How often does it cross your mind that the way we live as Christian women is to actually commend the Gospel? Carolyn Mahaney has written a book that brings that point home in a powerful way, highlighting “the seven virtues of a godly wife and mother” straight from Titus 2. Feminine Appeal has a powerful message packed in a little book:
The world doesn’t judge us by our theology; the world judges us by our behavior. People don’t necessarily want to know what we believe about the Bible. They want to see if what we believe makes a difference in our lives. Our actions either bring honor to God or misrepresent His truth. (pg. 27)
How are women to commend God’s truth through their daily lives? Paul lists seven areas in Titus 2:3-5, which Carolyn highlights in seven chapters.
The Delight of Loving My Husband – I found very thought-provoking Carolyn’s differentiation between how wives are commanded to phileo their husbands versus how men are commanded to agape their wives. Phileo refers to a tender, affectionate “friendship” kind of love. The very affection and friendship upon which a marriage thrives is that which, Carolyn points out, in our busy (agape) service to our husbands we often forget to give them! Prizing him, cherishing him, enjoying him—these create a love that lasts. Carolyn encourages wives to practice thinking tender thoughts of their husbands. Do we spend the same amount of time now admiring his good qualities that we did before we were married? If not, shame on us—for now we have even more opportunity to observe his admirable traits! According to Carolyn, changing our thought patterns is a key for keeping the passion and excitement in marriage.
If we find that our affection for our husband is waning or has subsided altogether, then we do not need to look any further than our own hearts. Where sin is present, warm affection dissipates. Anger, bitterness, criticism, pride, selfishness, fear, laziness—all vigorously oppose tender love. This love cannot survive in a heart that harbors sin. (pg. 38)
The Blessings of Loving My Children – Again, Carolyn points out how important the agape command is in the way we care for our children. We spend our days attending to their every need—but are we enjoying them, delighting in those little moments that so quickly are gone? Are we praying for them as we care for them? This chapter was filled with so many “highlightable” sentences and convicting paragraphs—more truth is packed in those few pages than in the majority of the books on parenting filling the shelves of Christian book stores. Carolyn does more than just remind us to have fun with our children, however—she shows the powerful potential a mother has to influence her children, reminding us of the highest aim of parenting:
Our goal is not that our children be happy, fulfilled, and successful. Granted, we may desire these things for them. But our highest objective should be that our children would repent from their sins, put their trust in Jesus Christ, and reflect the gospel to the world around them. (pp. 60-61)
The Safety of Self-Control – Eating, sleeping, thinking, and feeling—all to the glory of God? Plenty of conviction in this chapter for each of us. But Carolyn reminds us that we can do nothing through our own strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness—when we admit our total dependence upon Him. And the only guaranteed way to develop self control, Carolyn says, is to meet daily with God:
When we meet with God, we can find peace in the midst of trying circumstances, an eternal perspective where we have lost sight of the truth, and power to fight our battle against sin… We should eagerly and consistently respond to our Savior’s invitation to come and meet with Him. (pg. 78)
The Gospel has the power to change our lives. Are we willing to be truly transformed by Titus 2? Nothing will commend the Gospel more.
Can femininity still be appealing? Is femininity biblical? Can femininity lend appeal to the message of the Bible? The answer is yes to all three. Carolyn Mahaney outlines the biblical traits of a femininity that is not only appealing, but a femininity that has the power to give the very message of the Gospel appeal as others watch how we as Christian women live!
The Pleasure of Purity – Few books contain a chapter with as much power to impact your perspective of marriage as Feminine Appeal. Carolyn Mahaney packs the truths from all my favorite books on marriage into one chapter entitled “The Pleasure of Purity.” But that doesn’t mean single ladies should skip it! The chapter on purity has plenty to say on fleeing temptation—and that applies to everyone. Plus, it will give you a beautiful vision of the way God designed marriage to be, so very different—and so much better—than what our culture promotes.
Our conquest of sin begins with a deliberate resolve to set our hearts and minds on things above. As we contemplate what Christ has done for us, we will be compelled to pursue purity for His glory. (pg. 90)
The Honor of Working at Home – In a chapter which could cause many in today’s world to bristle, Carolyn deals biblically and honestly with the call to be busy working at home. She is quick to point out that feminism has failed to deliver as promised—yes, it has done its job of undermining the role of a homemaker, but neither has it given women happiness or fulfillment in the work force (pg. 103). Yet if you’ve ever paused to come up with some other answer to the question of your occupation than the happy declaration of “wife and mother”, then you know how many of us are still affected by the poison of feminist thought patterns. But the management of our homes—under the guidance and support of our husbands—is designed to give us happiness and fulfillment! Carolyn comes down strongly on the idea of “co-responsibility”, making it very clear that the man’s primary role is provider while the woman’s primary role is manager of the home. Yet she also uses the woman of Proverbs 31 to illustrate that it is quite biblical for a woman to contribute to the household income. I thought her exhortation to single women was especially applicable to many of the readers (as is Carolyn’s article at CBMW.org and this article from Boundless):
I can understand how easy it would be to make the school or the workplace the priority in your life. Yet the call to make the home a priority extends to all women, no matter your season in life. Even now you can discover ways to make your residence a home, cultivate the domestic arts, and prayerfully consider how to use your home for outreach and care to others. (pp. 104-105)
The Rewards of Kindness – Carolyn’s definition of kindness is “a sincere desire for our husbands’ and children’s happiness.” And just as self-control (nor in fact any of the seven attributes of a godly woman) is not attainable in our own strength, kindness can not become a part of our lives if we do not rely fully upon the help of the Holy Spirit. Highlighting the hindrances to kindness—anger, bitterness, and judging—Carolyn also provides the biblical solutions. Being kind brings us a reputation for goodness: What are we known for? How are we described by others? Is it our kindness or our style of clothing which attracts more attention?
This reputation for goodness begins at home. At the heart of our commission to do good is the well-being of our family members. Our husbands and children should be the primary beneficiaries of our good works. (pg. 128)
The Beauty of Submission – In the final trait listed in Titus 2:3-5 we find the most debated: submission. But again, Carolyn handles it with candid grace. She clearly states that, “Scripture makes no allowance for male dominance or male superiority… Neither is submission a position of inferiority or demeaning in its application” (pg, 137). She also makes it clear that the submission is not to all men—or even any other man who might seem more worthy of honor or respect than our husband—no, our submission is to be only to our own husband, then to God. And nothing is a more powerful commendation of the gospel to an unbelieving husband than a submissive wife.
If we embrace [God’s] plan for our lives and purpose to obey His commands, He will develop in us the beauty of submission. He will enable us to trust Him to lead our husbands to lead us. (pg. 152)
And the preface to it all in Titus 2? It’s a “call to action for the older women,” says Carolyn. (Which is why the expanded version of Feminine Appeal includes study questions for groups large or small.) Paul commands us: “Teach what is good, and so train the young women” (Titus 2:3b-4a). And as we state in the our values, every woman is an “older woman” to someone. It is your responsibility, it is my responsibility. Let’s not only teach what is good, let’s live it out in our day to day life, commending the Gospel for not just the world, but also our family, to see.
(Note to parents: “The Delight of Loving My Husband” is a fabulous chapter for readers of all ages. The only chapter moms of younger teens may want to preview is “The Pleasure of Purity”—but even that is very tastefully written and includes issues that moms need to be discussing with their daughters as they reach the appropriate age.)