The Home-Focused Mother

Pro 31 29

 

Put in such a negative way, who will not lose the joy of living?  But it is spotlighting the struggle side, which all vocations have share of, while dismissing the triumph side of home-keeping.  What about a stable family, well-reared children, a well-ordered house fit for hospitality, and with all these, a fulfilled woman?  Definitely this latter side sees no torture, but enjoys family life.

The sheer patience and determination is born of a principled belief in the value of motherhood.  It is not the torture of Sysiphus with its endless cycles.  Motherhood sees its triumph in children who become crowns for their generation… I submit without question that the mother has contributed more to society than any female roles.

 

 

The emancipation of women, it is claimed, is the noble cause of Feminism.  If by this emancipation is meant deliverance from the oppression of male-dominated society that has treated women as mere sex-objects, Christians should stand to be counted.  But it appears in their discourses that feminists mean something more radical.  Their cause is emancipation of women from the “bondage of the home.”

Leading feminist champion, Simone de Beauvoir, makes this vivid description of the woman’s domestic bondage,

Few tasks are more like the torture of Sysiphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. The housewife wears herself out marking time … The battle against dust and dirt is never won … Severe, preoccupied, always on the watch, she loses the joy of living…1

Put in such a negative way, who will not lose the joy of living?  But it is spotlighting the struggle side, which all vocations have share of, while dismissing the triumph side of home-keeping.  What about a stable family, well-reared children, a well-ordered house fit for hospitality, and with all these, a fulfilled woman?  Definitely this latter side sees no torture, but enjoys family life.  It should applaud the sentiment of Edith Schaeffer,

The mark of Christian families should be the demonstration of love in the day-by-day, mundane circumstances of life, in the many moments of opportunity to show that love suffereth long… What is a family? A formation center for human relationships — worth fighting for, worth calling a career, worth the dignity of hard work.2

Is the home a woman’s torture chamber from which she needs eman­cipation, or is it a relationship center upon which the woman must focus?  The Bible has a very definite side to this issue.  One may wish to be a feminist and reject Scriptures, she must do so openly and honestly.  But no one can honestly subscribe to Scriptures as the Word of God, and espouse the feminist view of the home as domestic bondage.

DEFINED ROLE

The rationale for the woman’s creation is stated in Genesis 2:18ff.  She is to be a “helpmeet” to the man.  This word has provoked misunderstanding.  It is often employed by those who hold the view that women are inferior to men by nature.  And in reaction to this view, the opposite side do everything to wrest this word of its sober intent.

Perhaps, before setting forth the defined role that is contained in this text, let us take a look at the whole of Scriptures.  Two clusters of Scriptures must govern our understanding of women.

(a) Scriptures giving dignified place to women

The classic representative is Proverbs 31:10ff.  It is unique in contemporary literature in its exultation of the virtuous woman. [ See separate article by Steve Hofmaier in this issue ]. Women in the Old Testament played prominent roles in the central events of Israel’s history.  This led Old Testament scholar, Walter Kaiser, to observe:

Women were not chattel to be ordered about and used as men pleased in the Old Testament, ranking slightly above a man’s ox or donkey! They were fellow heirs of the image of God, charged with tasks that exhibited the originality, independence and management ability of the ‘woman of valor’ in Proverbs 31 and were called to enter holistically into sharing all of the joys and labors of life.3

(b) Scriptures safeguarding the rights and worth of women equal with men

The feminist favorite text of Galatians 3:28 is as vigorously asserted by Evangelicals who do not espouse feminism.  This is a text that shows the absolute equality of all under the blessing of the grace of God.  This equality is acknowledged in what traditionally was male-dominant privileges.  In Matthew 5:27-32; 19:3-9, Jesus’ permission of divorce in case of adultery, which the Jews understood and practiced as a male prerogative, notably was extended to women.  Jesus accepted that they can be (and often were) the aggrieved party.  Following this train of thought, Paul’s pronouncement in 1 Corinthians 7:4 establishes the woman’s mutual right and authority on her spouse’s body.

The cause of biblical womanhood is not served by unwise pro­nouncements on the supposed superiority of the man over the female.  The common assumption is the supposed physical superior­ity of the male.  But it is only a one-dimensional measure.  Science has established that women have a greater pain-threshold than men.  There is always another dimension whether one uses the intellectual superiority or emotional superiority argument.  The structure does not stand on gender superiority.  Man and woman are equal.

Back to the ‘helpmeet’

While equal, man and woman are distinct.  Equality does not lead to interchangeability of roles.  And from its origin, the man-woman relationship in the home have clearly defined roles.  The woman is to be the help meet (= matching, comparable, corresponding to, etc.) for the man’s incompleteness.  The word does not indicate inferiority.  Recent research into the Hebrew root of ‘ezer reveals connection with the idea of strength. (cf. Deut. 33:26, 29)  Kaiser goes so far as to suggest the translation for Gen. 2:18, “I will make a power [or strength] corresponding to man”.  Rather than male superiority, the word reminds us of male inadequacy!  The woman is the strength that man needs to complete his life.

But now that much has been admitted, this text mandates the female focus in marriage.  From the very beginning, there is a role-hierarchy that God mandated in the house.  Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 11:9, “Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man”.  Also in 1 Timothy 2:12, 13 [ see my separate article, “Evangelical Feminism?” ].  We must agree that this text sees in the order of creation a principle mandatory upon all.  So says Lenski,

God could, indeed, have created both man and woman, Adam and Eve, in one undivided act.  Today many think and act as though God had really done so. But the fact is otherwise. Nor should we think and say that at this late date God’s creative act, which lies far back in time, makes no difference. The facts of creation abide forever. They can be ignored without resultant loss or harm as little as can other facts of nature.4

The resulting hierarchy structure from this order is the mandato­ry authority of the male partner and the subordinate submission of the female partner.  James Hurley observes the consistent appeal of New Testament discussions to the creative act of God,

Our examination of New Testament arguments concerning marriage has shown that the marriage relation was viewed as ordained by God at creation, with a particular structure as a continuing element of that relation. With the exception of 1 Peter 3, the major apostolic discussions of marriage all appeal to the divine institution of marriage at creation as a ground for the present ordering of it (1Cor. 11:7-12; 14:34; Eph. 5:31; 1Tim. 2:13-14). These discussions not only prescribe the institution of marriage, but also demand a particular structure within it.5

DEFINITE PRIMARY SPHERE

The mandated role defines the primary sphere of the woman’s vocation in marriage.  That sphere is the home.  This position will throw feminists into a fit of protest.  “Bondage!”  “Domes­tic oppression!”  As though, secular career has no bondage and oppression all the more cruel?  Why not the emancipation of women from the primary concern of the secular to have her primary freedom at home?  Is this not why the woman was created for the man.  Indeed, her mandated role requires her, under normal circumstances, to devote her primary efforts to being a wife.  Many a home is broken because the wife sees more the ‘well-watered plain’ of career advancement than the laborious task of home-building.

Exalted vocation of Home-building  

Our protest against feminist denigration of the home must be passionate.  Scriptures direct the moral assessment of woman in what she makes of the home.

Every wise woman builds her house,

But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.                                Proverbs 14:1

Here the wisdom (in Proverbs, a moral/spiritual attribute) of the woman is measured in terms of its impact upon the home. Note that woman is the modifier in the original, and might better be translated, ‘womanly wisdom’.  The wisdom that is uniquely femi­nine is exercised in the field of home-building!

The New Testament re-affirms this focus.  Where Paul anticipates marriage to occur, this is his instruction to the woman partner, “… bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Timothy 5:14).  His language indicates how Paul takes this issue as crucial to the interests of the gospel cause.  And in the collection of virtues that he urged on women in Titus 2:3-5, Paul revolved woman’s duties and graces on the concerns of the home: “… love their husbands, to love their children… home-makers… obedient to their husbands,” capped by the now familiar warning, “that the Word of God may not be blasphemed!”

In this connection, we must raise the serious issue of mother­hood, a calling without substitute.  But, perhaps, motherhood is the most unappreciated of human vocations.  This is the age of the career-woman.  It is much easier to feel valuable where there is regular salary and certain promotion.  On the other hand, educated women cringe at the thought that their BS and BA or higher will end up with changing diapers and breast-feeding.  It is thought embarrassing, and at any rate, inferior.  But is it?  Is motherhood the dumping ground for the ill-educated?  We must protest against this with every fiber of our being.

Walter Chantry corrects this sentiment,

Proverbs 10:1 tells those who are children that ‘a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother… Motherhood could not be a part time hobby… Godly women do not live for kisses and nice little gifts, but to see their children walking with the Lord in right­eousness. All of a godly woman’s hopes in this world are bound up with the children of her motherhood.6

To say that only those who can do nothing worthwhile in society should just become mere mothers is tragically foolish.  The infant life deserves the best qualified woman, qualifications that put the stress on patience of character and reliable stock of knowledge.  Of course, education contributes greatly to her knowledge and character, and with whatever livelihood she can render without robbing the home of its primacy.  But the sheer patience and determination is born of a principled belief in the value of motherhood.  It is not the torture of Sysiphus with its endless cycles.  Motherhood sees its triumph in children who become crowns for their generation.

I submit without question that the mother has contributed more to society than any female roles.  Multiply the number of children yet in their crib.  They will make up the fiber of society tomor­row.  What type of fiber that will be, depends on the hands that rock their cradle.  Some of them will end up in the gutter, largely because of slack mother (and a father who is no better).  Others will become pillars of the nation and society.  Let us not forget that behind them are patient motherly hands.  Here lies the value of motherhood — not in salary or degree, but in the life that it builds.

If for this reason alone (there are more!), it is enough to espouse this as a cause for reformation: Home-focused Mother!

Happy Mother’s Day!

NOTES

  1. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, (trans. by H. M. Parshley) [1952]: p. 425
  2. Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?; Baker Book House [1975]: p. 81
  3. Walter Kaiser, Toward Old Testament Ethics; Zondervan Publication [1983]: p. 207-8
  4. R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of I and II Corinthians; Augsburg Publsihing [1963]: p. 443f.
  5. James B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective; Zondervan Publication [1981]: p.160
  6. Walter Chantry; from the tract The High Calling of Motherhood; Banner of Truth

The Atheist’s Option

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Not opting?  Is that possible?  Of course not.  In rejecting all claims, he makes his own claim – there is no true God.  Atheism becomes the option left for him.  In other words, this becomes his own religious confession – there is no God.  Atheism is therefore nor merely the rejection of the religious confession, it is itself an alternative religion.  But it is the kind of religious confession that has no control on what to believe and what not to believe, what is right and what is wrong.  By rejecting the option of God, the Atheist opens himself to any kind of belief.  G.K. Chesterton puts it well, “When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything.

 

‘I believe in God’ – this is the first confession of almost all religions.  But when asked the next questions, it leads to as many answers as there are religions.  Which God?  How many?  How do we know him?  To take the stance of non-committal to any religious claim, there are those who assert that there is no way we can answer questions about God.  They are known as agnostics – those who forego any claim of certain knowledge of God.  As a matter of fact, they are so certain of this!  Then, there are others who also make no commitment to any religious confessions who, however, claim certainty in their stance.  They believe that there is no God.  They are called Atheists.  In many ways, Atheism is more consistent than Agnosticism.  The Agnostic’s approach is plain cop-out.  The Atheist makes a chilling dare to any God who is supposed to be there and he asserts, “You are nothing!”

On the level of conduct, practical Atheists, those who live like there is no God even if they confess to believing in one, always outnumber serious theists (believers in one God).  But there was a time when to believe in God – with that upper case G – is the natural thing.  An Atheist became one for reasons that probably did not occur to the normal mind.  But the last century going into this new one saw the development of Atheism as something acceptably natural.  There are now more Atheists as a matter of philosophical conviction.  Communism needed the premise of Atheism for its own ideas to flourish.  In 1925, the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism was established, later succeeded by the League of Militant Atheists.  The avowed intent is to propagate Atheism through literature and influence placements.  This writer recently watched a documentary report on TV concerning the active campaign of Atheists in campuses.  One leader of an Atheistic organization said flatly, “We are committed to no god but ourselves!”

But why should anyone come to a militant denial of any true God?

  1. Atheism may simply be one’s despair over the multitude of truth-claims

Should one choose to reject the religious traditions in which he was bred, and really attempt to look at the other options offered, it can really be an exercise in despair.  Even if he should choose to look at the options that offer only one God to believe in, which of the three great religions should he consider?  Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?  And granting that he opts for Christianity, which of the motley groups of churches, denominations, let alone sects and cults?  In his despair he comes to the point where he finds not opting for any claim the less confusing.

Not opting?  Is that possible?  Of course not.  In rejecting all claims, he makes his own claim – there is no true God.  Atheism becomes the option left for him.  In other words, this becomes his own religious confession – there is no God.  Atheism is therefore nor merely the rejection of the religious confession, it is itself an alternative religion.  But it is the kind of religious confession that has no control on what to believe and what not to believe, what is right and what is wrong.  By rejecting the option of God, the Atheist opens himself to any kind of belief.  G.K. Chesterton puts it well, “When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything.”

Atheism, as well as Agnosticism, can sit well as partners with polytheism (belief in many gods).  Paul found this out in Athens (Acts 17:16ff).  As a city given to idols, its populace however had sense enough to dedicate an altar to the unknown God.  Is this out of fear that they may have missed one more deity?  Probably this is a confession of their own despair – that amidst the open syncretism of religions and idols, there is still one they cannot represent to their own satisfaction.  That is what Atheism is – an altar of despair masquerading as a denial of God.

  1. Atheism often boasts of itself as the scientific choice

This boast is nurtured by the false (and unscientific) premise that all that is true is a matter of scientific observation.  And by observation is meant the five human senses and the tools for measurement and other quantification.  Conclusions beyond this ability to observe and quantify are deemed unscientific and speculative.  That includes religious notions.

But what could be more inconsistent than to limit one’s system to the observable phenomena, and then make pronouncements about the non-observable?  For if God is outside the observable and the quantifiable by the scientist’s laboratory, the most that he should say is ‘I cannot tell!’  But to conclude that there is no God because He is unobserved is to intrude beyond science’s set limits.

It is the contention of the Christian that if the evidences of phenomena are given objective investigation, they point to God.  Job, even with a severely tried faith, gives expression to this eloquently:

But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you

And the birds of the air and they will tell you;

Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you;

And the fish of the sea will explain to you.

Who among all these does not know

That the hand of the Lord has done this,

In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

And the breath of all mankind?       Job 12:7-10

In the language of Christian theology, this is called General Revelation.  God is disclosing Himself to all mankind through the phenomena that we observe.  Instead proud claims of science are blind to their own limitation, and make bold claims outside their legitimate field.  Atheism is like a man who is facing a high wall that he could not mount.  Refusing to admit his smallness, he instead concludes that there is nothing more beyond the high wall.  The Atheist, confronted with the issue and claims of God, finds One who is “dwelling in unapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see” (1Tim 6:16).  In his pride, he simply declares, “I cannot see God because he does not exist!”

  1. Atheism is really an attempt at free rein in selfishness and sin

Of course, it is every sinner’s ambition to go on in sin with abandon.  Except that there is this thing called Conscience.  Assuming that it has not come to the point of hardening, conscience does something we do not wish, but we cannot escape.  It accuses us of wrong! (Rom 2:14f).  This accusation becomes intensified when it stands on a serious belief in God, specially when recognized as a just Judge of all the earth.

The act of removing God in one’s thoughts is an attempt to quiet conscience.  For then wickedness can be indulged with abandon without the discomfort of those moments of solace and silence.  Rightly did the Psalmist observe,

The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God;

God is in none of his thoughts.          Psalm 10:4

Paul sees this as the negation behind sinful indulgence.  “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind” (Rom. 1:28).  God in one’s knowledge – even in an unchristian society is the guarantee of some decency and civility in human relations.  Of course many sorts of baseness have been committed in the name of God; but these are the gods produced by those who change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible men (Rom. 1:23).  But so long as some silhouette of God’s character is retained in one’s knowledge there is restraint.  God’s justice in one’s knowledge restraints our proneness to be unfair and unjust; His compassion confronts our cruelty; and more.

What General Revelation in creation and that personal imprint of God’s law in human conscience do in combination is to leave man with a sense of God that is inescapable.  He breathes with it and moves with it, for God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).  What then of Atheism?  It is the unnatural option.  It is a make-believe illusion.  That sense of God is still present even in the Atheist, but he kicks it into silence so that he could go on with life without accusation.

Reformed theologian Robert Reymond makes this case, “All this means that there is no actual atheist.  There are only theists, some of whom claim to be atheists.  But God’s Word declares that these atheists are not real atheists; they only attempt to live as though there is no God.  But they know in their hearts that He is ‘there’ and that He will someday judge them for their sin.  They are theists who hate, and attempt to do everything they can to suppress, their innate theism.  Their ‘intellectual problems’ with Christianity are in reality only masks or rationalizations to cover up their hatred of God and their love of and bondage to sin… Thus their ‘atheism’ is their unproven ‘grand assumption’ – an assumption, by the way, with which they cannot consistently live!” [ A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: p. 143 ]

The Christian Confession

 Together with the basic confession of the Israelites, Christians confess “The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4).  Paul echoes this with the unambiguous declaration, “there is no other God but One” (1Cor 8:4).  This confession clearly belies the common idea that all these religions worship the same God, they are different roads taking different routes but will arrive at the same destination.  In effect, the Jews’ Yahweh is the Islam Allah, and so on.  The Lord’s being One is not just numerical, it denotes His uniqueness – that there is no other like Him.  He is not a formula that one can re-produce by just giving it different names.  He is a Living Being.  Anyone who will deal with Him must deal with Him on His own terms.

Furthermore, the Christian confesses that this one true God on His own initiative disclosed Himself.  For there is no other way that He could be known by mere creatures, much less by sinners, except if He chooses to make Himself known.  This He did – that is make Himself known by revelation.  There is an inescapable general revelation in creation and conscience rendering all mankind without excuse (Rom 1:19-21).  But even this revelation is not adequate to save sinners.  God revealed Himself with redemptive intent through the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the saving knowledge of God.  It is this saving knowledge that we cannot attain by our efforts.  “No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten, He has declared Him” (Jn 1:18).  The clearest revelation we have of this God is the Person of His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  This implies that there is no coming to know God savingly unless the sinner bows to the claims of Christ.  This is called special revelation.  Now, all of God’s special revelation has been committed into writing.  The most complete and sufficient revelation of God for us today is in the Holy Scriptures.  It is through them that we get a knowledge of Christ, and through Him of God as our Father.

Salvation is not just about believing in a God.  it is coming to know the true God.  But that true God is One we can only know savingly in the Lord Jesus Christ, for the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God (is) in the face of Jesus Christ” (2Cor 4:6).  Obviously, Atheism has refused to take even the first step toward this knowledge.

Conclusion

Atheism is the option for the mental sloth who, in despair, refuses to think through the issues of truth-claims.  It is also the option of the proud who thinks science is the new omniscience (all-knowing).  But over-all this is the option of the selfish sinner who wants to make a free trip of his sinfulness without the cargo of conscience.

Beyond the sophisticated arguments, Atheism is really, in the final analysis, dehumanizing.  It is not what a self-respecting man is expected to opt for.  It is not surprising that the Bible hardly takes any space for addressing Atheism as a philosophical option.  The New Testament has only one place that uses atheios.  Paul calls them as those ‘with no hope and without God in the world’ (Eph 2:12).  The OT Hebrew has no equivalent at all for Atheist.  But in a memorable statement, the Psalmist tells us of how to regard this: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Psa 14:1; 53:1)!

Singleness is not Singular

1Cor 7 32

What is imperative is to determine one’s present calling.  If one is called – and duly prepared – for marriage, the partner will be provided in the course of ordinary relations and prayer.  If otherwise the calling is to present singleness, one should pray for self-control, and use the opportunity for undivided attention to serve the Lord.  Singleness is a unique condition of opportune service without the encumbrance and pre-occupation of family concerns.  It will be, for most, a temporary period; for a few, the choice of a lifetime.  But for them, singleness does not mean singular.

 

“Although many women complain about the lack of single men, did you know that there are 4 million more males who have never been married than there are never-been-married females?”  So asks George Barna of the Barna Research Group.[i]  He is describing the American situation.

Barna’s query reveals that remaining single is still slanted on fear.  Perhaps more on the part of women than of men.  As age increases, fear of lifetime singleness rises.  To avoid it, many resort to desperate mode – anybody there?  When there is no taker, there ensues a resignation to the inevitable, while desperately hoping for a reversal; almost akin to a terminal patient.  Others opt for rationalization – a defensiveness to prove that being single is superior to being married.

Single is Better?

Defending singleness as the better choice can employ many resourceful contentions.  The TIME website posted in 2014, “7 Ways Being Single Affects your Health.”  It noted among others, “You’re less likely to gain weight… You’re more likely to exercise regularly; etc.”[ii]  Then, there are witty quotations everywhere: “I like being single.  I am always there when I need me.” Or, “I think, therefore, I am single!”

But this defensiveness about singleness is many generations late.  There was a time when singleness (known as celibacy) was really considered the better choice.  This was when prudery was mistaken for virtue, sex was defiling, and priesthood (or nunnery) was the supreme vocation.  But the choice of the convent did not escape the temptation of lust.  The fornication that went on turned many of these convents no better than brothels.  Singleness, even for a religious calling, did not prove an advantage.  John Calvin reserved sharp rebuke against this presumption:

“The first place of insane audacity belongs to celibacy. Priests, monks, and nuns, forgetful of their infirmity, are confident of their fitness for celibacy. But by what oracle have they been instructed, that the chastity which they vow to the end of life, they will be able through life to maintain? They hear the voice of God concerning the universal condition of mankind, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone,’ (Gen. 2:18.) They understand, and I wish they did not feel that the sin remaining in us is armed with the sharpest stings. How can they presume to shake off the common feelings of their nature for a whole lifetime, seeing the gift of continence is often granted for a certain time as occasion requires? In such perverse conduct they must not expect God to be their helper.”[iii]

Anyone but Single?

Fear of remaining single in agedness makes the search for a partner a frantic occupation for some.  This leads women to an unpleasant style of flirtation.  Men pursue frivolous relationships of easy sex and no commitment.  This is excused as #YOLO (You only live once!).

This is not acceptable for the Christian.  Biblical standards define relationships and sexual intimacy.  At its most straightforward, Elizabeth Eliot says, “For the Christian there is one rule and one rule only: total abstention from sexual activity outside of marriage and total faithfulness inside of marriage.  Period.”[iv]

As to the choice of partner, that too is mandated.  What Paul says of widows applies to marriageable singles “she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39 ESV).  The choice is free, but within the boundary of the choice being a Christian.  To insist on a choice outside that boundary is the sin of unequal yoking – an expression taken from the prohibition of 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”  Charles Hodge gives this commentary:

“It is taken for granted that faith changes the whole character; that it makes a man move in an entirely different sphere, having different feelings, objects and principles from those of unbelievers; so that intimate union, communion or sympathy between believers and unbelievers is as impossible as fellowship between light and darkness, Christ and Belial… They may indeed have many things in common; a common country, common kindred, common avocations, common natural affections, but the interior life is entirely different; essentially opposed the one to the other.”[v]

A Matter of Calling

Jesus has given an explicit teaching about singleness by choice.  It was in response to a question on divorce.  His answer to a question posed by the Pharisees struck the disciples by its high standard.  They suggested that it was therefore better not to marry.  To this, Jesus replied: “But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.  For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.’ (Matt. 19:11-12).

Eunuchs were male servants of a royal household.  When they served the wives or harem of royalty, they were usually castrated as a precaution.  Jesus’ statement uses eunuchs in the figurative sense of not marrying.  In Jesus’ teaching, this unmarried state is a matter of divine providence.  This may be by birth, such as genetic disability for marriage.  Man-made restrictions may forbid marriage, which may happen due to accident.  More importantly, Jesus refers to those who choose the unmarried state for the kingdom of heaven (God)The kingdom refers to the rule of Christ as Lord and Saviour.  His kingdom rule became formal as a result of His death and resurrection.  One may choose the unmarried state, or lifetime singleness, to serve the interests of the kingdom of Christ.  There is an element of self-decision and dependence on the Lord’s equipping for such a state.

Paul adds what is probably the most succinct statement of the opportunity attached to the unmarried state: “An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him” (1 Cor. 7:32 NLT).  This is explained simply:

“He offers realistic pastoral counsel, noting that those with the calling to singleness are spared divided interests that require husbands and wives to attend to their spouses desires and needs.”[vi]

Neither defending singleness as superior, nor escaping from it by any means, is the option for the Christian man or woman.  What is imperative is to determine one’s present calling.  If one is called – and duly prepared – for marriage, the partner will be provided in the course of ordinary relations and prayer.  If otherwise the calling is to present singleness, one should pray for self-control, and use the opportunity for undivided attention to serve the Lord.  Singleness is a unique condition of opportune service without the encumbrance and pre-occupation of family concerns.  It will be, for most, a temporary period; for a few, the choice of a lifetime.  But for them, singleness does not mean singular.

Meanwhile…

 The story of Rebekah becoming the wife of Isaac may provide a rather loose illustration (Gen 24).  Abraham commissioned his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac.  The servant offered to the Lord some pre-arranged signs as confirmation of his choice.  But from the perspective of Rebekah, she was just doing the same routine of fetching water from the well.  On that particular day, she was not looking for a husband; rather, she was found by the one looking for his master’s wife.

What may constitute here as a pattern for the Christian single – especially for the woman – is to live one’s life as a day-to-day responsibility to discharge, without a paralyzing concern when to find a partner.  “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 18:22).  The partner is both a personal discovery, as well as, a divine delivery.  We only get to identify someone in a row of people when pinpointing  a crime suspect in a police line-up!  For a partner in life, it is usually a find, like a miner’s gold.  Indeed, the Wise Man compares: “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” (Prov. 31:10)

Meanwhile, make friends; pursue some choice close ones – same gender, or opposite – without first presuming a developing romance.  Who knows, you may yet be called to serve the Lord in the capacity that others were called to serve, as unmarried – Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) among the Puritans; John R. W. Stott (1921-2011), in our lifetime.  Or, it may be that a partner has already been prepared for you.  Just keep fetching your water…

 

[i] George Barna, Single Focus: Understanding Single Adults (Regal Books of Gospel Light; 2003) p. 7

[ii] http://time.com/3446452/how-being-single-affects-health/

[iii] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion IV. 13. 3

[iv] Elizabeth Eliot, Passion and Purity (1984)

[v] Commentary by Charles Hodge

[vi] The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015): p. 2026

Treasure in Earthen Vessel

First blog post

 

With this piece, I join the blogosphere.  There are now more websites than people on earth.  For yet another one, an explanation is due.  It is hoped that this blog will be a commentary on a wide spectrum of issues.  But it will be defined by clear-cut boundaries.

First, I will primarily draw my thoughts from the Scriptures.  The conviction that, I hope, will define every piece of this blog is Sola Scriptura – that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and the only Word of God now.  Not dreams or visions; not popular opinions or dramatic experiences; and certainly, I reject vox populi, vox Dei.  I avow with full confidence the Confession:

The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience. 

The scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.[1]

 A substantial part of my commentary will therefore be exegetical and expository.  This is the essential task of the virtue of honesty to the text of the Word of God.  I will not twist the text just to have a charming aphorism.  The text, as the author intended it to mean, shall always be supreme.  But because I believe in the perennial freshness of the Word of God, the meaning of the text in its time will always have a meaning that is timeless and an application that will be timely.  I am committed to engage the text in its historical meaning, as well as engage the readers in their relevant context.

Secondarily, I will draw from the rich reservoir of history.  Specially so of Christian history.  It is enriched by councils and confessions; controversies and disputes; Christian men and women in their profound wisdom and egregious follies; Reformers and heretics; persecution and martyrdom; visionaries and missionaries.  To ignore these is to be impoverished in thought.  Indeed, if we are sensitive to the lesson of providence, we can see in history the pattern of the gospel.  As Michael Horton puts it:

The Christian who is alert to God’s clues in history knows that the pattern is always bad news followed by good news.  The Gospel always has the last word over sin, death, and temptation – whether it be the believer’s individually or the church’s generally.  It was, after all, into a world fallen as a result of the will to power that our race heard the surprising announcement of saving grace:  The seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head.  He who beguiled the royal couple into seeking their own autonomy would himself be destroyed.  And just as the world was looking upon the disfigured body of the crucified Messiah in disgust and mockery, God was acting for the salvation of his enemies.[2]

Finally, I can only draw from my own thoughts and experience – and it will always be with limitation and infirmity.  This is not to detract from the greatness of the message; but to admit the frailty of the messenger.  Apostle Paul puts it best: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Cor 4:7).  Having referred to the unsurpassed New Covenant glory in the previous section, Paul is humbled by his calling as one of its ministers (3:6).  He combines these two thoughts – calling the New Covenant message as treasure, though he as its messenger is but an earthen vessel.

The same consciousness will pervade every commentary in this space.  I will seek to spell out the treasure of the truth of the New Covenant.  It will sometimes sound positively assertive without being arrogant; confident without being contemptuous; challenging but not defying.  But because the treasure is in earthen vessel, it will always be subject to correction and criticism, and open to dialogue and exchange – for that is the way to growth and maturation.

Every piece in this blog will consciously seek after the truth of the Scripture.  It may not sit well with the current version of political correctness and orthodoxy.  In this, it is merely extending the mission of the church on earth – a mission depicted by Paul as to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2Cor 10:5).  C.S. Lewis makes an excellent analogy in his Mere Christianity:

 Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is.  Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.[3]

[1] Westminster Larger Catechism # 3-4

[2] Michael Horton, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles’ Creed (Word Publishing): 4

[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; cited from A Year with C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from his Classic Works: 78