Before the curses in the Garden of Eden, the man (Adam) and the woman (Eve) were equals. God made Eve from Adam’s rib. He could have made Eve from Adam’s head or from his feet. Either act would have demonstrated either the superiority or the inferiority of the woman. But He didn’t because that inequality wouldn’t reflect the image of God. The image of love. The Trinity works together as equal partners in perfect harmony yet performing different roles. Adam and Eve were to do the same.
The curses that God pronounced after sin were meant not as evil but as good. They would provide difficulty, yes—but this difficulty would teach us spiritual lessons for our own benefit.
What has transpired throughout the human race since the fall is not only gender domination, but a series of unfortunate racial and class-based discriminations. Greed, exploitation, corruption, oppression are, unfortunately, the rule, not the exception, to our fallen world.
But this isn’t how God wanted things. He continually tried to draw people to a closer reflection of His image, even while meeting them where they were. Ancient Israel wasn’t a perfect society even though God was the King. Most likely, though, it was the best society possible for the time, with principles of love and grace that were unheard of in the surrounding nations.
God calls people to reflect His image and glory through purity, holiness, goodness, and love. He works within the culture of individuals and communities. Working within a culture, any culture, inevitably causes limitations on how much can be done, even by God (respecting human free will), but these limitations are the result of us and our flaws. This is why God constantly calls us to more clearly represent His character and image; the more we do, the more good things we can bring to our societies and to others.
When the nation of Israel surrendered themselves to His authority, He established various gender, class, and race-based laws that would protect the easy targets of discrimination. These laws did not exist in most other cultures and communities.
Take care of the stranger or foreigner:
Leviticus 19:33; Deuteronomy 10:18, 19
Take care of the poor:
Deuteronomy 15:7, 8; Job 29:12
Take care of women:
Exodus 22:22; 27:19; Numbers 36:6
Take care of the fatherless and widows:
Isaiah 1:17; Deuteronomy 10:18
Rights of a slave:
Freeing of slaves during Jubilee:
He wanted the Kingdom of Israel to be a place of equality and of grace. He wanted it to be a place of justice and mercy. He wanted to establish it as a place where righteousness was the model. And He wanted it to be an example to the world.
With the coming of Jesus, God took humanity much further morally. Jesus met and touched individuals—Gentiles, Samaritans, a woman with a menstrual disorder, women of other nations, the blind people, the handicapped—which the society often viewed as impure. In all these situations, He treated these people, these outcasts often, as humans of incredible worth.
Though none of the 12 disciples were women, Jesus did spend considerable amounts of time teaching women the gospel, and they were always present among His followers. And, fascinatingly enough, the first people the resurrected Christ appeared to were women. He counter-culturally spoke, mingled, taught, and engaged with women (Some examples among the many are found in Luke 10:38-42; John 4).
Christ taught about the importance of serving others and taking care of the oppressed and marginalized among us—as the more important things that a Christian should do (Matthew 23:23). His followers realized that call and continued demonstrating and sharing that message as well. All are still called to faithfully take care of those who can’t take care of themselves…this is true religion (James 1:27). Religion isn’t a system to be afraid of; on the contrary, if done right it becomes a large group of people who, together, are capable of doing far more good than a single individual or small group could.
Justice and Mercy
After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Jews who believed in Him became co-heirs with all the nations of the world. All peoples who accepted Jesus would together form a new Israel. This new Israel was the new Kingdom of God, and it was established in and by Jesus. The new covenant church moved forward at a new level of equality, at least as far as society would allow it to. Anyone baptized in Christ became adopted into the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29).
All were adopted as sons. All became ministers of the Gospel (Hebrews 8:10-13). All would, as heirs of the promises of heaven (Romans 8:14-17), receive the down payment of the Holy Spirit. All would be equal as one family of brothers and sisters; one group of priests, with Christ as our High Priest; one race of people in Christ; and one special people called together by Christ (1 Peter 2:9). Having knocked down the wall that separated all of us, Christ then built us up into a spiritual house—a tabernacle (Ephesians 2:14; 1 Peter 2:5) This oneness, this unity, would be the method by which our God of love would shine forth to the world. (Read more about this in Ephesians 2, 3; 1 Peter 2).
Meanwhile, Jesus told us how to discern between wheat and the weeds even among the church itself: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). This is what Jesus meant when He said, “...the Kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21). You will know someone who is wheat because they love others the way that Jesus loved. They treat every human being equally, without regard to race, gender, or class. The unfortunate fact that Christians have not through history always done this, or even now don’t (at least not always), reveals only human weakness; it says nothing about the loving character of God.
The examples in the Bible of people abusing and misusing the system are not the models of right living that God wants you to draw lessons from. Most of the time, when you read stories in the Bible that make you say, “What in the world?”—you are probably reading stories about what not to do. That is, just because something happened in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s good. Many of the Bible stories are there to show us the terrible results of sin.
If you are looking up to God and asking how you can be a part of God’s church family, then follow this principle: Love every person with the same self-sacrificing, pure, and holy love that God loves with, and teach others to do the same. You might not have perfect theology; you might not understand all doctrine. But love is never wrong. Follow this principle of love, and—by faith claiming the promises of the Gospel—you will be a part of the Kingdom of God. Your fruit will be the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) and a life of obedience (John 15:10).