul says, “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds as befits women who profess religion” (1 Tim. 2:9-10, R.S.V.). Think of the background of this verse. Timothy was at Ephesus with its great temple to Diana. Paul and he often saw the temple prostitutes with alluring dress, beads, bangles and make-up. These were dressed to attract and rotten to the core. Paul did not wish the Christian women to be anything like them not even in dress, for your dress reflects your attitude.
Today we don’t have Diana’s temple and I don’t want to insult modern women by comparing them to Diana’s temple maids, but surely the very philosophy of our culture is to attract and deceive, if necessary, by outward appearance and, particularly in women, by the sex appeal of modern fashions like the mini skirt. Recently the Ontario Safety League and the Police Association pointed out that sexual assaults have nearly doubled since the mini skirt came along and they are convinced it is the cause.
Apart from that, preoccupation with dress and jewelry shows a materialistic attitude to life, an attitude which even non Christian young people are resenting these days in their elders. The early Christian women, like Priscilla, had much more important things to do than try to be first with the latest fashion and the problems of our world are no less than theirs. So Paul stresses inward and practical Christian virtues rather than outward show.
There is no need in our society for women to be dowdy or old-fashioned, but there is no need to follow the extremes of fashion. They still stress character more than appearance and with an extra few inches to their skirts still dress “modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel.”
There may be more important things in life and Scripture than the length of one’s hair, but Scripture does comment on it. Our long-haired boys may tell us that the Lord himself, the patriarchs and the apostles had long hair. In the Old Testament Samson had long hair, but the very point in having long hair was that a Nazarite had to be different from the others. In the New Testament Paul says, “Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him but if a woman has long hair it is her pride” (1 Cor. 11:14). This was obviously the custom of the time and it is also scriptural teaching. Historians tell us that this blurring of the outward differences between the sexes often occurs in decadent civilizations. It is not a healthy sign.
Although make-up was known in the Bible from the time of Jezebel, it is not mentioned in the New Testament in any rules of conduct. However, all the occasions of mention in the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:30. Jer. 4:30. Ezek. 23:40), and particularly in connection with Jezebel, appear to condemn it for obviously it was being used to increase sexual attraction.
I do not want to appear too censorious of married women working, for obviously before the family arrives the extra money may be useful to a young couple. Likewise after the family grows up a middle-aged mother sometimes has emotional problems — a feeling she is no longer needed. If there are young children in the house a mother may be sacrificing the emotional and spiritual welfare of her children for mere material gain. No one can reach the young children for Christ like their own mother (and father), and if they fail them no one else may succeed. Think of the numerous opportunities a mother has in the home to train and instruct her children if she is there when they need her.