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Characteristics of a Holy Woman

Elisabeth Elliot: All that belongs to love--goodness, compassion, nursing, teaching, helping--belongs to women. Do I hear somebody say, "But why should we be put down like that? Why should we be the ones doing all the serving?"

Lisa Barry: Do you ever feel that way? Does it seem as though women get to do all the thankless jobs that no one ever sees or appreciates? And, by contrast, that men are always remembered for rescuing the helpless from peril or doing some stupendous act of courage? Well, all this week Elisabeth Elliot will be talking about "Holiness in the Nineties" and how that affects all of us. But today she'll take a serious look at what a holy woman looks like. What sort of characteristics should a woman have in order to be called holy? Take a few minutes and join us for some spiritual food for thought coming up next on Gateway To Joy.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you today about what it means to be a holy woman. I have been talking about holiness and different aspects of it. And I particularly want to speak about holy womanliness, or shall I say, womanly holiness. Some of the characteristics of a truly holy woman of God.

You men know that you have not been listening to a card-carrying, full-dressed feminist. In fact, you could not describe me as any kind of feminist, I don't think, because I see the whole question from a radically different viewpoint--the whole question of the differences between the sexes. To me, they are not merely biological. They are much deeper than that.

Don't call me old-fashioned. Don't call me traditional, please. Call me human, if you like, but not humanistic. Call me whatever you would call what most everybody throughout most of human history believed. Because I think you will grant me that throughout most of human history, up until the last century or so, everybody took sexuality pretty much for granted and accepted the fact that there were some radical differences between men and women, which nobody protested about.

But when the feminist movement arose, and I began to go back to Scripture to find out whether the things which I believe have any basis there, or were they merely culturally conditioned, I began to realize that it was an area that I had really never thought through, and that there were some tremendously deep theological truths. I ended up actually writing two books on the subject of sexuality. One was a series of letters to my daughter called LET ME BE A WOMAN; the other on the subject of masculinity in the form of letters to a nephew called THE MARK OF A MAN.

In 1 John 2:17, the Bible says this: "The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear, but the man who is following the will of God is part of the permanent and cannot die." So let's think a little bit today about the woman who is following the will of God, for surely the same thing would be true. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the woman who is following the will of God is part of the permanent and cannot die.

In order to be a woman who is following the will of God, we are going to have to test everything that the world tells us by the straight edge of Scripture. And that takes continual effort and thought and prayer and study. Back in the days when we were fighting against the Equal Rights Amendment, I heard Phyllis Schlaffley, the great leader of that fight, say, "The ERA does a lot of things to women. I have never heard of anything that it does for women."

And I would say the same thing about feminism in general. It does a lot of things to women. I have not seen anything very admirable that it has done for women. And by feminism I certainly don't mean equal pay for equal work. That's a relatively minor detail, but it is certainly something that I would subscribe to. Women don't often do equal work, but when they do then they certainly should get equal pay.

And don't get your back up by thinking that what I meant by that is that women can't do equal work. In many areas, women certainly can. But we can't do as well as men when it comes to being a fireman, for example, and carrying 170-pound dummies up and down ladders.

But as a Christian let me say this. I believe that the unpretentious things belong peculiarly to women. Now my brother, Tom Howard, has a bizarre viewpoint about a lot of things, and he made this statement one time years ago when we were discussing this whole question of masculinity and femininity. And he said, "Well, the reason that the men of the world have been the great generals and the great statesmen, artists and great musicians is because men don't have anything else to do."

The women, on the other hand, are much closer to the center of things. It is the women who give life. It is the women who deal with new life and raise human beings. The men are way out there on the periphery somewhere; and so, of course, they have to become the great generals and the great statesmen, and the great artists and the great musicians, etc.

But there is a sense, and I hope you will follow me here, in which the unpretentious belongs to us women. We are the champions of the hidden, the helpless, the betrayed and the needy. I hear a lot on the opposite side nowadays. I hear women saying, "Don't get caught in any compassion trap. Don't become co-dependent." And co-dependency, as the world looks at it, may be the same thing as sacrificial love, as God looks at things.

We are the ones who are meant to be sacrificial in our love; and I am not putting this in sharp contrast to men, of course. What it means to be a holy woman is the same thing as what it means to be a holy man. But there are some peculiar characteristics of us women. We are not created with the same design. We are not created for the same function. We were made to be life-bearers.

We were meant to be the champions of the helpless. It is the helpless child that the mother gives birth to, and human babies are far more helpless far longer than are animal babies. We are the ones who are to care for the needy and the sick and the hidden and the betrayed. All that belongs to love--goodness, compassion, nursing, teaching, helping--belongs to women.

Do I hear somebody say, "But why should we be put down like that? Why should we be the ones doing all the serving?" Well, of course, we are not supposed to be the ones doing all the serving, but to be angry about the fact that we have been given humble things to do--because obviously somebody has to do them. How will the bathtub get cleaned unless somebody cleans the bathtub? And since women have been designed to take care of the home, it makes sense that they should take care of virtually every aspect of the home when their husbands have to go out and work all day.

I realize that I am saying some very strange things in this day and age. I realize that there are many of you women listening to me who do have to go out and work outside of the home. But I hope that in that kind of work that you do, whatever it may be, that you will not lose your womanliness. If you are somebody's secretary, be thankful that you have been given a helping position. The men who run the company do need help. And for many years I think men have admitted that their secretaries get so good at it that they could turn over the running of the company to the secretary and everything would go just as smoothly, and perhaps more so.

But it is not up to us to get control. We are meant to be weighed by a different scale. We are charged with all the things that have to be done that men don't want to do, and things that men can't do.

Rumer Godden in her own autobiography speaks of her difficulty in trying to juggle the cooks, and the children, and the garden, and the house, and the dog in heat and the leaking roof with her writing. She wanted to be writing--this was when she was living in India--and she thought about the fact that Shakespeare had an unimpeded mind. Her mind was full of impediments--the cooks, the children, the garden, the house, the dog and the leaking roof. These were unpretentious things.

There are some very great contrasts in the Scriptures. Eve--an example of a woman who sought her own good. Mary--the woman who sought only the will of God. Eve wanted to be God; Mary to obey God. Mary's prayer was, "Let it happen as You say," rather than "Let it happen as I say."

Are there some echoes here of what has become common doctrine among women? Have you been squeezed into the world's mold? Have you forgotten that the world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear? God has given to us a special place, special power, emotional power, certain kinds of management power, special influence, the special privilege of being the life-bearers.

Perhaps one of the reasons why women have been suppressed in very evil ways, and I admit that they have been, is that their power is recognized and sometimes feared. Both men and women today, I believe, are subject to the delusions of a secular age--self-redemption. I actually heard a minister on TV say that the greatest obstacle to progress is self-doubt. Well, I would disagree with that minister. I would say no. The greatest obstacle to our progress is our refusal to cooperate with God. Surrender is the only absolute power that you and I possess. Will you surrender to the will of God?

Lisa Barry: I know many of you would like to get a hold of the books that Elisabeth mentioned earlier in the broadcast. Their titles again are THE MARK OF A MAN and LET ME BE A WOMAN. But don't think of the first as only for men and the latter only for women. They are insightful and challenging to both men and women.

Here's where to write for purchasing information: Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or our toll-free number is 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Today's program has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Tomorrow Elisabeth talks about "The Essence of Femininity," so I hope you can join us then for another Gateway To Joy.

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