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By Contributing Writer, Stephani
Dignity & Love
For the past three years my family and I have been attending a wonderful church in Minnesota. I have been stretched and blessed in so many ways by the teaching, worship, fellowship of believers, and the godly women surrounding me.
How many times have I been challenged, encouraged, and sharpened by these beautiful women of God? I have lost count.
Several weeks ago I was reading 1 Timothy 3 and came to verse 11 where Paul describes the character of honorable women and I prayed that the Lord would cause me to bear this kind of fruit, just as so many women in my life have done:
“…dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
Although I had a vague idea of what “dignified” meant, I decided to double check.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines dignity as,
True honor; nobleness or elevation of mind, consisting in a high sense of propriety, truth and justice, with an abhorrence of mean and sinful actions; opposed to meanness.
Several days later I read 1 Corinthians 13:6 and realized that the definition of dignity overlaps the beautiful description of Christian love in this verse,
“[Love]…does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth”
BOTH the definition of “dignity” and 1 Corinthians 13:6 drew my attention to Christian conduct which joyfully embraces truth and loathes sin/wrongdoing.
Beautiful External Actions: Fruit
DIGNITY and LOVE manifest themselves in beautiful external actions; the kind of fruit I want to bear! I am so blessed to see this kind of love and dignity in the actions, countenances, attitudes, and words of many women in my life:
- A joyful embracing of everything that is good and true
- An abhorrence and sorrow over everything that is sinful
Yet I can tell their EXTERNAL fruit is rooted in something in their HEARTS that I cannot see with my eyes.
I have set the cart before the horse in this area many times asking the Lord to give me external fruit without first asking Him where my heart roots need to be planted!
Skin Deep? A Facade?
- Where do dignity and love come from? Are they merely skin deep – like a fresh coat of paint?
- Is a love that rejoices in the truth and sorrows over sin a facade?
Or are these beautiful fruits rooted in the heart?
I think that there is something INCREDIBLY precious that can nourish genuine love and true dignity, and it is changing the way I think about growing in holiness.
Delighting in God’s Holiness
In the book Charity and Its Fruits, Jonathan Edwards draws our attention to God’s holiness as that which is able to cultivate true love (and dignity) in the lives of believers,
He that has a right and saving acquaintance with divine things, sees the excellency of holiness, and of all the ways of holiness, for he sees the beauty and excellency of God, which consist in his holiness; and, for the same reason, he sees the hatefulness of sin, and of all the ways of sin.
And if a man knows the hatefulness of the ways of sin, certainly this tends to his avoiding these ways; and if he sees the loveliness of the ways of holiness, this tends to incline him to walk in them.
This is beautiful. As I delight more and more in God’s beauty and excellencies, in fellowship with Him, my own convictions about right and wrong, beauty and rubbish, good and evil can be transformed! As I grow to love what God loves and hate what God hates, by God’s grace, my actions will bear fruit appropriate to my delight in His holiness, because I love Him and long to be more like Him.
Fruit of a Transformed Heart
Dignity and Love. These characteristics of a godly woman are not frills and lace to be tacked on to life. They are FRUIT of a transformed heart. As we see and savor our Father’s holiness and His fellowship, we are transformed in our heart and actions.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
So, let’s be visionary for a moment. Dear young women, sisters in Jesus, if we want to eternally bless our siblings, parents, relatives, Church, future husbands, future children, friends, and the world, we will need to bear fruit. But we can’t “staple” fruit onto our branches as if it is separate from a daily, intimate love and knowledge of our Lord!
If we really want to be faithful women who are bearing fruit, we’ll need to think seriously about where our roots are.
I recently read two biographies about women who bore incredible fruit that has blessed generations; not because they tried to glue love and dignity onto their lives, but because they were radically seeing and savoring the excellencies of Jesus Christ. Their roots were well nourished and their fruitful actions were gorgeous!
Ann & Sarah: Looking to Him
Two women who testified to the transforming power of delight in God’s fellowship and His excellencies were Sarah Pierrepont Edwards (1710-1758) and Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826). These women were used by God in tremendous ways as helpmeets to their husbands, witnesses for the gospel, mothers to their children, servants to those around them, prayer warriors, etc.
- Sarah labored as a helpmeet alongside her husband Jonathan during the First Great Awakening and bore many children who grew up to love the Lord and serve Him in tremendous ways.
- Ann poured herself out for the Savior alongside of her husband Adoniram in Burma. She left her homeland for a foreign mission’s field as one of the first female missionaries of her time.
In their journals these women recorded personal testimonies of how God changed their desires and actions as they meditated on and savored the holiness and love of the Lord. Growing in their knowledge and love of the Lord transformed their actions and intensified their eagerness to serve as wives, homemakers, and missionaries with incredible love and exceptional dignity. Their journals overflow with hearts riveted on their precious Lord.
Where Are Our Roots?
As I learn about godly women throughout history, as I observe godly women in my Church, and as I watch my own dear mom at home, I am challenged not to ask merely for the fruit of dignity and love, but even more-so their roots! The fruit I desire won’t grow without roots saturated in the Lord God! Oh, to taste and see my Lord’s holiness, that I might bear holy fruit!
How can we as young women, encourage each other and stir each other up toward love and delight in God? If we are serious about living a fruitful life, we will need to be continually sending our roots into a growing personal knowledge of God and a delight in His holiness, beauty, and love. Then perhaps we will be truly dignified and loving women!