Biblical Womanhood: June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, or the Proverbs 31 Woman?
At this year's ERLC Leadership Summit on "The Gospel and Human Sexuality," Trillia Newbell will be speaking on “Biblical Womanhood: June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, or the Proverbs 31 Woman?” Newbell serves as the Consultant for Women’s Initiatives at the Ethis and Religious Liberty Commission.
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At the ERLC Leadership Summit, you will be speaking on “Biblical Womanhood: June Cleaver, Clair Huxtable, or the Proverbs 31 Woman?” Why is this an important issue for evangelical churches to consider?
I think it is possible that we’ve taken our cultural icons and made them our biblical standard. In other words, we see June Cleaver of the 50s and think that we need to emulate her by staying home and cooking dinner in heels. We see Clair Huxtable and we think we need to have on a power-suit and do it all—and let’s be honest, Clair made it look really easy. The Scriptures give us a different picture and I would argue a much more freeing picture. Though we want to guard against idolizing the Proverbs 31 woman—she is a great example of a woman who served her family but more importantly she feared the Lord. In the end we desire that women in our churches fear the Lord not that they “look” a certain way.
When you think about biblical womanhood, what is a key aspect that churches aren’t addressing adequately? Why is that the case?
From the women’s events I’ve attended to the times I’ve enjoyed lunch with friends, I think what I often hear is what we “need” to be “doing.” Churches can get so focused on how they think we should apply the Word that we forget the one who makes any of our doing possible. We forget to stand in awe of God and thank Jesus for who he is. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (knowledge of God). We’ve got to start there and then God will give us the wisdom to know what to do. We also have to know that we will never “do” perfectly and everyone woman won’t apply the Word in the exact same way. Our greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and minds and souls and the love our neighbors as ourselves.
I think we can focus on doing rather than enjoying and learning about God because it’s easier and it makes us feel like we are in control. It’s easier to tell someone that in order to be a godly wife and mother you need to take these four steps than it is to say learn the Word and fear the Lord. The gospel isn’t about us—it’s about Jesus.
This conference seeks to apply the gospel to issues related to human sexuality. What are some ways the gospel relates to biblical womanhood?
I was really excited to be asked to address sexuality as it relates to women. It seems that we are at a time when people are realizing that some women struggle with sexual sin (like lust and pornography) just as some men do. We are different from men but sin doesn’t discriminate. In order for the church to fully serve women in the area of sexuality, we need to understand this. There are other concerns that we should be aware of such as guilt and shame and fear.
The gospel relates because Jesus redeems our past and gives grace for our future. Women in particular can feel condemnation over past sexual sin and the gospel frees us from that—there’s in now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. The gospel also gives us the beautiful picture of a marriage—Christ is the head of the church as man is the head of his wife. Christ died and gave his life for the church as men are to “die” and sacrificially love their wives (Eph. 5:25-33). Men and women can have mutual enjoyment in marital sex not only because of the physical pleasure but because it is a reflection of Christ and his church.
If evangelical churches transformed the way they handled biblical womanhood, how would it reshape their congregations?
I think we’d see more women sharing honestly about their struggles. Because sex is such an intimate and personal topic, it can be difficult to be honest about temptations, fears and struggles. Couples may struggle in their bedroom and never receive help and encouragement because the topic has been deemed taboo. Unmarried men and women may struggle with sexual temptation, but never confess. But we didn’t create sex. We didn’t think of it. God did. Churches should be at the forefront of this discussion because it is so intimately intertwined with who we are as human beings.
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