[The glory of a man his strength. The glory of a woman is her beauty.]
¶ Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
First Corinthians 16:13
So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel,
and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
First Kings 1:3
God has created men with the capacity to be physically stronger than a woman. The design of the average man reveals that his arm and leg bones are designed differently to that of a woman and enabled to support longer, denser, and more muscle mass.
“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and keeping his statutes, His commandments, His rules, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn
First Kings 2:2-3
But God desires a man’s physical strength to be harnessed for the good and welfare of others — especially women. A man is not to use his strength for evil purposes such as for the malicious violence toward others. Therefore, while most men are physically stronger than most women, a man’s true strength is displayed when he harnesses that strength for the good of others. This requires self-discipline which is also a measure of man’s strength as evidenced by King David’s charge to his son Solomon as prepared to succeed his father (1Kings 2:2-3). As a man ages he is to learn that true strength is not merely determined by physical capacity but is also exercised by increased wisdom (Prov. 20:29).
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendour of old men is their gray hair.
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might
THE PERFECT MAN’S BODY
Jesus Christ was the perfect man. He would have been physically strong with a well-toned body. Apart from a couple of donkey rides, Jesus travelled up and down and across Israel on foot. He spent the best part of His first thirty years as a carpenter who probably had to cut the trees from which He would mill the timber He needed to ply His trade as a wood craftsman. Cutting down the necessary trees, cutting them to size, and transporting them to where He would work on them would have been heavy manual labour which would have caused Him to grow stronger physically (Luke 2:52).
I write to you, fathers,
because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
First John 2:14
Jesus Christ was the perfect example of harnessed strength. He used His physical strength for the good and welfare of others — particularly when He entered into the intense phase of His passion (the week leading up to the Cross) (Matt. 26:53). Throughout His ministry He complemented His physical strength with courage. I am particularly impressed by the way He stood up to the mob of the scribes and Pharisees as they were humiliating the defenceless woman (John 8:2-11). I am also impressed that after He was beaten and physically abused by the Roman soldiers in which He suffered massive blood loss and would have been in tremendous pain, that He was still somehow able to carry and drag a huge splintery wooden cross, which probably weighed around forty kilos, at least part of the way out of Jerusalem — and was then manly enough to accept the help of another man (Simon of Cyrene) to carry it the rest of the way up to Golgotha. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of a strong man.
THE IDEAL WOMAN’S BODY
God has perfectly designed the female body and made it beautiful. It might be true that a woman is attracted to a strong man (especially one strong enough to make her feel secure), but it is definitely true that a man is attracted to a beautiful woman. And it seems that most women really appreciate a man’s admiration of her beauty. And God has also perfectly designed a woman’s body to nurture. This means that her skeletal structure is designed to support adequate muscle mass to nurture, and there are aspects to her design that make her quite distinct from a man’s body. But there is an insidious evil that seeks to particularly attack a woman and distort her appreciation for how the Creator has made her. This insidiousness is promoted in many of the recent crop of female heroines (super-heroines excepted for the moment) portrayed in Hollywood movies where a one hundred fifty three centre-metre, forty-five kilo, underwear model is seen fighting off a one hundred and ninety three centre-metre, one hundred and thirty kilo ex-Navy Seal by punching him across a room. This kind of nonsense sends a terrible message to a woman about her inadequacy to be equal to a man when it comes to physical strength.
I recently heard one woman talking about this distortion of a woman’s feminine worth by stating that it sends a not so subtle message that a woman is physically defective because she is not a man — that is, a woman is defective in some way because she does not possess the natural physical strength of a man. This alleged defectiveness seems to me to be further perpetuated to young women in particular who hear the evil one’s accusations of their supposed defectiveness in their heads when it falsely tells them:
“Your fingernails are not long or bright enough.”
“Your eye lashes are not long or lush or curled enough.”
“Your lips are too thin.”
“Your breasts are not shapely enough.”
“Your waist is not small enough.”
“Your legs are not tanned enough.”
I’m not suggesting that a woman should not present herself well with attractive clothing, hair, or make-up, but I would like to encourage women not to see themselves as defective in some way and therefore in need of unnecessary artificiality. There is already something quite intrinsically beautiful about a woman without any artificiality. True beauty is not entirely about a woman’s appearance. The beauty of a woman’s soul becomes readily evident even when her appearance has been damaged through a physical tragedy such as fire.
OUR BODIES MATTER
Most of us would like to have a healthy, functional, body. If you do, you are blessed. It’s usually in those moments when we go through sickness, injury, or disease, that we gain an increased appreciation for those times we enjoyed good health that, at the time, we took for granted. Sadly though, not everyone enjoys good health. Some diseases linger. Some injuries don’t recover. And some people are not graced with what most of us consider ordinary. Sometimes these illnesses effect a person’s physical appearance. But even when that happens, we must recognise that our bodies are wonderful gifts from God for which we need to be grateful and to steward with care.
[Christians should not regard themselves as “souls with a body”. Rather, we need to accept that the Bible describes us as body-spirit units.]
If you haven’t read Professor Nancy Pearcey’s book, Love Thy Neighbor, I hope you will. She makes a convincing case that we need to regard our bodies as: (i) God’s good design for each of us; and, (ii) God’s good biological gendering of each of us as either male or female is intrinsic to our identity. She also makes two rather profound points about God’s gift to us of our bodies. Firstly, male and female bodies are different for good reasons and these differences should be celebrated not denigrated. Thus, care needs to taken in understanding what it means to be “a man” and what it means to be “a woman”. Our sexual identity as either male or female is derived from our biology not from artificial stereotypes. These artificial stereotypes may present true manliness as being a tall, well-built, ruggedly handsome, testosterone charged man who hunts, fishes, and slays dragons; and, true femininity as a woman in her twenties with an hour-glass figure, long flowing hair, eye-lashes that could keep her feet dry, make-up that is always photo-ready, an over inflated sexual appetite, a gifted mother of six perfectly behaved children, and a wiz in the kitchen. The reality is that some strong men like to knit and some very beautiful women like to do carpentry!
WHAT TWO ANCIENT MYTHS TEACH US ABOUT BEING A STRONG MAN AND BEING A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
There is an ancient Christian myth that originate from the second century that tells of a small village outside of Jerusalem in the late first century that was being assailed by a dragon. The dragon would ravage the villagers’ livestock and crops causing great devastation. It refused to stop its assault until it was appeased by a human sacrifice. The villagers were terrified by the dragon. Then one day a brave woman from the village said to herself that this must stop and she would offer herself to the dragon. Armed with nothing but a crucifix in her hand as she held up as she approached the dragon, she bravely entered into the dragon’s mouth. But once in the mouth she then shoved the crucifix in her hand down its gullet. The dragon struggled to breath and soon vomited the woman out of its mouth but was unable to dislodge the fatal crucifix. Once she was spewed out of the dragon’s mouth she grabbed that the now asphyxiating dragon’s tail and dragged it back the village for the men of the village to finally dispatch. This is the myth of Saint Martha (who is featured in John 11).
The second myth comes about a thousand years later and also involves a dragon. One day a knight, Sir George, was passing through a devastated village and enquired of the villagers what had caused such terrible damage. The villages told the knight that it was a dragon and that this dragon could only be appeased by human sacrifice. At this point a young girl stepped forward and told the knight that she had offered to be the sacrifice to the dragon but the men of the village did not allow her to be so. Sir George scolded the men of the village for coming up with an alternative solution to this brave young girl’s offer and then declared that he would go out and meet the dragon. Armed with sword and lance George approached the smug dragon who lunged at him with mouth wide open. With the skill of a battle-hardened warrior George took his lance and drove it up through the inside of the dragon’s mouth. The dragon was now dead and the village was now at peace once again.
These two ancient myths describe a similar problem and a similar solution – except that the myth of St. Martha depicts how a woman’s wiles dealt with the problem and the myth of St. George depicts how a man’s strengths dealt with the problem.
STRENGTH AND BEAUTY LESSONS
The Bible places an extremely high value on our physical bodies and foretells that even in the resurrection we will live on as immortal physical beings. The Bible reveals that Satan wants us to hate our bodies — and he particularly wants women to hate theirs! The Bible describes how God had given men the capacity for greater physical strength which must be harnessed by wisdom, courage and virtue. The Bible also describes how God has made all women beautiful and that women must learn to harness their beauty with modesty, wisdom, and valour. Ultimately, a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty are both reflections of the aspects of the image of God that men and women share so that world might know that God is all-powerful and all-glorious. Let’s celebrate this!
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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