This morning I was reading through a chapter of Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. My reading this morning was from Chapter 4, “Women in the Life and Teachings of Jesus,” by James A. Borland.
Jesus’ condemnation of the sin of lust was crucial in allowing Him and His followers to enjoy social contact as male and female, something nearly foreign to the Jewish mores of His age. Jesus said that “anyone who look sat a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Why not separate men and women to avoid temptation as the rabbis practiced? Because Jesus came to seek and to save, to teach and to reach (Luke 19:10). That included women as well as men. Jesus’ disciples were to have a righteousness that “surpasses that of the Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20).
Jesus “called upon his disciples to discipline their thoughts rather than to avoid women.” Lust does not have to be fed but can be controlled. Jesus demanded such control from His disciples, allowing males and females to associate together and to work in harmony with one another. Although such social contact between the sexes would be unthinkable to first-century rabbis, Jesus’ teaching about the sinfulness of lust helps to explain the relationship men and women sustain both in His earthly ministry and in the apostolic church. In the early church, women frequently labored together with men (Acts 16:14-15; Romans 16:3, 12; Philippians 4:3).
This passage brought to mind some of the conservative Christian communities I’ve been a part of over the years. I’ve been in many groups where socializing between young men and women was discouraged and frowned upon. Doubtlessly these people were concerned with purity and holiness, but sadly their methods often resembled Pharisaical teachings more than those of Christ.
It may be true that separating men and women can help manage some sin, but we as followers of Christ are called to a higher righteousness.