I used to be a feminist, then I became a biblicist, which does not mean I’m unequal to any man. Loving equality and submission is not as complicated as it may seem on the surface.
There are at least two theological positions I hold now that ten years ago I would have classified as “lies from the pit of hell.” I said those very words. My change in thought has come with a big ol’ slice of humble pie. And coffee.
The funny thing is, now I regularly have to take my heart to task for looking down on the people who hold the very opinions I used to own myself. I have a severe case of gospel amnesia, it seems (Matthew 7:3-5).
For whoever lacks these qualities (brotherly affection, love) is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. – 2 Peter 1:9 (My note added.)
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I’m guilty of what I see clearly in the culture: namely, the reduction of the people who disagree with me to a mere position: Liberals, Unbelievers, Non-thinkers, Nominal Christians. In doing this, I’m dehumanizing and objectifying people, turning them into what Alan Jacobs brilliantly calls “Repugnant Cultural Others,” or RCO’s.
As I deny others their status as image bearers of the true and living God (James 3:9) and effectively classify them as sub-human, it becomes easy for me to look down on them, and challenging to prefer them in love (Romans 12:3, Romans 12:10, Romans 12:16).
- Do you show honor and graciousness to people with whom you disagree?
- Are there issues that, as you’re discussing them, you have a hard time being civil?
One of the areas in which I’ve struggled with this the most is the discussion about male-female relations in the church. Thankfully, there has been much conversation on the topic these past few years, and it seems like this will continue as we seek to clarify what the Bible teaches. Unfortunately, the conversation has been plagued, on all sides, by the viewing of opponents as RCO’s.
The church, in a genuine impulse to honor the Word of God and not be ruled by the culture, has aimed at the Feminists and all the ills they have wrought on society. They don’t see that, in many cases, these women that God created are reacting to actual sins committed against them in the name of morality and “biblical womanhood.”
If the church would listen to their perceived enemies, they could learn and grow from them, even while remaining critical of their ungodly means and fruit. But they don’t, and so they’ve lost many opportunities to be a redemptive influence in the culture.
Ironically, what the conservative church doesn’t see in themselves is that, in their reaction against the feminist culture, they have conformed themselves to another culture. They aren’t so much biblical as they are “Lucy and Desi-ical,” or “Ward and June-ical.”
They are blind to the fact that if Abigail (1 Samuel 25), Priscilla (Acts 18), or Deborah (Judges 4) showed up to their churches on Sunday morning, they would view these women with suspicion and distrust, thinking them brazenly unsubmissive. We won’t even mention Jael (ok, so I just did).
The church does not always see women as co-equal heirs with the men in the church (Galatians 3:28). Sometimes we are seen primarily as accessories who must always be the ones to die to self to help men become all they can be. In short, we are dehumanized.
In response, though, women who see this problem with some measure of clarity have tended to dehumanize men in return: they are not our brothers in Christ, they are the Patriarchy.
And our shrillness at times has earned us many of the nasty things that were being said about us in the first place, the things that started all this mess. We have seen a genuine injustice and countered with more injustice.
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Everybody’s Right. Everybody’s Wrong.
As I walk out my repentance, I will begin by choosing to view other people as just that: people. God made them, they bear His image, and if I murder them in my heart because they’re not doing what I want them to, even if it’s something good I want them to do, I’m at odds with Almighty God (James 4:1-6).
Here it goes.
I will choose to believe that the lady who thinks I’m a feminist who secretly wants to overthrow my pastor and take his place loves the Lord with all her heart. She knows God takes submission seriously, and therefore she does, too. I will love and value her and show her by my conduct and willingness to be led that no legitimate authority faces any threat from me.
Even when I disagree with my leadership at times and may also express my disagreement, my life will be characterized by my willingness to “hupotasso” or align myself underneath them (Hebrews 13:17).
I refuse to reject the Bible’s teaching about submission, even though many people so often misrepresent it. More than anything, I want to look like my Lord, and submission is a glorious way for me to do that (Ephesians 5:24).
Every person everywhere is commanded to submit in many different situations (1 Peter 2:11-3:7, Hebrews 13:17, Romans 13:1-7), and any rejection of this teaching dishonors the Lord. I exist for Him, not the other way around (Romans 11:36) and it’s not for me to question what He’s asked of me.
When a Christian man talks down to me, I will resist the urge to brandish my theological knowledge and put him in his place. Instead, I will remember that he is a product of our culture and likely doesn’t see his sinful attitude, just like I frequently don’t see mine.
I will seek to gently lead my brother by restoring him (Galatians 6:1-2), understanding his change of heart likely won’t come quickly. It may not come at all. I know my Father will use this man to help me be like His Son (1 Peter 2:19-23) and so I won’t insist the situation change according to my standards and time frame. In all of this, my brother should never have any legitimate reason to doubt my affection for him.
But I will not be a doormat. If someone is in habitual, unrepentant sin, I will love them enough to bring in help from the church if they refuse to repent (Matthew 18:15-20). I will treat them with honor and respect, even if I am necessarily firm, whether the person is a male or female.
I will be patient and humble toward the brothers and sisters I have asked to serve me in bringing correction to my opponent because they may not have experienced the restoration/discipline process before. Also, they may not see the situation the same way I do, and remembering the whole log in my eye thing, I will hear them out. Whether they’re right or wrong, I’ll do my best to honor Christ as we get everything sorted.
Two things Martin Luther, my historical hero, is rightly condemned for are his foul language and vicious sarcasm. Ironically, it may have been the invention of the printing press that emboldened him to speak to people the way he did.
He had an unprecedented opportunity to publish material decrying foes he would never have to face personally—not unlike us in our social media age, in which we slander other humans from all around the globe because we don’t have to look them in the eye to do it.
The good doctor did exactly what I do to justify this in my mind: he labeled them “heretic” or “papist,” cutting them down to size before going in for the kill (Matthew 5:21-22).
Will you ask the Lord to show you whether you have done the same, dear Brother or Sister? Who is your Repugnant Cultural Other? When you speak to them, or of them, do you honor the Lord in whose image they’re made? If you’ve failed in this, will you ask the Lord and the person you’ve sinned against to forgive you?
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:29–32
Also published on Medium.