Eugene Cho

women – created in His image

women.jpg

The image above is haunting.  I found it on flickr and haven’t been able to get my mind off it.  This past Sunday, we continued our teaching through Colossians and have parked for two Sundays to focus on Colossians 3.18-19:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. [tNIV]

When I became a Christian at eighteen, I simply could not understand why women were treated so differently within the church.  If women should be seen, valued, and edified as beautiful and equal creations in the image of God, wouldn’t and shouldn’t that have taken place in the church?  Sadly, that hasn’t always been the case.  While I don’t want to go off on a rant about the injustices committed by the larger institution of Christianity, the most egregious act may be the injustice committed against women.  This is often overlooked because it has always been the case.  It simply doesn’t stand out because it’s so status quo.  And much of this is a result of poor and erroneous theological reflection.  Theology is critical because it gives foundation to how we act, how we believe, and how we choose to develop our construct and understanding of God and His creation.

So, throughout history, here are some heinous quotes from ‘heavy-hitter’ theologians and prominent figures that have added to the diminishment of the value, equality, and beauty of women.  I’m certainly there’s a larger context to these quotes but nevertheless…

  • Woman, you are the devil’s gateway.” [Tertullian]
  • Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object. [St. Jerome]
  • In fact, even though the man was created outside of paradise, he is found to be superior. [Ambrose the bishop of Milan]
  • Women are on earth to bear children.  If they die in childbearing, it matters not; that is all they are here to do. [Martin Luther]

Another quote from a contemporary and influential pastor [m. driscoll]:

“So the question is if you want to be innovative: How do you get young men?  All this nonsense on how to grow the church.  One issue: young men.  That’s it.  That’s the whole thing.  They’re going to get married, make money, make babies, build companies, buy real estate.  They’re going to make the culture of the future.  If you get the young men, you win the war, you get everything.  You get the families, the women, the children, the money, the business, you get everything.  If you don’t get the young men, you get nothing.”

You can listen to yesterday’s sermon if you want [it’s long as usual] but I’ll share one important thought.  You cannot view Colossians 3 or Ephesians 5 [or other texts that are often used to place women under men] without the context of the Creation, the Fall, and the Curse.  While the Church often speaks of the Fall and the Curse, we must understand and absorb the essence of God’s creation of humanity in Genesis 1 and 2.  And in Genesis 2, we are told that both man and woman were created – equal – in the image of God.  There are no words of submission, dominion, or rule in regards to their relationship but rather, mutuality and partnership.  While we can acknowledge the structures that are in place because of the Fall and Curse, do we truly believe in the redemptive and restorative work of Jesus Christ?  Do we believe – even despite our brokenness – that we are new creations?  Will we live as new creations?  Will we simply settle for our depraved and sinful nature or can we grow into the adamah – human beings [man and woman] – we were originally created to be? 

While I have theologically and intellectually believed in the equality of women for the bulk of my Christian life, it has spoken much more deeply to my ‘heart’ in the years at Quest.  Serving, worshipping, praying, and doing life with both women and men have been a very enriching and humbling experience.  In addition, I have grown to be more aware to the ‘injustice’ towards women simply because of my two older daughters – J and T.  It seems like every single week, they come home from school upset as they share how other boys keep telling them, “You can’t do this…you’re a girl.”  And yes, it pisses the hell out of me.  If these elementary school boys weren’t so big, I’d challenge them.

I can write more but it may be better for us to ponder the ‘stuff’ from couple emails in response to yesterday’s sermon.  Obviously, they’ll remain anonymous:

I was a new visitor to your church today.  I wanted to comment on your sermon about women submitting to their husbands and the ways God intended a husband/wife relationship to be.  I was absolutely shocked…but in a good way!  I had been a Christian for 11 years and walked away from the church around a year and a half ago.  The only reason I had gone to Quest today was because I promised a friend to come with her to check out different churches.  When I saw the sermon topic, I automatically went rigid expecting something totally different. I came from a great church but a lot of the congregation was legalistic.  I had been involved in a relationship with a man who was physically abusive.  My fear of the verse about “submission” and fear of church response kept me from telling anyone for months.  When I did, I lost friends and my faith.  I didn’t feel I could be a Christian anymore because I didn’t want to marry someone who would be “above” me.  Your viewpoints were right on with how I felt and I gained some new hope that I could continue being a Christian and have a different interpretation on these issues.

But at one point today, you said, “Women, you were created equal to men in the image of God.”  I mainly write because I don’t know if you realize how powerful that statement was.  I don’t know if you realized what it would feel like to hear that statement coming from a man — what it would mean to me, and possibly to other individual women and men.  You didn’t even say it to me individually…I have never been told by a man, Christian or no, that I am equal to him.  I have never been told by a man that I am equal to him.  And equal in that we are both created in the image of God…I cried all the way home.  How is it that I’ve never been told by a male person that I am equal to him?  That I am equally beautiful and broken?  That we are both created in the image of God?

…Women are deeply wounded by living in this world, and wounded that men don’t fight for us.  Instead, they fight to rule us, and we…sometimes we fight, but most of the time we believe them when they tell us we aren’t worth our weight (sometimes taken literally).  Today I felt like a man was fighting for me, not because I can’t fight for myself, but because he recognized the wrongs in a world and a Church that have benefited him unfairly.

As I shared yesterday, I don’t expect to have everyone or even anyone agree with my exegesis on this and other texts.  But perhaps, this would be a good opportunity for us to dialogue – ask, answer, throw out questions, challenge, exhort, recognize, fight, and perhaps, just to listen…

Worthwhile reads:  The ties that Bind Must Break, Women in ChristianityHe-Man Woman Haters’ Club, Made for Mutuality, and More than Serving Tea.

Filed under: culture, emerging church, justice

26 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    PE

    Thank you so much for yesterdays message.

    I completely agree with the woman who wrote that the topic of submission makes her go rigid. I know that I physically cringe when that topic comes up. It was such a relief to feel like I could relax with that part of scripture without feeling like I was going to be hit in the head.

  2. Shane says:

    Pastor Eugene,

    Those were some of the most hard hitting quotes I have ever heard. Would you be willing to send me the sources? Also, you referenced a “contemporary pastor and influential leader”… would you be willing to share who that is?

  3. Joseon_Illin says:

    the quote: Mark Driscoll

  4. JD says:

    On your message about submission – Brilliant, completely brilliant. By far, the best treatment of the subject I have ever heard…and unfortunately I have heard a lot on this issue going to a southern based Seminary.

    Keep up the good work dude, you are most assuredly a voice for the Kingdom of Jesus, the love of humanity, and the marginalized people of the world.

    Thanks for blessing us every Sunday.

  5. Steve Lewis says:

    Well done Eugene. Especially in light of the latest words to come from the “contemporary pastor/influential leader” you quoted.

  6. jeff greer says:

    What is sad is that there are tons of women who have bought into and accepted that all they are is a ‘support’ and ‘a lesser, weaker sex’ and so they are in bondage to the lies that subtly go out as Christian truth. In the last year I attended a local church where the pastor proceeded to blame sin on Eve, because she sinned first. He went on by pretty much saying that if men hit their wives or cheated on them, that it was the wife’s fault. I was apalled, as was my wife. It was even more troubling to look around the room and see numerous women crying. It was a very manipulative message apparantly it was working! I know for myself I have been taught a lot that made me used to believe in female inadequacy in any kind of leadership role (in the church in particular). I am so glad that over recent years my eyes have been opened and my heart has changed on the matter. I heard your message was great, and I hope to podcast it soon and check it out. thanks for the words Eugene!!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Eugene, I appreciated the sermon so much, because it was a truly balanced, but more importantly, Biblical perspective. So many times people try to take one extreme position or the other and then bend the Scripture to fit their conclusion. And personally, as a woman in leadership at Quest, I can say that I have always felt valued as an equal partner in ministry.

  8. e cho says:

    shane et al: i placed pastor mark driscoll’s name in the blog as it is from one of his chats. it’s not my intention to start a tiff with him as he’s a local pastor. there are many things i respect about him and this one significant thing i very much disagree with.

    i’d rather we focus our dialogue on the issue at hand.

    rebecca: thanks. i appreciate those words because it’s not my desire to simply speak out of my personal thoughts but to give ‘the good and bad news’ of the text and to allow the larger narrative of the scriptures to give these problematic texts some more depth.

  9. Yung says:

    Pastor Eugene,

    I very much appreciate your insight and sensitivity on the issue of expected gender roles within the Christian community. I tend to be an egalitarian on this issue, mostly due to the fact that I’m incapable viewing women as a “lesser” gender because of my own mother, but I’m curious as to how people respond to your thoughts. Specifically those who disagree with you, women or men. I’m not sure this blog is the place for you to answer my question. I’m just wondering which one or two passages in the Bible people often use to repudiate your interpretations and how you respond to them? It might help those of us who want to dig deeper to understand more comprehensively.

    Also, FYI, the link to the sermon isn’t working.

    -yung

  10. mihee says:

    pastor eugene,
    i grew up in a typical korean presbyterian church, and it was mind-boggling to me that when my dad went to seminary when i started college, he started to advocate for women in leadership roles in the church. i had grown up with these stereotypical roles so ingrained in me that i argued with my dad for months…what a weird reversal! my dad, the symbol of Asian patriarchy, arguing for the legitimacy of women as elders and pastors, and me, arguing that the Bible says such and such about women…at the time it just felt like a no-brainer for me.
    now that i’m on this side of feminist studies, seminary graduation and ordained ministry (i’ve come a long way, again, surprisingly, thanks to my dad) it feels like a no-brainer…it feels obvious…lol…to me that women are called equally to furthering God’s kingdom in the same capacity as men…
    i think someone mentioned this earlier, but one of the biggest obstacles i’ve encountered are the women who oppose women in leadership in ministry…but the men who oppose it can be pretty annoying, too.🙂
    thanks for intentionally engaging this issue…
    best, -m.

  11. brian berry says:

    hey bro,

    we share the same heart with this issue. I’d love to hear your sermon, but the link on your website as well as the link here on this blog is defunked.

    serving Jesus with you,

    Brian

  12. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you for speaking so powerfully on this topic.

    I also became a Christian at the age of eighteen and I had a very difficult time reconciling my newfound faith with the often-misogynistic views that many church leaders held. I could not understand why the punk/indie community that I had grown up in seemed to have more respect for women than the church.

    It is sobering to think of the influence that many church leaders have on collegiate minds — I remember wanting to be faithful and passionate about Christ and area church leaders pushed their conservative/fundamentalist agenda as the only route to doing so. Questioning their theology or exegesis would instantly label someone as a “liberal” (the horror!). It was a convenient by-product that this theology cemented their own leadership and authority.

    One of the most egregious examples of ignorance came from someone who eventually went on to plant an Asian American church on the East Coast — when he was questioned about how he could claim that women were inferior to men, he became very agitated and explained that it was “biblical.” When pushed a bit further and asked to cite his sources, he stammered, “Well, I don’t know where it says it, but I know it’s in there!”

    It is a strange and disturbing phenomenon when young church people, out of their desire to be zealous for God, blindly equate fundamentalism with faithfulness.

  13. SP says:

    I wanted to respond to your sermon this past Sunday. It was redeeming for me. I know you were talking specifically about a marriage relationship, but for me the sermon spoke in so many different areas. As I have grown up with a father that despises women, I have my issues and feel a constant need to “prove myself” as a female…I appreciated your sermon, it creates conversation and someday I think there will be enough conversation for the leaders to acknowledge the destruction done against women in today’s society. Even coming to work, I know the male employees here make extremely more that I do with the same skill set/experience…and that the leadership at this company is all male and I wonder why. I appreciated that you spoke on mothers that choose to work and mothers that choose to stay home, and how I can be women who chooses either.

  14. YooRi says:

    Pastor Eugene!! I really want to listen to your message! BUT! It doesn’t work!

    As a women studies academe this will help me talk about this issue to the students/professors. And maybe have defined and clear answers to my questions about women and religion. ‘Religion’ itself is a huge topic many people in the class talk about. Christian beliefs being slapped down, people frustrated and angered by their own interpretations of Adam and ‘Eve’, the big issue to “submit”, and targeting women and blaming them for the reason why men fall into lust because the way we dress.
    I had many questions trying to figure out this matter. Researching, Scriptures, Pastors, and friends. And everyone has their own interpretations. And many people’s comments and well known pastors that have commented, I question them ’cause it doesn’t make sense. It’s either misinterpreting the Bible or their maleness/privilege or maybe I’m wrong? I will have to comment you again after I listen to your message. =)
    This is a very very good topic! I wish you could be a guest speaker at UW! And challenge some of the academics hehe.
    It’s sad to hear so many different stories of their own experiences at Churches, and they never want to go back, but bitter; legalistic experiences.

    And thank you for the incredible powerful clear message last Sunday, “Vtech”.

  15. bolim says:

    P.E. – Greatly appreciated your message. Sarah couldn’t be there and later I told her, “You have to listen to this” – Yes, a sermon on submission! But not so that I might be empowered, but quite the opposite – that she might be.

    If people want to do further reading a sort of one-stop encyclopedic work is Discovering Biblical Equality ed. by Gordon Fee. It’s more biblical-theological. For social/psychological I’d suggest Mary Van Leeuwen. Webb’s articles address some of YooRi’s concerns. A quote that I particularly like from the book: “In equal partnership marriages the locus of authority is placed in the relationship, not in one spouse or the other.” Back to grading!

  16. e cho says:

    BO: thanks for the list of those books. those are great. i particularly recommend Discovering Biblical Equality. For those who want to explore the other persepective, John Piper and Wayne Grudem are typically those that folks look towards for their thoughts on this issue.

    sorry folks. we were a little delayed in uploading the sermon. it’s up now.
    http://www.seattlequest.org/sermons/2007.04.29.m3u

  17. elderj says:

    as ive written about on my site, i have mixed feelings about this, although not about the inherent equal worth of women and men in God’s eyes. I know that there has been significant damage done to so many women through the years because of our (men) sinful desire to rule over our wives in particular and women in general. Since i grew up in the church, i never experienced much internal conflict with issues and it has only been in the last few years that i am beginning to, which is interesting because i come from a tradition that is egalitarian in terms of women in ministry.

  18. m@ says:

    Mean ‘Gene,

    I appreciated the fact that you returned to Genesis as the crux of your viewpoint Sunday. It was about seven years ago that my interpretation of the Fall, and all its subliminal, powerful messages, was what defined my position on women in the church. It’s amazing how the first few pages of Scripture can unleash an absolute flurry of different opinions, criticisms, and affirmations on the who/what/when/where/whys of our faith.

    Thanks again.

  19. e cho says:

    you guys need to check out sarah’s pic on her blog. they have the funniest pics on their blog. if you know them at all, it makes it that much funnier.

    http://www.joelandsarah.org/home.htm
    http://www.joelandsarah.org/Photo%20gallery/50s/50s_gallery.html

  20. chad says:

    it was great shootin hoops at the conference annual meeting…i’m really blessed by your words on your blog and can’t wait to listen to the sermon even if it is long.

  21. e cho says:

    yung: sorry for the delay in my response. i would say that those who agree or disagree usually focus around the same texts but obviously, with different hermeneutics.

    differing views of creation
    fall and curse
    standards for pastors and elders -> the focus on men and husbands to one wives
    colossians 3
    ephesians 5 – the headship of men
    pauline stuff about not permitting women to teach & authority over men

    while the sermon last sunday was about the context of wives and husbands, some of the above spills into women in leadership and ministry.

    my point is this: regardless where we stand on the women in leadership issue, i really think the church [men and women] need to examine themselves in how we care, love, respect, and honor the women in families, our churches, and the larger society.

    ultimately, i have to respect those who have different views of women in ministry but can’t we all commit to do it in a spirit that honors Christ?

  22. LayGuy says:

    Your quote on Driscoll is taken out of context. If you listened to his sermons, you would hear him say that women were taken out of the side of man – therefore making them neither inferior nor superior – equal in standing before God. He then goes on to explain that many woman have many talents are important for the Church.

    His take on gender issues is reserved really only for the ultimate authority within a church and seems very biblical to me.

    it’s true that many men have given us a bad name in either abusing our wives/girlfriends or asking them to submit to us as though we were mini me Hitlers. However the opposite is also true where many men have not stood up in the marriages and acted like a man and therefore the woman has had to become the leader.

    Just as many men who have not stepped up to the plate to be a good role model, many woman too have stuffed up in their gender role and have become dominating in their relationships. This has caused just as many issues as the pathetic male role models.

    Instead of bowing to political correctness or evangelical feminism, I look to scripture to the root cause of this issue. A careful study on Gen 3:16 and Gen 4:7 unearths the “behind the scenes” of this debate which has been abused by both men and women for ages. Look for the Hebrew meaning of the words and let God speak to you.

  23. e cho says:

    Layman,
    Thanks for the visit.
    Good thoughts…

    You actually listen to all of his sermons?
    That quote specifically came from one of his presentations for Piper [desiring god] on youtube. You can search and find the link. It’s a word by word quote. It’s not taken out of context which is fine because driscoll clearly states his views. I respect him for that. Just because he has different views of women in ministry doesn’t mean that we’re part of separate teams. I would simply request that he, along with others, communicate our content with a level of sensitivity. While he can have the convictions he expressed in that quote, I just think it could be said in such a way that still affirms women in life and ministry.

    Thanks for the encouragement to look to Genesis. I love Genesis. Incredibly formative stuff. I would encourage you, respectfully, to look to Jesus…

    He’s pretty cool stuff as well.

  24. Naomi says:

    Hi. I read your blog, though for some reason, I can’t upload the sermon, even on Itunes podcast .

    It’s great to hear a man and pastor advocating the equality of women, especially in the Church. It means a lot since all I’ve heard is that women should teach other women and lead sunday school…

    I’m moving to Seattle this summer for seminary, and will definitely check out Quest…it seems pretty interesting…

    Thanks again!

    Naomi

  25. Jennifer says:

    Naomi,

    Are you coming out for Mars Hill Graduate School? I’ll be starting there this fall too. I met a woman named Naomi at my admission interview in December, and was wondering if that was you. There are several other MHGS folks at Quest too.

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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