One in Christ Jesus
By Greg Albrecht—
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.—Galatians 3:28
What exactly is a mother? What is her job description? What does a mother do? There’s a story about a man who came home from a long day at work—when he drove into his driveway he saw his three children, still in their pajamas, covered from head to toe in mud, fighting and screaming.
He was just too exhausted to deal with it, so he walked right past his kids, through the front door, into a house that was in upheaval. Chaos reigned supreme.
The TV was blaring, furniture had been knocked over, dishes were piled on the kitchen counter and in the sink and empty food wrappers and containers littered the rest of the kitchen. As he made his way upstairs he had to carefully avoid toys and children’s clothing scattered everywhere.
He was worried that his wife must be sick and in bed. She was in bed, still in her pajamas, reading a book. She smiled at him and asked him how his day went.
Her husband, still in a state of shock, said, “What in the world happened today? This place is a mess!”
She smiled sweetly and said, “Well, you know, every day when you get home you always ask me what I did that day?”
He said, “Yeah…”
She said, “Well, today, I didn’t do it.”
Let’s consider one half of the human race—women and mothers, the gender that brought each one of us into the world. Let’s begin with an insight that will rock the known world: Men and women are different.
If you just arrived on planet earth as an alien from another galaxy, you may require some examples of the differences between men and women. Here’s a few gender differences I have compiled and modified from a number of sources:
• Women can remember every outfit they have worn for the last 10 years. Men can’t remember what they wore yesterday unless they look on the floor next to the bed.
• Boys and girls love to play with toys. When girls reach the age of 10 or 11, they start to lose interest in toys. But boys and their toys, that relationship never ends. As boys become men the toys simply become more expensive and more complicated, but even big boys love their toys.
• Many women persist in making lists of things for men to do, even though they know, by experience, that their man will never do most of them.
• You can learn a lot about the differences between men and women by observing the way they drive a car. Men can somehow drive a car without looking at themselves in the mirror. Men find it virtually impossible to ever stop for directions while on a trip because they believe asking anyone for directions is a sign of weakness.
• Then there’s the bathroom—we’ll not even talk about the toilet seat—up or down. Let’s just illustrate the differences by making an inventory of the items a man stores in the bathroom—shaving cream, a razor, after shave, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, some hair spray, deodorant, a bar of soap, and maybe a towel. Women, well, according to some recent studies, the average woman has 596 different items stored in her bathroom, the vast majority of which the average man could not identify.
You see—men and women really are different, aren’t they? All joking aside, sexual discrimination is one of the major challenges that women have faced throughout history, and still do in most of the world.
Sad to say, religion, including many parts of Christendom, has been responsible for the repression of women over the years. Many biblical passages have been subjectively interpreted by men to mean that they are superior to women. This was a convenient interpretation for men, of course, as they were, and still are “in charge” of many churches.
So men have, sometimes in the guise of Christianity, lorded it over women, maintaining their domination over women by interpreting biblical passages in such a way that women would be charged with being “barefoot and pregnant”—almost like a possession. Women were therefore virtually enslaved by their husbands and other men as those men represented the leadership of the secular and religious world. In many so-called Christian settings there is no way out for women. Unless they somehow escape their religious environment and culture, they are trapped!
For the world of Christendom, it’s far easier to point the finger at the non-Christian world where women suffer brutal and inhumane treatment, often in the name of religion. There is no question that religion, with all of its restrictions, regimens and regulations, has been used as a convenient club to keep women in line.
Just think about some of the huge predicaments that religion faces today, sometimes because of lines it has drawn in the sand because of its overbearing and authoritarian atmosphere of judgment and condemnation. Christ-less religion normally sees women as the problem—the perpetrators—the villains. Here are a few examples:
Contraception—if religion allows it at all, contraception is often seen as the woman’s ultimate responsibility. Even if the male uses a condom the woman is often considered ultimately responsible for insisting that her partner put it on. After all, conventional wisdom says that men just can’t control themselves. And if an unwanted pregnancy occurs, well, who is usually blamed?
Fertility—when couples cannot have a child, historically the blame was laid at the feet of the woman. After all, the robust man, with his ego, well, he could not be to blame, could he? So, before technology was able to determine which partner was infertile, the woman was assumed to be the guilty/infertile party. And religion was very much involved in this judgment. When a couple was unable to have a child, the woman was said to be “barren.”
Abortions—When a church or ministry makes abortion one of their primary concerns, which gender comes out with the short end of the stick? Woe be unto the woman who confesses to her church that she has had an abortion. The same judgment is not generally heaped on the man who impregnated her, who abandons her and their chid saying to the woman, “I don’t want a child, you take care of it.”
Divorce—In many religious settings, when there is a divorce, women are more likely to be cast in the role of home-breakers. While there is no doubt that some women ruin both their own marriage and that of another woman, men are also guilty of destroying marriages.
Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3) by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees? Details about how they “discovered” the woman caught in the act (John 8:4) are not supplied in this passage. We can safely assume that this story appears in the Bible because it was more than an isolated, one-time-only act. Witch hunts, in the name of God, have been a constant feature of religious legalism.
Religious authoritarianism in general, both past and present, does its best to police the lives of people, attempting to catch people, feeling justified in revealing dirt and sleaze so that it can scare others with the “fear of God.” The idea is that the end justifies the means. Well, for Jesus, the end did not justify the means.
The woman was forcibly taken to Jesus for his condemnation. The religious police wanted not only to humiliate the woman, but to shame Jesus because they felt, as we read throughout the Gospels, that Jesus was “soft on sin.”
The woman had been taken to Jesus for condemnation, but Jesus wanted to know about her partner. Where was he? Why did the religious authorities “bring her up on charges” while letting the man go free? Jesus, in effect, told the men standing around her and demanding her condemnation, that they were just as guilty as she was.
There is no doubt that religion places an unequal and imbalanced responsibility at the door of women simply because they are women.
Christendom at large, for many centuries, cast the first woman, Eve, as an evil, scheming, overly-sexed person who was far more culpable than innocent Adam, who simply couldn’t control himself when matched up against the seductive wiles of that woman.
“That woman”—have you ever heard that phrase? The phrase “that woman” has been used throughout history (of course women have their own vocabulary for men, including “that useless man of mine”).
But again, there is a negative environment, a mistrust of women that Christendom has perpetrated for many centuries, thinking that it was correctly interpreting what it calls the fall, the original sin. The false interpretation? The original, first sin was mostly Eve’s fault. If it hadn’t been for Eve, Adam may have resisted the serpent.
But, women are not inherently inferior to men. Galatians 3:28 insists that women are equal, One in Christ Jesus with men.
Religion, bad religion, toxic and flawed religion, has been a cross for women to bear. So has our modern society, which has placed impossible expectations on women. For the past few decades in our western world, women who wanted to be stay-at-home moms have endured incredible persecution, from their own gender, from friends and even family, who have accused them of lacking ambition, of being lazy and generally taking the easy way out.
The challenge facing Christian women and Christian men in our culture is to live our lives respecting each other. Our challenge is to respect our differences and to come to better understand those differences, generally in terms of all women and all men, and specifically, for those of us who are husbands and wives.
Let’s back up and read the two verses that set up Galatians 3:28:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor females, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.—Galatians 3:26-28
Note the progression and context of Paul’s thinking, as God inspired him. He says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…
Paul is not talking about some nebulous concept. The context of these three relationships suggests real, concrete, societal equality.
When we are in Christ, race does not exalt or diminish us. It plays no role in our relationship with God, nor should it in our relationship with other humans of other racial groups. In Christ, different races are different, but equal before God.
When we are in Christ, we don’t own other human beings, either in literal slavery or in some other kind of relationship where we domineer and dominate them. When we are in Christ we don’t make life miserable for others, we don’t intimidate or emotionally brutalize anyone. When we are in Christ, our economic status, the financial situation we may have, will differ, but we are, nonetheless, equal before God.
When we are in Christ, we don’t suggest that our maleness or femaleness makes us better or worse. In Christ we are different, but equal, before God.
It’s also important to note that this passage is specifically directed to men and women who have faith in Christ Jesus, who are in him and who belong to him. So, when we look at this passage in terms of a Christ-centered woman’s role we’re not simply talking about the biological act or fact of motherhood.
Many women can become a mother, but not all are Christ-centered women. Some women cannot become mothers, even if they are Christ-centered women.
And, of course, it is possible to merely be a biological mother, a self-centered, hateful, impatient, brooding, mean-spirited or physically violent mother—a woman who simply breeds children.
Galatians 3:28 lifts up a model that enables women to become more than that, in Christ, through Christ and because of Christ.
Paul proclaims that we, as men and women, may be One in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Our equality comes from Christ, it comes in Christ. That’s ultimately where any war between the sexes will end—in Christ. That’s where respect between the sexes comes.
Christ-centered mothers are vitally important in the family relationship God created. Mothers are the mediators, the encouragers, the teachers, the step between dependence and independence. Mothers hold children in their arms, at first physically, and then always, no matter how old their child might be, emotionally and spiritually.
We begin life coming out of the birth canal of our mother, we nurse at her breast. She gives us physical life and then she continues to provide the nourishment we need to continue that life and grow.
A mother stands in the gap between the world at large and her baby. She provides safety and comfort in the home. When that baby is fully mature and grown a mother is absolutely critical in helping to eventually launch her child into the world as a fully functioning adult.
Some mothers, who are not fully mature in Christ themselves, have a difficult time letting go of their children. Some mothers never let go. Some mothers, using the potent mixture of guilt and shame (that either parent can use, of course), can and do cripple the social, emotional and spiritual development of their children. They do this because they themselves are spiritually immature, they somehow think that they own their children.
No one owns anyone in Christ. In the family, husbands don’t own their wives, nor do mothers own their children. We are all equal, and that includes our children. Children are not our slaves, we don’t own them. I believe God graciously allows us, as parents, to be guardians, to be caretakers, to be role models, to be helpers and to be servants for our children.
As Christ-centered parents we are servants of our children. A Christ-centered mother will serve her children. Serving children has nothing whatsoever to do with permissively allowing them to do whatever they want whenever they want. Being a servant of her children simply means that a Christ-centered mother will do all she can for the eventual good of her children, and in this way, Jesus is her model.
It’s possible for women who are not fully mature in Christ, who do not walk in close relationship with God, to so idealize their own children as to set them up as virtual idols—they become an extension of her. She cannot or will not see her own need, and in rejecting the necessity of Christ in her life, she sees her children as being without need of spiritual direction and growth.
Christian motherhood starts, it is founded and it is based on a solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Christian motherhood is absolutely and uncompromisingly Christ-centered, which is not, of course, one and the same as being religiously minded and centered. We’re not talking about someone who is enslaved to a bunch of religious rules and regulations, for if that is the case such a mother may present an entirely different dynamic to her children, as well as setting up barriers in her own children’s relationship with our loving God.
A Christ-centered mother serves as a primary teacher and model for her children for their own relationships with God. Mothers are often the parent that teaches a child about God and about prayer. Mothers often receive many of the early questions a child has about God. Ideally, of course, a mother does not serve as the only parent who teaches and models a healthy, Christ-centered relationship with God, but given the demands of a family in our world, much of this responsibility, at least for younger children, falls into the mother’s lap.
And of course, far more women serve as single parents, so in a single-parent home the mother provides all teaching about God. Single adults lead 25% of all U.S. households, and most of these single adults are women.
Let’s get back to our introductory story, about the woman who decided to stay in bed all day one day and not do what she normally did.
What does a mother do? She’s a homemaker, a dietician, a research assistant for homework, a chauffeur, a fashion designer and sometimes a seamstress.
She’s an information bureau, she works in the home laundry, she is a nurse and pharmacist, she is a recreational director, she is a teacher.
She’s usually responsible to make sure there is food in the cupboards, and food on the table. She changes diapers and she coaches soccer teams.
There are times when a mother must be a judge, sometimes a counselor, sometimes a cook and waitress, sometimes a caretaker of animals, always a caretaker for her children.
It’s tough to be a mother. Motherhood is not always undertaken in ideal circumstances. Fourteen percent of new mothers in the United States are unmarried, single parents. More than 50% of all mothers with children under the age of 18 work outside the home, in addition to their jobs as mothers.
Mother’s Day is a wonderful celebration of women, a time when we honor them, thank them, and demonstrate to them the respect which they should be given, and too often haven’t, and for that matter still aren’t.
Motherhood is not easy in these days and times. It is fitting that we pause to thank them for their service. Of course, when we think of service, we think of the greatest servant of all, our Lord and Savior, who empowers us to serve others, in his name.
Mother’s Day is also a celebration of the fact that we are all One in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).