Gender and Virtue

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Lynn Japinga


"You've got to help me," the pastor down the street tells you one day over coffee. "I've got five people in my congregation really at a crossroads."

"Okay," you say. "What are the situations?"

"Well, first, one of our college seniors came to my office. 'I don't know what to do, pastor,' this person says. 'I've been accepted to a top-flight medical school in Pennsylvania, but I'm also very much in love with someone who has a job offer in Kansas City . I don't know whether to get married or go on to school.'

"Then, a thirty-five-year-old executive met me for lunch at a restaurant. 'I'm really struggling, pastor. I love my work, but I don't get to spend enough time with my children. This job requires so much travel and quite a bit of overtime. I've been thinking about cutting back to part-time, but that doesn't seem like good stewardship of my education and experience.'

"Later that day, I was jogging at the high school track when I met one of our best, brightest, most attractive teen-agers. 'Pastor, I run at least ten miles a day. I have to, because I'm so fat, you know. I need to lose at least twenty more pounds to be really in shape for the team. When I leave I'm going to the gym to use the stair-climber for a while.'

"Then, this morning, a parishioner who is a social worker stormed into my office. 'Pastor, I am so angry I don't know what to do. The governor has cut welfare benefits again and my clients are really suffering! Those children and their moms don't have enough to eat and they can't get decent housing. And yet the state is offering big tax cuts for the wealthy! What is the church going to do about this?'

"And now, I've just been to see a parishioner who attempted suicide. 'Pastor, I just can't live like this any longer,' this person told me. My father abused me when I was a child and I hate him. I hate what he did to me and I am angry at him and at my mother for allowing it to happen. I can't trust anyone, I'm not comfortable with sex, and I can't seem to sustain a relationship. I'm seeing a therapist who tells me I have to forgive him and make peace, or God will never let me recover from this. But I can't forgive him. I'd rather die .'"

These are very difficult situations, fraught with competing interests. You would very likely counsel your friend with biblical guidance, a lifetime of experience, and just plain common sense, interwoven in measures appropriate for each situation.

Article Details

How to Cite
Japinga, L. (1996). Gender and Virtue. Reformed Review, 49(3), 179-194. Retrieved from
Social ethics; Christian ethics; Gender identity; Feminist theology