by the book blog

My wife tells the story of a time we were vacationing in Brazil and she overheard my mom talking to herself as she watched me from her kitchen table. “My son,” she said, “what happened to him, wearing braids and all these rings on his fingers?” Then she caught herself and continued her chores without expecting an answer. (By the way, I was sporting some pretty awesome cornrows, but for her it was nothing but “braids”).

My mother’s lament perhaps typifies the disappointment of many parents whose sons and daughters didn’t quite follow the conventional wisdom of what men and women should do. And my guess is that my mother is not the only person disappointed in my unusual taste.

I remember walking out of the nail salon at Wal-Mart and bumping right into a couple who attended our church. The husband, wanting to appear cute, said, “Pastor Ivanildo, are you getting your nails done?” At that time, the wife, who knew me a little better than her husband, began to walk away. I said, “Yes, of course,” and showed him my newly polished nails. He was shocked and the wife was nowhere to be seen…

I am adventurous that way. When it comes to stereotypes, unless it is illegal or immoral, I am always game to obliterating them. I just hate the thought of only doing what everyone expects you to do. Life becomes boring that way. Like the older man who heard my story at a restaurant after I had preached in a little church in rural Pennsylvania. He sat silently the whole time, and finally at the end, in a quiet voice, he said, “After listening to you for the last hour, I feel that I have lived under a rock.” This man had retired from working for the railroad and had never left his county in his 70+ years of existence. He was a caveman surrounded by modernity.

We have all grown up with deeply ingrained convictions about gender roles. But the differences between male and female have been grossly exaggerated. Sure, men and women have different areas of their brains that are more active than others. Women in general seem to be more in touch with their emotions than men. Men tend to learn differently than women, etc., etc. But the similarities are a lot more prevalent than the differences. And there are many areas where we complement each other.

Our society clamors for precise answers about what it means to be a man and a woman. We now keep meticulous statistics about women in the work force, as if they were batting averages for baseball players. We rate business environments by how friendly they are to women. Kraft, the company, had to pull an advertisement for diapers off the air because it made dads who took care of babies in diapers look like they were clueless (can I hear an amen for those who are tired of commercials that make men look stupid?). No one knows what to do anymore and Ann Landers is no longer around to answer our complicated questions about men and women.

In this confused environment, we must turn to the manual. To begin with, God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that both men and women were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Of all the created beings, only men and women have the awesome privilege of being like God and therefore being able to represent Him. And this refers equally to male and female. So we are equal in our essence. No man can claim a biblical basis to feel superior or exercise dominance over the other gender. That would be totally contrary to God’s original plan when He created the world.

But then God conferred upon man the responsibility to lead his family. And when I say “lead” I don’t mean “take charge,” I mean “take leadership,” the way Jesus did – with compassion and total abandon on behalf of His bride, the Church, as Paul explains in Ephesians 5. This is how God intended it from the beginning – equal in essence, complementary in function. Nowhere in Scriptures there is even a hint that a man should exercise dominance over his wife and whoever says that there is something to that effect is certainly misusing some biblical texts.

These biblical mandates are all there is. They are crucial but not exhausting. Everything else is culturally imposed. And different cultures vary in the tasks assigned men and women.

I will never forget going to D. C. to participate in the “Stand in the Gap” event, where about 800,000 men gathered in the National Mall to commit themselves to pray and love their wives and families. We were told that there would be women protesting during the event. Sure enough, when we got there, there were a handful of brave women carrying out large signs, trying to drown out the blasting sound coming from the jumbletrons spread around the mall.

One particular sign caught my attention. It read, “Why aren’t you home mowing the lawn today?” I was drawn to it and with great difficulty made my way to the young woman carrying the sign. When I got there, I was screaming in her ears: “I’m here because it is my wife’s turn to mow the lawn today!” She looked at me and said, “You know, you got a point.” We sat down on the sidewalk and for about 45 minutes I explained to her what the Bible really has to say about how men should treat women. She had never heard of such things.

Maybe you haven’t either, but this Sunday, if you care to join us at church, you will hear me talk about what it means to be a man and a woman according to the Bible. Hope to see you there!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA