Gender and Grace
While volunteering at a women’s empowerment organization in Papua for the past year, one way I found I could contribute to the work being done there was to share ideas that I had access to as an English speaker. For example, reading the book Gender and Grace by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen and writing a brief summary of her perspective for P3W’s quarterly newsletter. I was fortunate to be with a helpful staff who translated my writing, or were willing to take on the task of editing my own writing in Bahasa Indonesia, making it accessible to readers in Papua. Here’s the English version, just to give you an idea of some of what I did in Papua:
This is one perspective on humanity’s fall from grace and its impact on the way men and women relate to one another, as found in the book Gender and Grace by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, a Christian Psychologist from Canada.
Men and women were created equal:
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
When God refers to God’s self in the plural, as “we,” God is likely referring to the trinity. God is an inherently social being, and Van Leeuwen points out that, throughout the Bible, we see “Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit working in cooperative interdependence.” Being made in God’s image, we are social as well.
Genesis 1:26-27 present another aspect of God’s image within us – what Van Leeuwen calls “accountable dominion.” Each and every person, from the very beginning, is called to be a steward of God’s creation. We are given this responsibility by God and are accountable to God.
Unfortunately, the world is not the way that it was originally intended to be. Including the way that men and women relate to one another. Although Eve gave into temptation first, Adam was soon to follow. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
In Van Leeuwen’s interpretation of creation and the fall, men and women have been given punishments that are reflective of their respective sins, as described in Genesis chapter 3.
Adam abused his calling to be a social being in placing his unity with Eve over his primary responsibility to obey God’s commands. Therefore, he was punished and his responsibility to practice accountable dominion was distorted, which continues to play out today as “domination.”
Eve abused her responsibility to practice accountable dominion over creation in accepting the fruit from the serpent. Therefore, her punishment is to have her natural sociability distorted. Instead of exercising her God-given responsibility to practice dominion alongside her partner, she submits to his domination. She refrains from taking risks and voicing her opinions in order to maintain social relationships and harmony.
Because this reality is a result of sin and not an intended part of creation, all people are called to work to overcome this unnatural imbalance in our homes and in our society.
Van Leeuwen points out that periods of spiritual revival are when we most often see Christians set aside traditional gender roles in the church. It is in these times, when we are filled with the Spirit, that we are best able and most free to move beyond this bondage. It is in these times that we best understand that we are Christians first, and men, women, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, second.
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.