Men and Women after Covid-19 - what can we expect? What is the future for humanity let alone men and women? Listen to Ravi Zacharias, a great Christian teacher, who died very recently. He was writing a commendation to a recent book entitled The Death of Humanity (I quote):
“’Many prominent Western intellectuals have dispensed with the view that humans are created in the image of God and thus have immeasurable value and inalienable rights,’ writes Professor Weikart [the author – and Ravi goes on]. In my four decades of speaking in university open forums, I have witnessed the logical consequences of this belief that humanity is a cosmic accident: wherever I go I meet students troubled by haunting questions of meaning and purpose.”
But as faith in the God of the Bible is being ignored new religions are taking its place, and not least environmentalism. In 2007, a position paper from the Institute for Sustainable Development argued (I quote) that:
“the environment should compete with religion [as faith is] the only compelling, value-based narrative available to humanity.”
So how do you achieve this objective? Answer: you personalize Nature and grant her human-like ‘rights’. And that is just what the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador published in its Official Register on 20 October 2008 a year later. In Chapter 7 entitled ‘Rights of nature’, Article 71 says:
“Nature, or Pacha Mama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.”
And Article 72 says “Nature has the right to be restored.” But this growing environmentalist movement distorts the very meaning of the term, ‘Rights’. For rights are not earned. They come with being human. They are moral entitlements embodied in law to protect the lives and liberty of all people.
So the United States Declaration of Independence asserts the self-evident truth that “all men” (and women) are “created equal” and are therefore “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” among which “are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For many years that was the goal of Western Civilization, particularly in America. So little by little religious persecution, slavery, and exclusive male voting ceased. But now many Western intellectuals have rejected what is called ‘human exceptionalism’ and denied the moral worth of human individuals. How we need to recover the biblical doctrine of Man and men and women role in society as we will be considering in a moment.
But first let’s pray:
Heavenly Father we pray that by your Holy Spirit you will open you word to our hearts and our minds and our hearts and our minds to your word, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
I’ve just two headings this morning; First, MEN AND WOMEN before Covid -19 and secondly, MEN AND WOMEN after Covid -19.
So first, Men and Women before Covid -19
Of course, we must start with God and Genesis 1 and the creation account which climaxes with Genesis 1. 26-28:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
So what does that tell us about men and women? First, and foremost that mankind is created either male or female or, as we now know, either with XY or with XX chromosomes. Therefore, to be human is to share humanity with the opposite sex. Gender is a fact of creation – it relates to the inescapable way we are made. It is not the product of history or culture. That is why transgenderism is so tragic.
But, secondly, we can ask in what does God’s image in man consist? J I Packer helpfully suggests five things implied by those verses:
One, rationality - reasoning and making plans as God did for our material Creation.
Two, creativity – for in so many ways we can be creative at work or in our leisure time.
Three, dominion – or mastery over created things, not least through technology which can help develop a culture or civilization.
Four, righteousness - the doing of God’s revealed will; for once God had made that first pair, he gave them their orders to be followed: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.”
So the first purpose of that first married pair was for them to have children. That is why same-sex marriage is so wrong because such a pair biologically can’t fulfil that primary purpose of marriage.
And, five, community – for you can argue that the image of God is seen in human society. For human life is to be lived in fellowship with other people - in the family, first of all, then in the church, then in various aspects of our wider worlds. To argue for this last point you have to note Genesis 1.26 where God says, “Let us make man in our image.” Christians down the ages have seen that as an Old Testament hint of a personal plurality in God. That, of course, becomes explicit in the New Testament teaching on the Trinity of one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So God’s image in man at least is reflected in rationality, creativity, dominion, righteousness and community. And all that and more is involved in true humanism as the Bible teaches it and is involved in human living as God intended. But what then happened? Why isn’t life all wonderful. Well, after Genesis 2 and the second creation account of Eve and the primeval marriage of Adam and Eve, you have Genesis 3 where the serpent tempts Eve and she disobeys God and persuades Adam to disobey also and all hell breaks loose into the world. And relevant for us the loving relationship between Adam and Even can now be twisted into male domination by Adam and female servitude for Eve. And ever since, down the centuries, to the present day, there have been problems and suffering as a result of that primitive disobedience to God.
In our Bible reading, Paul refers to what was typical in the Rome of his day when people went their own way and not God’s – he refers to ‘works of darkness’ - Romans 13.11-14:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, and quarrelling and jealousy – they were rife in Rome in the first century AD. So how Christians are to ‘walk properly as in the daytime’ (verse 13)?
Well, that brings us to our second heading and Men and Women after Covid -19
Can I say, without argument for time doesn’t allow me to explain – I believe that we all need to work and pray for a restoration of the Christian family (as the Bible defines it) for there to be a change for good, and above all, for God’s glory, in our society. And to seek for a restoration is not only simple obedience to God but is evangelistic. For family decline and decline of faith in God have gone hand in hand. As one social scientist puts it, such faith and the family are “the double helix of society, each dependent on the strength of the other for successful reproduction.”
So what is the biblical way of men and women relating in marriage that will produce strong families? The classic text is Ephesians 5.21-33. It provides 101 material for those preparing for marriage and it is always helpful for married couples to read again and again. So Ephesians 5.21-24:
...Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
That address to wives is so counter cultural. For the word ‘submit’ can provoke a violent negative reaction. But as one commentator puts it:
“In the strict etymological sense, sub-ordination [or sub-mission], in the sense of the ordering of human beings under and over one another in accordance with the functions that they are called upon to perform, is a necessity of social life and can no more be dispensed with in the twenty-first century than in the first; it rightly carries with it no suggestion of either arbitrariness, tyranny or exploitation.”
And note, this is submission only to their ‘own’ husbands not all men. Also it is “as to the Lord”, because the Lord wants this. Why is that? Because, says Paul, “the husband is the head of the wife.” For there is a divine hierarchy with spiritual responsibility going back to Adam before the Fall. Adam first had to communicate God’s truth to Eve, and he was then answerable when together they sinned. Be that as it may, critically, then Paul goes on to say, the husband is the head “… even as Christ is the head of the church his body, and is himself its Saviour.” So the husband is to lead as Christ leads, but he is to lead under Christ. He can’t do just as he likes! That makes all the difference.
And Jesus Christ taught clearly servant leadership, not lording over people like the Gentiles. He said (Mark 10. 44-45):
“…whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
And one last word about submission. No submission is absolute. For if an authority, Caesar or the Emperor or a clergyman or a husband or any one else orders what God fundamentally forbids or forbids what God orders, you have to go against those commands. Peter and the apostles made that clear in Acts 5.29 and when forbidden to teach about Jesus. For they said “we must obey God rather than men.”
So - the wife is told to model herself on the Church, and that her husband is to model himself on Christ. Then Paul addresses husbands in Ephesians 5.25-30:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
So there is to be totally self-sacrificial love of the husband for his wife, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” And, of course, while the church’s submission to Christ that wives have to follow is imperfect , Christ’s love for the church which the husbands have to follow is perfect! However, with that understood, Paul seems to say, someone will be well prepared for marriage, Ephesians 5.31 33:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
And Jesus himself added, as reported in Mark 10.9:
“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
So marriage is for life.
And Paul than concluded this section of his letter as follows (Ephesians 5.32-33):
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
So Christ’s relationship with the church is the real deal. Human marriage is to be a reflection of that relationship. And we now need to pray and work to recover the married family as God intends, and all live fully human lives for the good of children, men and women, our wider society and above all for the glory of God. Let us pray:
Lord we pray that you will hide your word in our hearts that we do not sin against you. For Jesus Christ’s sake.