I have been writing about Revelation, chapter 12, how it gives a paradigm of how history has unfolded, and how it will unfold because the paradigm is enduring. Like Eve, like Mary, the distinction of woman is to give life, to make place for life. Birthing is not a side story—it is the story. The distinction of man, we saw, is to come forth to take responsibility like Seth to defeat the dragon by making a family to call on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:25-26). Or even like Christ, to vanquish evil for the woman (Revelation 12:5, 10). I am sorry I am starting to sound like Jordan Peterson here, with all this talk of “archetypes,” but he has a point. Not because we are like lobsters, but because we are like Eve and Seth, like Israel and Moses. These great patterns are that to which men as men and women as women are called to aspire.
In the rejection of this story, of these aspirations, there is great destruction in relationships, and so in a culture. In a way, it is a sign of the end of times, or perhaps of a civilization. Rejection of the paradigm, such as we see in our times, shows we are living in a time, as Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:12, when the love of many will grow cold.
When a man will take a woman, and yet not take responsibility for her, so that, leaving afterwards is even considered an option, when that is considered a normal choice, we are living in a time when the love of many has grown cold.
When a woman will take a knife to the life inside her womb, and kill that life because she has other things to do, when taking that life is even considered an option, a legitimate choice, we are living in a time when the love of many has grown cold.
When men and women both will chop off body parts of the male and the female to answer a psychological disorder, and that is considered as a choice, even a good choice, we are living in a time when the love of many even for God’s gift in themselves has grown cold.
To reject this human story: of birthing and ruling is folly. For it is the basic archetype of goodness that moves history forward. Instead, I see many couples now entirely unprepared for this story to unfold among them. Our educational system does not prepare them for it. Our failing marriages discourage them from it. So the young are shocked by marriage, by children.
The Apostle Paul uses the same paradigm to call us to intergendered love in our churches. In one of the most puzzling passages in the New Testament, Paul tells Timothy that the woman “shall be saved thru childbearing” (1Timothy 2:15). This sentence has disturbed generations of Bible readers since it seems to contradict all other how-to-be-saved statements made by the New Testament, or by Paul himself for that matter.
But when we read the passage closely we can see that the rabbi-turned-apostle is not explaining an ordo salutis. He is stepping into Genesis paradigm. After their fall, God made them a promise. Redemption, the One to crush the dragon, would came through Eve & Adam being gendered w/one another (Genesis 3:15). The line of Messiah came through this story of birthing and ruling. Through intergendered love, the promise worked. From the fruit of your womb will come the Crusher of evil, Eve, the Savior to rule, Mary. Paul then uses same paradigm to reason as to why certain relations between men & women should be way they are in church life (1Timothy 2:12).
I hope, then, we can hear in John’s Revelation 12 Christmas a call to gender this year. Women: Bring forth life. Bravely make a home for the life. It is not all you are. But it is your privilege. Prepare for that. Even in the tragedy of miscarriage and inability to bear children, God still has this privilege to bear the child for you. I often think of Nori Nicholas, who was not able to have children. But she walked with her husband, David as he founded Acts 29, with a vision to train church planters, long before it was cool to do. Nora was a big part of these churches starting because they incubated church-planters in their home and church. So, you could say, Nora gave birth to hundreds of churches.
Men: Be men. Shepherd and rule in the context of your close relationships. That means take responsibility. Women, please, do not spend all your energy defying that, but promote them to that. So the two of you can vanquish evil. Many women would like the men in their lives to be more responsible. But there is no true responsibility without authority. You cannot separate them.
Let us keep on with intergendered love: because that is how our redemption has been worked.