The women of our church recently finished a bible study on the book of James. Like the other studies we have done, this one proved fruitful in our lives and conversation. As we completed the study on Thursday night, this theme kept running through my head:
"A heart changed by Christ means a life changed by Christ."
What do I mean? James has gotten a bad rap over the years. Some have seen him as too practical. Too works focused. But as we studied this helpful book, we found rich truths and Christ-focused exhortation. We didn't hear "law." We heard "Christ." James is practical. James does deal with everyday issues that we face as Christians. Things like suffering, financial blessing or hardship, favoritism, and our speech. How many times have you wondered how the gospel of Jesus Christ applied to one of those particular issues? I know I have. The overarching theme of James is that Christians should look markedly different than the world, and nowhere is this more difficult to live out than in the myriad of issues I just mentioned. It is hard to trust Christ in the midst of suffering. It is hard to see Jesus as your treasure when the treasures of this world are piling up all around you. It is hard to control your tongue and see those around you as image bearers, not your own personal punching bags. You see where I am going with this? A changed life has implications. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ means something for how we go about our daily lives. We should look different.
But we need theology, you might say. We need to treasure Christ. We don't need more rules.
And I get that. I really do. Legalism is a death sentence for faith. But legalism, as I have said before, is not the same as James saying "faith without works is dead." Legalism is saying "faith is dead" and "works make you alive." James ties them both together (faith and works) to give us a better, more biblical picture. James gets that works don't save you, but he also gets that faith means something--namely that it should produce good works. It should lead to faithfulness.
So what does this have to do with biblical womanhood?
If a life changed by Christ has implications, then it most certainly has implications for us as women. While James never touches on gender roles or manhood and womanhood, he does show us that our theology should impact our practice. Our knowledge should lead to a practical theology of living. As women, this means that our lives should look different than the world around us. How we work in our jobs should look different than the cutthroat world around us. How we treat our husbands should look different than the male-bashing world around us. How we view our children should look different than a world around us that sees children as a nuisance and expendable. How we serve our church should look different than a world that says "my glory is what matters most." How we respond to singleness should look different than a world that says your single years are for your own self-exploration and fun. Biblical womanhood is not the gospel, and you will never hear me say that. But biblical womanhood is only possible in the life of a woman who has been freed by the gospel. Biblical womanhood is theology in practice. It is believing that we are created as image bearers. It is believing that being female matters in God's economy. It is believing that our gender tells a beautiful story about our Creator.
James, like the rest of the New Testament writers, believed that our theology mattered. But he didn't stop there. And neither do they. The New Testament writers understood that theology will always lead us to fruitful living. They got that from Jesus, who told us that if we abide in him, we will bear fruit (John 15:1-11). As we grow in godliness we will grow in how we look to a watching world. We should increasingly look different as we abide in the One who looked so different they killed him.
I don't teach and study what it means to be a woman simply for biblical womanhood's sake. I do so because I believe that a changed life means something, and nowhere do we see that in more stark contrast with the world than in our understanding of men and women.