We Must Hold Ourselves to a Higher Standard
We are God’s masterpieces. That’s the most important truth to get across to women in our culture today. But we must also realize that as God’s masterpieces, we are meant for more. He created us for his glory, not for our own pleasure. The reason to abstain from pornography, promiscuous sexuality, or anything else that demeans the masterpiece God made is because we are not our own. Paul told the Corinthians,
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. — 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Wow. As a believer, I need to remind myself that it’s not just about me. I belong to God, and therefore how I treat my body, what I choose to say, and the media I consume matters. Any trash I put into my mind that demeans me is an affront to my Maker.
Okay, so most of us church ladies don’t dabble in visual or written porn, but what about those cable shows? You know the ones I’m talking about, those series that we compulsively binge-watch despite the fact that they’ve got enough sexual innuendo and risqué bedroom scenes to make us cringe. Paul told the Philippians,
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. — Philippians 4:8
Uh-oh. Now I’m starting to squirm. What about those magnificently entertaining cable series? One of my good friends recently confessed to me that she felt so convicted she had to stop watching a really good one—one that I watched as well. I felt sick. I knew that I had heard the same still voice, and I ignored it. I fall short every day; we all do. This doesn’t mean we give up the quest to please God in every area of our lives and to free ourselves of negative messages that harm.
We must be ever vigilant to protect our hearts and minds, and in today’s world, that’s not easy. Our culture has pitted men against women, women against men, and even women against one another, and boiled down our relationships to their most base and selfish versions.
We must be the ones to raise the bar. We must be the ones to declare truth and exhort beauty because we know what real Truth and true beauty look like.
We can’t settle for a world of men versus women or accept that women will always be demeaned as objects for sexual use and subsequently discarded. No, together we must demand something different. Together we are a living testament to God’s love for the church and Christ’s sacrifice for her. Together we are more, not less, and we must insist on that principle and embrace it ourselves.
Consider Jesus’ prayer for all believers:
I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one — I in them and You in Me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. — John 17:22-23
We are called to unity, and when we embrace this call, God can and will work through us for His glory.
Point Out What Doesn’t Work, and Offer Alternatives Worth Emulating
As we work together to proclaim the truth of God’s love for us, we can also gently point out that the truths by which many people order their lives today simply don’t satisfy. For instance, in our hyper-sexualized society, women are promised more — more sexual empowerment, more freedom, more love or attention from men, more satisfaction. But in reality, we feel like we have a lot less. We aren’t happier or more fulfilled; we’re the opposite. Rates of depression and anxiety are on the rise; one in four women today take antidepressant medications. And a 2009 study by Wharton professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that over the past thirty-five years, women’s happiness has steadily declined — both in comparison to where we were thirty-five years ago and in comparison to men. Clearly, something isn’t working.
Part of our role in discussing these issues is to help women recognize that the world’s lies are just that — lies. But more important is that we offer them an alternative, a redemptive message that speaks of their own unique value. What does work is a life where God’s view of women takes center stage.
When we embrace the truth about who God says we are, we find a lot more contentment than when we’re trying to live up to all of the wild expectations of the media or society.
We were meant for more. We need to encourage each other to stop looking at the Kardashians as role models and look to our grandparents, our mentors, real-life women who embody the kind of love that does satisfy. All around us, especially in our churches, we have beautiful examples of true women and true love — lasting and agape (God-sized) love. There are beautiful couples who have loved and sacrificed for each other for more than fifty years, not fifty shades.
I witnessed this kind of love up close in the lives of my great-uncle Robert and his wife, Carolyn Young. Robert was a part-time pastor, and they owned a small country store in the mountains of North Carolina. They persevered as life partners through infertility, war, illness, and even the Great Depression. Carolyn’s health was fragile for decades, but Robert lovingly cared for her even when he was elderly. Finally one day she became so ill that she lapsed into a coma. He took her to the hospital and stayed until the staff made him take a break and go home. While at home, he sat down and simply died. I believe it was because he couldn’t face life without her. A few hours later she too was gone. The homecoming in Heaven must have been glorious and unexpected. What a gift. They are strolling the golden streets arm in arm as they did on earth.
We need to celebrate relationships like theirs, ones that value women as treasures and view true love as a reality, not an unrealistic or outdated trope.
One last point. It is crucial that we speak about these issues from a place of humility. Whether speaking with our Christian sisters or non-Christian friends, the only way we’re going to get anywhere is if we remember that we are all sinners, and that the reason Christ died was to redeem us all from our fallen state. The apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans should always be at the front of our minds:
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8
We aren’t arguing to score a point or prove ourselves right; we are speaking truth because God has called us to, and because through us, others can encounter the incredible message of redemptive love.
At the end of the day, we are surrounded by a world that embraces promiscuity, violence, self-degradation, vulgarity, and shallow, materialistic definitions of beauty. Too many women have fallen prey to this culture, attempting to embrace it as a way of self-empowerment or self-protection — but as we’ve seen, it doesn’t work.
We need to realign our perspective with reality and focus our efforts on becoming the kind of women God has called us to be. Let’s work together to become brave women whose primary aim is to glorify God, who recognize that our femaleness is a unique gift, who speak wisdom and truth, who enjoy sex in a way that honors the Lord, and who know that we are perfectly made in the image of God. When we align ourselves with this image of womanhood, we will be truly empowered — able to stand up as role models for the young women around us, able to speak truth to the lies that come from every level of society and government, able to give women a voice that demands respect and has the power to bring about change. As Erick Erickson has written, “a Christian on the sidelines is a Christian not going forth.”
It is time for us to get off the sidelines. It is our time to stand up to a world gone crazy. Will you join me?
Excerpted with permission from Feisty & Feminine: A Rallying Cry For Conservative Women by Penny Young Nance, copyright Penny Young Nance.
How do you stand up to a “world gone crazy,” as Penny describes? Come share your thoughts on our blog about becoming the women God has called us to be! We want to hear from you! ~ Faith.Full