“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (Mark 14:6)

Coming to Jesus fundamentally changes our entire being and existence in this world. This new life we live is in the power of God, rather than Satan (Acts 26:18). We have been delivered from darkness into Christ’s Kingdom (Colossians 1:16). We have been born again (John 3:3). We are now children of God (John 1:12) and heirs of God (Romans 8:17). Thus, we can call ourselves kingdom people.

Those of us who are women are kingdom women.

The verse above really captures the essence of what it means to be a woman, made in the image of God and being transformed into the image of Christ. Jesus praised the woman who broke the alabaster flask and anointed Him, preparing Him for the task ahead, saying she has done a beautiful thing. This is not merely an ornamental action or a symbolic action. It is not a superficial occurrence – it in fact encapsulates the entirety of our mission on earth as Jesus’s disciples. 

“Beauty will save the world”, wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky. 

The root word for beauty, “kalos – καλός”, is in fact translated “good” more than it is translated “beautiful”. Yet the word beauty tells us more in English about the quality of an action rather than its category as good or bad. Beauty signifies something whole, something pure, something flourishing, good down to its very core. Psalm 27:4 describes beholding the beauty of the Lord (be’noam Adonai). Psalm 34:8 invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good (tov)!

The world at creation was of this beautiful goodness (Genesis 1:31). Tov in Hebrew and kalon in Greek are used in the original Hebrew and Greek translations of Genesis for a good reason: “good” and “beautiful” are two English words that capture some of what the original meaning of God’s view of creation as good. 

Yes, the world today is such a perplexing mix of good and evil. We hear of famines, wars, and diseases on a daily basis. And yet God still causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good. God still watches over the singing sparrows and adorns the fields with flowers. Of all the beautiful things that mankind has made, nothing is more glorious than the creation God made to declare that He is good.

Creation’s goodness is imbued with God’s goodness. Creation’s calling is to declare God’s goodness.

How many of us look in the mirror and see the glory of God? But we should, for we are God’s creation too. We are His handiwork, physical and spiritual. As women, we were made and formed and shaped by Him and as such, we are His image, declaring His glory. Sure, we have imperfections and flaws. Sometimes, we don’t feel beautiful on the inside or outside. Sometimes we feel weighed down by cares from the many bumps and ditches on life’s road. But, all in all, we are God’s handiwork and this journey called life, somehow, is His transforming grace to make us even more glorious than when He created us.

 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

As Kingdom women, we are being transformed by God in order to do His good work. That is, we are being made beautiful in order to declare to the world the beautiful Kingdom, the glorious liberty of the children of God. We shine as light where there is darkness. Indeed, salvation is a journey whereby that beauty God put into us in Creation is realized, and all the harmful, ugly things we’ve accumulated and done are lovingly washed away. We are made new so that we can be a part of His mission.

Beauty is not decoration, something you put up to make a boring room cute. It is not prettiness. Beauty is declaration, transformation, redemption, glory. It is substantial, it is an expression of the divine. Thus, our primary calling as Kingdom women is to be Christ’s vessel into doing his work of bringing beauty into the world, the justice and rightness and glory of a world ordered by the one who is the embodiment of Love.  Making the world beautiful is not trite or sentimental; it involves hand-to-hand combat with all that is ugly, even within ourselves. Light overcomes the darkness, and beauty is destined to overcome ugliness. There is no ugliness in God.

It is no surprise that goodness is both a hallmark of creation and also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Goodness in an ugly, broken, perverse world is the ultimate rebuke and challenge to everything evil. Goodness is the means through which we overcome evil! It is literally the essence of what it means to be in Jesus’ Kingdom.

How would it change the following verses to imagine the quality of beauty in the word “kalos”?

  • every tree that does not produce beautiful fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:10b)
  • In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your beautiful deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
  • Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is beautiful for them to stay unmarried, as I do. (1 Corinthians 7:9)
  • For we are taking pains to do what is beautiful, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. (2 Corinthians 8:21)
  • For everything God created is beautiful, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (1 Timothy 4:4)
  • Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your beautiful deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)

I am passionate about discovering the meaning and essence of femininity because I believe that femininity comes from God’s image, and therefore is a desirable part of my relationship with Him. Through Christ and for Christ all things were made (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and this means that it is by and for Christ we were made women. What then does this mean? How can I be who He made me to be?

It is necessary to situate ourselves in the beauty and abundance of His garden and His Kingdom when considering this issue because our calling is literally to be Christ to this world. If only, we could for a second (and forevermore) shut out the world with all its ugliness and fallenness. If only we could abide in Christ the vine, drink of His living water, and then from there radiate this to the world. We must start our journey learning about womanhood from our Creator by focusing on Him.

Eve was given a name that literally means “life”. Our understanding of femininity, therefore, must be about life-giving wholeness, breathing that life into the world that God breathed into us. Our understanding of femininity has to start from a healthy understanding of who God made us in Creation and who God is making us to be. If we see this as a trajectory from glory to glory, strength to strength, then the sanctifying work of God is also put into perspective: to make us useful.

God is not the God of making whole things broken, but making broken things whole.

God is not the God of destroying us, but redeeming us and forming us into the most precious of His handiwork.

God doesn’t look at us and sees worms. He looks at us, even in sin, and sees children He wants to gather under His wings.

Here is what Father Jeremy, an Eastern Orthodox blogger, writes (emphasized added):

As a child, I grew up in Protestant churches and heard a common theme: man is wicked by nature.  We just have to endure long enough in this body, and then God will free us of this weight.

Our bodies are thought of as something less than worthy.  I’ve heard several times, “I am a spirit trapped inside of a body,” or “I am a spirit weighed down by a body,” or as some Christians sing, “some glad morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away.”  They all teach the same message: we have something valuable inside of us, but it isn’t this body that you can see.

It seems there is an almost universal recognition that there is life and beauty within us, but that divine realization is mixed with frustration over the wickedness that we see in ourselves and others…

But in Orthodoxy, there is a different teaching. You were created in the image of the infinitely good Creator.  Therefore, you are beautiful and you are loved.

Christ’s incarnation restores human nature and enables us to participate in the divine life with our humanity through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

There is evil working within every one of us.  But that evil is not natural to us.  It is no more a part of your nature than the clothes that you are wearing.  When we cast off the “old man” or the “flesh” as the scriptures state, it does not mean that we look forward to ridding ourselves of this body.  Rather, we cast off that which is unnatural to it; those things that cause a war to rage internally.  In doing so, we realize there is no reason to hate ourselves.

When we cast off the ways of the “flesh” we are not left naked.  As I said above, Christ’s incarnation restores our nature; He heals it of the disease of sin.  That is why the scriptures say, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27)

Now, if we are clothed with Christ than we are covered in divinity itself.  If we have put on Christ, then we have received God Himself upon us… So we are faced with the challenge to live in that beautiful life.

What is the essence of this beautiful life? 

The early church and Eastern Orthodox believers today called this theosis, that is, being transformed into the image of God.

  • For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
  • who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:21)
  • and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, (Colossians 3:10)
  • Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)

We were created humans, male and female. Image-bearers. Now, in Christ, we are called to be something far more than what we were created and certainly far more than our fallen states, the very likeness of God. What does this look like? 

  • and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
  • Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)
  • but thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). 

Just as the woman broke a jar of fragrance, so Christ’s love and sacrifice for us on the cross is fragrant to God. We are also called to be such pleasing sacrifices, and we are called to spread this beautiful fragrance of Christ in the world. Yet Paul goes on to describe this aroma as one of “death” in the world’s imagination. Why? Because it is centered on Christ and the cross, and that is not an inherently “beautiful” picture. To us it is the essence of sacrificial love, but to the world it is shameful, foolish, and ugly. Nevertheless this is our proclamation to the world: the beauty of His cruciform love. Jesus revealed us the Father, and nothing revealed the nature of God more than the cross. Gorman (2013) writes about Christ’s sacrifice as described in Philippians 2, 

 what Christ did is not only rewarded by God but is also a manifestation of Godlikeness. For Paul, the Messiah’s refusal to exploit his existing equality with God (Phil 2:6) for selfish advantage does not imply that the essence of deity is the possession of some sort of status (glory, power, etc.) that is, or can be, exploited for the deity’s own self-serving benefit. Paul’s point is, rather, that although “normal” deities in the pagan world might be expected to act in such a way, Jesus the Messiah’s equality with the one true God, the God known in Israel’s Scripture and history, was displayed in radical self-giving. Implicitly here, then, Paul is associating the activity of Jesus the Messiah with the activity of God (the Father). 

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Neither male or female?

  • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
  • Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)

If womanhood is truly godly and good, what did Paul mean when he wrote that there is neither “male and female”? Does this mean that in some disembodied after-life, we shall be non-gendered spiritual beings? No, I do not believe so. I believe there are two specific things that Paul is addressing in Galatians: firstly, the idea that inheritance in the Kingdom of God comes by participation in the Abrahamic covenant and circumcision, secondly, the Greco-Roman idea that superiority and inferiority are determined by birth.

The secret here is found in the words “in Christ Jesus” and “one”. Remember how we were made and are being made in Christ’s image? I believe that whatever is good and beautiful in the way God made us remains. We will always be male and female in that sense. But let us look at the other categories:

  • Jew or Gentile
  • Circumcised or uncircumcised
  • Barbarian and Scythian
  • Slave or free

Firstly, the distinctions of Jew and Gentile and circumcised and uncircumcised relate to inheritance of the Kingdom. Under the old covenant, only circumcised Jewish men of the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could inherit the promised land. Now, under the New Covenant, we are all inheritors and heirs. (Read more in a previous post – Visions of Zion: Patriarchy as Promise, the Kingdom as Inheritance).

  • Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)
  • Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. (John 3:3) 
  • As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:48-50)

Scripture is breathtakingly clear that spiritual birth comes from God alone. It is He who makes us His children, not any human decision. Jesus speaking to Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish leader in John 3:3, told Nicodemus that he could not expect to enter the Kingdom of God as he was. Now Nicodemus would have been raised to believe the Kingdom of God was his birthright, something that was his inheritance as a Jewish person. Yet here Jesus was, saying his lineage and physical descent from Abraham did not guarantee him any special entry. Nicodemus had to be born into a new, spiritual lineage. Similarly Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 hammered home the message: it is not by flesh or blood that you get to inherit God’s Kingdom. Everyone is on the same level, everyone has to be birthed into the Kingdom by the will of God alone.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29).

with your blood you purchased for God

    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

    and they will reign on the earth. (Revelations 5:9b-10)

In the ancient world, inheritance and kingship passed from father to son. Similarly, priests under the Mosaic law were special descendants of specific male lines, and only men could be priests. Now in the Kingdom of God, women are considered full inheritors, heirs, and priests. Regardless of gender or lineage, we shared one identify and one inheritance. There are no divisions based on ethnic, social or gender identities. In fact, physical birth does not determine who we are or what we inherit in the Kingdom. 

Secondly, the categories of “slave and free” were understood in the Ancient World to relate to biological categories as well. Aristotle expressed this well, writing,

  • or that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule . . .  Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.
  • Where then there is such a difference as that between soul and body, or between men and animals (as in the case of those whose business is to use their body, and who can do nothing better), the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master… It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.
  • How could the barbarians of Illyria and Scythia be transformed into civilized beings? (‘If at all,’ he would perhaps have replied, ‘by subjection to the superior reason of an Hellenic master.’) 

Under the Greco-Roman worldview, slaves were born inferior and lower. Barbarians and Scythians (who were considered barbaric as well) were people Aristotle referred to as inferior peoples destined to be slaves. Women were the same as well – in fact, they were considered mutilated forms of the perfect male body, lower in ability, intelligence, and mastery of their own bodies. Thus, when Paul declares there is neither male, female, slave or free, he presents a direct challenge to the entire structure and ideology of the world in which he lived, categories of  above-below, greater-lesser, ruler-ruled, master-slave, man-woman, penetrator-penetrated. Here are some ways Paul challenges the dominant Greco-Roman worldview of his day:

For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. (1 Corinthians 7:22)

  1. Paul basically calls earthly masters slaves, reminding them they have a Master in heaven (Colossians 4:1; Ephesians 6:9). This contradicts the idea of inherent, immutable biological categories. He also calls himself a slave (Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1). 

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:28)

  1. Paul does not believe women are lesser or mutilated males as the science of the day proclaimed. Instead, he called husbands to love and regard their wives as their own (male) bodies, something completely unthinkable at the time. He repeats the Creation principle that men and women are constituted of the same flesh and bones.

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

  1. Paul rejected the Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman idea that sexual relationships divided human beings into dominant penetrators and the dominated, subjected and penetrated other, the ruler and the ruled. In contrast, he established Kingdom marriage relationships consist not of one wielding and the other yielding, one taking the other giving but mutual yielding and mutual power (exousia).
  2. Paul called men to reject the Roman ideal of superior masculinity, maintained by preserving the unpenetrated and powerful status of the body.

In Roman culture, military strength, political power, household rule, and acts of violence were the basis of masculine identity (Fischler, 1998; Alston, 1998; Ripley, 2015). Masculinity was not biological, but cultural and imperial, a kind of performance you had to measure up to, a status you had to earn. Women, slaves, and non-Romans were essentially chattel, kept as symbols of this imperial power (Fischler, 1998, p.179; Stewart, 2016, p.26).

In contrast, called husbands to give their bodies up for their wives, to imitate Christ’s rather “unmasculine” death, one that in Roman eyes involved being violated, humiliated and degraded. This does not mean that men are to be degraded, but rather that they are to rejected the worldly preservation of a superior status in favor of sacrificial and loving surrender. What Paul describes goes beyond the “kindly and benevolent” rule of the biological and intellectual superior advocated by Aristotle. Cruciform love demonstrated through cruciform headship is not in fact egotistical heroism and machismo, but a rejection of the world’s value of power-by-domination, choosing servanthood instead.

Everything the Kingdom stands for challenges the value system of the world’s “empires”. Thus, what Paul really meant in Galatians 3:28 is that the worldly “ideology” of masculinity and femininity as a polarized (opposite) binary of power, and slavery/slave ownership as a biological fact and binary of authority, has no place in the Kingdom. Male and female we are in Christ, who makes us one body as inheritors together. This is why Paul emphasizes that husbands and wives are part of the “one another” Kingdom dynamic (Ephesians 5:2; 5:20-21) and Peter, after a lengthy discussion of marriage, exhorts husbands and wives to, above all, “love as brothers” (1 Peter 3:8).

This is important to the definition of femininity, because, in the ancient world, femininity was defined in relation to masculinity, through comparison. For Christians, male and female are defined by the image of God. It is no longer about who is greater or lesser nor about competition and dissent, but unity and complementarity modelled after Christ. The Kingdom of God is where we flourish and thrive rather than battle and strive.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

If the essence of Kingdom womanhood is beauty and cruciform love, then what makes it different from traditional and Biblical womanhood? Doesn’t the Biblical womanhood movement draw from Scripture, paying attention to parts that are often neglected or dismissed? I believe the main difference is the context and orientation of our gospel vision. This is an orientation towards Christ’s peaceable Kingdom, not the establishment of our own power and dominion in this world. It is making ourselves servants, not rulers, of others (Read more here). This is a view of Scripture that centers Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom and about sacrificial love, and that does not dismiss or neglect any jot or tittle. In upcoming articles and podcasts, we will continue to speak out about the dangers of Christian nationalism and the lustful lure of political and cultural dominion as well as how this is entangled in teachings about Christian life for men and women. At the core of the dominionist error is a rejection of Christ’s cruciform headship and its example to us (1 Corinthians 11; Ephesians 5).

In conclusion, womanhood in the Kingdom is distinct and unique. We exchange Aristotle’s power-based definitions and Caesar’s sword of violent dominion in exchange for the pearl of great price. The single woman is beautifully set-apart for the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:9). The married woman is known for good deeds, hospitality, and serving the church (1 Timothy 5:9-10). Whether married or single, she is faithful in every little responsibility (Luke 16:10). Submissiveness is a Christ-like way of being (Ephesian 5:21-22) in imitation of His example (1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:1). Women are to be disciples and learn the ways of Christ (1 Timothy 2:11) so that they can be teachers of good (Titus 2:3; Hebrews 5:12-14) and disciplers of nations (Matthew 28:16:20). They pray, prophesy, and exercise spiritual gifts for the edification of the whole body (1 Corinthians 11:5; 1 Corinthians 12:1; Acts 2:17). No longer excluded from priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Revelations 1:6) and the circumcision (Galatians 3), we are rulers with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelations 2:26). As we cry out, “Maranatha”, we are His vessels for beauty, transformation and redemption in this world.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15b).

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