Monday, April 13, 2015
How should evangelical Christians view the so-called ‘battle of the sexes’? This battle, though, is actually not what we think it is.
In college, my friends and I used to play the game “Battle of the Sexes”. The point of the game is to see just how much you really know about the opposite sex. It’s a fairly harmless game that relies far more on stereotypes than it does on real facts about the differences between men and women (i.e. some women like sports, some men don’t), but the name of the game means something in our culture. Men and women have been in a battle for a long time. From the time the early suffragists came on the scene in the 19th century until now, women have been fighting for equality and a level playing field with men. And there is no doubt men have been the dominant (and in many ways, oppressive) power for a long time. But a quick survey of history shows us that this battle has been going on for much longer than the last one hundred and fifty years, and it’s about a lot more than rights or even stereotypical differences. It’s a battle a board game can’t even begin to quantify.
The Battle Begins
To understand this battle of the sexes we have to go back a long, long time ago—to the beginning of time actually. When God created Adam and Eve they originally lived in perfect harmony with one another. Designed by a loving God to image him to the world he created, they were intended to work together, live together, and love one another without the strife and sin we are so accustomed to (Gen. 1:26-28). We actually don’t even have a category for such perfection, but it must have been glorious (Gen. 2:24-25). But the perfection of Eden is not the end of the story for Adam and Eve. This beautiful union was quickly fractured by the sudden entry of sin into the world through their own fateful actions (Gen. 3:1-7). Satan, hating the image they represented and hating God, tempted them at the core of their trust (God’s goodness) and things have never been the same since.
When God cursed Adam and Eve, he hit at the essence of who they were as image bearers; Adam as the provider and protector of the garden, Eve as the mother of all living and helper to her husband (Gen. 3:16-20). What once was supposed to be a wonderful source of blessing to them (their roles and their work), would now be riddled with pain, sorrow, and difficulty. But he also cursed them in their beautiful union. Before sin, men and women related to each other perfectly. After sin, men and women abuse one another, fail to understand one another, use one another for selfish gain, and see each other as the enemy. While the battle between the sexes is devastating and hard, we should not be surprised that men and women find it so hard to get along. Life in a post-Genesis 3 world is not how God intended it to be. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s filled with selfishness, pride, and power grabbing. And we see that so evidently in the relationship between the sexes. But the battle of the sexes is not actually about men and women primarily. There is something more going on in this battle that we need to understand in order to fight biblically and with any hope for restoration.
The Battle is Not What We Think It Is
Satan wants nothing more than for us to think that battle is right here, between men and women alone. He wants us to get sidetracked by who gets to do what and our hurt feelings over how we’ve been wronged. He wants the battle of the sexes to be about men and women clamoring for control or hurting one another in our sinful bouts of distrust and oppression.
But this battle is not what we think it is.
Yes, we were cursed when Adam and Eve sinned. Yes, this perfect relationship is now fraught with conflict and brokenness. Yes, men and women really do fight, hurt one another, and use one another in horrible ways. But our real enemy isn’t the man or woman standing across from us. It’s in the forces of darkness that seek to destroy the image we were meant to represent. We are merely pawns in his game of making a mockery of the beautiful story God intended us to tell about his goodness and his glory. In the battle of the sexes we aren’t fighting primarily against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers that are out to destroy God and his good plan for his creation (Eph. 6:12). We weren’t stripped of our image bearing when sin entered the world, and Satan knows that. He will stop at nothing to distort the story our lives were meant to tell about God and his glory. When we face overwhelming sorrow and frustration over this battle of the sexes, we must remember that our fight isn’t with each other as much as it is with the evil that threatens to undo us all.
Our Weapons of War
The world would tell us that in order to win this battle of the sexes that we must learn to stand up for ourselves, or instead deny the differences between us all together. But Satan wants nothing more than for us to pretend like our differences don’t matter, or worse, oppress one gender at the expense of the other. Our weapons of war aren’t found in flesh and blood examples. In fact, our weapons in this battle that is outside ourselves are actually alien to us, too. We can’t win the battle of the sexes unless we first recognize that our only hope for change, restoration, and resolution comes at the cross, where Christ’s finished work defeated the ultimate battle that wages war against our very souls every day (Rom. 8:37; Heb. 2:14).
The curse wasn’t the end of the story in the Garden that day. In God’s abundant mercy, he provided a promise of hope for his creation. The serpent would not get the final word, God said. One day a seed would come from the woman, and this seed would crush the head of the serpent, effectively annihilating the stronghold sin has on our lives, and in many ways defeating the battle of the sexes once and for all (Gen. 3:15). His name is Jesus. And he did come with power, authority, restoration, and complete salvation. His earthly ministry (and the ministry of his apostles) is filled with examples of men and women relating to one another in ways unlike anyone had ever seen in that culture. Jesus ministered to women and had women followers (John 4; Luke 10:38-42). The early church had women who served in a variety of ways (Acts 16:11-15; Acts 18:18, 26). Of course, the battle we face among the sexes won’t be fully won until that final day, when Christ returns and ushers in a new heavens and new earth, but with the inauguration of his kingdom came a foretaste of this coming restoration (Rev. 21:1-8).
The battle is almost over, friends. While we strive and suffer as exiles in this fallen world, we have hope for every battle we face with each other. Christ has secured for us a victory, one where we both win and he gets the glory.
Courtney is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design (Crossway, May 2015). She and her husband live in Little Rock, AR and are members of Midtown Baptist Church, where he serves as one of the pastors. You can follow her on Twitter @courtneyreissig.
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