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Let’s celebrate Mother’s liberation day!

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Good mothers are such an amazing gift!  What a truly brilliant invention by our Creator! 

And Mother’s Day is just one important occasion to express our appreciation – both to the mothers and to their Creator.

Tragically, some self-appointed representatives of our Creator have misrepresented Biblical teaching and have inappropriately disrespected mothers – even our first mother!  In mature Bible interpretation, it is essential both (1) to get the text and translation right and (2) to apply the text’s meaning coherently.  Both are areas at risk when we approach the first chapters of Genesis.

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For example, the Lord’s purposes for both men and women are very strongly stated in Genesis 1:26-28.  Both men and women are God’s children, made in God’s image, they are both made according to God’s likeness, and they are both called to be God’s personal stewards on earth.  First, both men and women are God’s children – so we are all called to Divine relationship.  Second, both men and women are God’s image – so we all can represent God as vital “priests.”  Third, both men and women are made after God’s likeness – so we all can reveal God as vibrant “prophets.”  Fourth, both men and women are God’s personal stewards – so we all can reign in nature in God’s behalf, as responsible “kings and queens” of the creation.

Genesis 1:26-28 is the most ancient template for honoring women and men.  We study the Scriptures and we participate in Church to worship and elevate God.  Let us also release the Scriptures to speak clearly, elevating every human as God’s child, as Creator’s image, as the Lord’s likeness, and as personal stewards of the Divine.  In anticipation of Mother’s Day, we can actively help mothers to receive gladly their primal callings as the true children, images, likenesses, and personal stewards of the Almighty.

Nevertheless, there are deep issues that negatively affect people’s interpretations of Genesis 3.  For one thing, the text never says what some people want it to say.  For example, the Lord never curses either the woman or the man.  Only the evil snake and the ground get cursed – while God still predicts rough times ahead for the woman and the man.  Those rough times include pain in both child-bearing and child-raising.

Another stated consequence of sin is that men would “rule over” women.  This shift to men’s tragic “triumph” at taking power over women was a natural consequence of our first ancestors tearing away the established moral fabric of daily, vibrant accountability while walking with the living God.  That vibrant ethos was replaced by their own opportunistic human interpretations of their personal and private “knowledge of good and evil.”  What a systemic downgrade of personal ethics!

Men’s sometimes authoritarian or tyrannical ruling over women was never God’s standard.  However, when personal accountability to our Creator is disconnected, the terrible “might makes right” standard takes over.

The consequence: For many centuries, churches and ministries have foolishly impoverished themselves by rejecting the leadership of women.  One of the perverted arguments for this bad policy is the false claim that right after the fall of man and women, the Creator “cursed” women to be subservient to men.  This error is simply corrected by recognizing the fact that Creator did not curse anyone.  God cursed only the evil snake and the ground.  Moreover, even if Creator had cursed all women, the awesome blood of Christ, poured out from the cross, still cancels all curses.  In short, (1) there was no curse against women – but even if there were a curse against women, (2) Jesus death for the sins of humanity introduces the Divine atonement that cancels all curses.  Truly, thanks be to God!

Let me report on a personal experience that vividly makes this essential point.  Years ago I was leading a fruitful, growing Gospel ministry in a semi-rural area of America.  At a crucial point I urged the all-male leadership to strengthen the ministry work even further through recognizing and additionally preparing gifted, skilled women to assist in the leadership.  As I introduced this suggestion, I also reminded them of numerous Biblical examples of Godly female leaders. 

One male leader became quite angry at the very thought of women in leadership. 

He and I agreed to get together the next day.  His entire argument for excluding women from ministry leadership was based on what he called ‘the Genesis 3 divine curse against women.”  He and I talked at length about this Bible text – for well over an hour.  He was so very determined in his male chauvinist opinion!  Nothing changed in his belief even when I clearly pointed out both that (1) there was no curse against women, and that (2) even if there were a curse Jesus transforming death for us cancels all curses.  This man’s strong resistance to good argument was a vivid model of the old saying, “A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Coming to realize that I could not change his mind, I silently prayed to God for wisdom.  A radically different approach was needed.  And mercifully the Lord immediately answered my prayer!

“Not to change the subject,” I said to the man, “but did I see a new tractor at your home?  It looks like the tractor has a nice enclosed cab.”  He agreed and exuded a pleasant level of pride in his new tractor purchase.  It helped equip him better for work in his part-time farming.  He was employed full-time in a nearby chemistry lab, 9-5 every day. 

“And does your tractor’s cab include a cushioned seat and a CD player?” I inquired.  “Yes!” he responded.  “I bought a tractor that is truly a joy to drive when I work in the field.”

“Wonderful!  And you certainly have disconnected the tractor cab’s air conditioner,” I added.  “What?  Why would I ever do that?” he quickly shot back.

“If you insist on your wrong interpretation of Genesis 3, then you would have to say that there was also a “curse” on men to work hard in the fields and eat bread “in the sweat of their brow” – a “curse” that Jesus’ death for us presumably did not fix either,” I pressed.   

He was stunned – and speechless.  Thank God!

“Mercifully, the blood of Jesus cancels all curses against men, too, even the made-up curses,” I continued.  “And thank the Lord for the technology our Creator empowered for your tractor-cab’s AC to make you comfortable, too.  To be clear, there was no curse against either man or woman, and God’s amazing grace continues to empower men and women to overcome both real and pretended obstacles.  Shall we be eternally grateful to the Lord?

He smiled awkwardly and changed the subject.  We then chatted for a while about our families.  Soon after that, the ministry moved ahead to include women in leadership, without any objection.

Please pray and work for the same result for other churches and ministries.  Let us honor all the women and men – all God’s children, images, likenesses, and personal stewards – with fitting opportunities in Christian service and leadership.  Those women and men will be uplifted, all will be helped, and our Creator will be truly honored.

Paul de Vries,, is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, author, and speaker. He is a specialist in Biblical hermeneutics and ethics and a life-long advocate for Biblical Activism.

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