January 4, Friday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“One Trait Women Don’t Share with Men”

1 Thessalonians 2:7

“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”

In the Wednesday blog I said some things that might have alarmed some readers: “While many social roles and responsibilities are mutually inclusive between the two sexes, they do not always perform at the same level relating to certain tasks attributable to differences in physicality and to a lesser extent, psychology.” Perhaps it was yet another attempt made by a male to put women in their traditional place, even justifying inequality in the workplace in terms of pay and promotion.  

That, of course, wasn’t my intent; however, what is undeniable is how differences in physicality and psychology between the two sexes may affect their performances in the workplace.  For instance, while a female soldier, on any given day, can outperform male soldiers, the latter, on average, will outdo female soldiers with tasks requiring strength and durability for the simple reason that, on average, men are bigger and stronger.  While pointing that out seems self-evident, how differences in character traits between the sexes affect their job performances may be neither as clear nor easy to talk about.

So then, which set of character traits between the sexes are valued in today’s feminism? Recall that, according to a study cited in Psychology Today, women were found to be more sensitive, warm and apprehensive, and men, more stable emotionally, dominant and rule-conscious. Some years back, a female soccer player at the collegiate level drew heavy criticism after yanking an opponent to the field by her ponytail.  A woman columnist defended her rough playing by insisting that no one would have batted an eye if the player was male. The same logic was used to defend Serena Williams’ “furious rant” at the chair umpire during the 2018 US Open Final. To my own shame, watching Serena’s rage reminded me of what I did to people close to me at times–it was a type of “anger [that] does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:20 NIV). However, several observers, including the tennis legend Billie Jean King, praised Serena’s actions, saying that Williams “was right to speak her mind, to put a voice to the injustice.” Perhaps King would exonerate me as well since my rage at home was always triggered by my intent (real or imagined) to right the wrongs done by others. It appears then that aggressiveness associated with males is valued among some women as a key to success.

It is in this context that what Simone de Beauvoir, a pioneer of modern feminism, said is telling: “Women should not be judged to be equal only insofar as they are like men . . . Women and men are different”—in other words, women don’t need to act like men to succeed.  Jeanne Deroin, another French feminist from an earlier era, would have agreed, when she declared, “Women are less selfish than men because as mothers, they know how to care for others. Because women are less selfish than men, they are well qualified to participate in public life.”

What Deroin alludes to is the maternal instinct, and while cultural conditions can affect its cultivation, its root is entirely biological, for no male can ever experience the nine months of pregnancy, the pain of giving birth, and the bonding relationship built during the first years of nursing. While on any given day, a stay-at-home dad can be a better nurturer than stay-at-home mothers, on average, women are better at “taking care of her own children” because they possess a maternal instinct, an innate trait unique to females mainly due to their physical makeup. Some women readers are probably suspicious of where I’m headed: Is he going to say, “Therefore, be stay-at-home-mothers”?  Of course, it isn’t as simple as that in real life, which I will address in later blogs; for now, consider how maternal instincts can be powerfully utilized in the workplace.

For Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female tennis player ever, her workplace is the tennis court; and she was having a terrible day at work during the women’s singles final. But Williams, a new mother, upon seeing her much younger opponent Naomi Osaka (by 16 years) who had beaten her for the championship, crying amid a booing pro-Serena crowd during the awards ceremony, “intervened,” writes BBC sports writer, “as her maternal instinct kicked in. ‘Let’s not boo anymore,’’ she pleaded. “Congratulations, Naomi. No more booing.”  Perhaps, this is what maternal instinct bestowed on a competitive coworker having a bad day of her own looks like. 

Truth be told, women’s success in the workplace and public life without emulating men can only happen under one condition: the removal of any barrier that limits what women can do without needing to act like men.  For that to happen, character traits such as sensitivity, warmth and unselfishness need to be valued along with other characteristics associated with success (e.g., working hard—Prov. 14:23). The Scripture says it like this: “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3a-4).

So I say to young women who aspire to be the next Sheryl Sandberg or Nikki Haley, remember that the maternal instinct is not a social construct invented by chauvinistic men to keep women down; rather, it is a gift of God for you to nurture and protect not only our own children, but also those who are being booed at your school, work, and even church.  What a privilege! Use it.

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for the women in our lives. While we praise You for our mothers who, after giving birth, sacrificially nursed us, we also thank You for the presence of women in all walks of life because their sensitivity and selflessness make our world a better place. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 4

Monday’s Blog: “Eavesdropping on Conversation between Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama.” (The weekend blogs will be provided by Mei Lan Thallman.)


Lunch Break Study

Read Isaiah 66:13:

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

Luke 13:34-35:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Hosea 2:8:

“And she [Israel] did not know that it was I [God] who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.”

Questions to Consider

Since “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24), and “spirit does not have flesh and bones (Lk. 24:39),” it is safe to say that God is neither male nor female. Though the masculine pronoun is used to signify, among other things, God’s sovereign leadership in the Bible, there are some biblical references that depict God’s maternal instinct.

  1. What aspects of the maternal instinct are spoken of in these two passages?
  2. What is humanity’s typical response to God’s maternal caring for us?  What does God do when we do that?
  3. How has God revealed Himself to you as a hen that gathers her brood under her wings?”

Note

  1. Isaiah 66:13 speaks of mother’s comfort bestowed on her child, Luke 13:35 speaks of mothers protecting their children from impending dangers, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul’s thoughts reflect a nurturing heart of God who gently cares for His children.
  2. Humanity often rejects God’s offer of nurture and protection, choosing to go its own way. But God, like a caring mother, continues to provide for those who continue to reject Him.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Let’s wrap up this day with another biblical reference that captures the hearts of parents for their children.  2 Corinthians 12:14-15 says, “Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” Here, once again, the apostle Paul captures the heart of God as he tries to love the Corinthians with this parental/maternal love.  Meditate on this passage and offer up a praise of thanksgiving to the Lord for loving us so dearly.

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