Tag Archives: marriage

Gender and all that – my half-formed thoughts on a page

14 May

I’ve been struggling for some days with the expression of this. This place of frustration because you so want to do some research and you have to wait for bureaucracy, this place of frustration because you wish Christians – and not just inter-church murals! – would relate to each other outside of theological niceties and interact as people and understand the image of God that is naturally and fluidly in each of us, this place of frustration because you want to say something and let your intellectual thought process go on but you’re afraid of stepping on toes.

Anyone’s toes really. I’ve had these thoughts on gender and sexuality and what is permissive and what is profitable and leadership in the church and relationships – can you see how I might step on anyone’s toes? And I don’t have a side to which I belong – I cannot say to you ‘Ok, I’m a liberal and if you’re going to be offended – stay clear’. I think I’m pretty conservative – but then conservatives are a weird breed and who knows how they (we?) might judge me?

There has been a lot of debate in Biola – a campus I am fairly familiar with through students – on sexual orientation. In my research on social science research projects and ethics, I came across a rather disturbing forum and a train of thought which I am itching to write about and parallel to current arguments. I like predicting people’s reactions and I am usually a fairly accurate guess. And I think they would react with horror that I could ever posit two things such as what I hope to and say that they were similar with good humanitarian ground. However, I think I will. And I’ll make my disclaimers known in good thesis statement fashion 🙂

Today however, I think I’ll stick to A TINY smattering of the oh-how-I-hate-calling-it-that egalitarian-complementarian debate. Actually, quite a few of the debaters are ranting against the terms. It doesn’t really have to be one or the other and a couple can well be equal as well as complementing to each other.

But for what it’s worth, before I even go into some of my ideas, I think that two people are purposed to come together and interact in the special, unique way that God made them. That’s why he only ever called you to one wife or husband – e designed us pretty neatly and uniquely, and he purposed us too. And some of us intellectual or regimented or well, seriously, more anal types need to realise that that is how God’s going to make it work. You go into it with no guarantees except that God called you both to be together, and there’s no changing that.

God could then overhaul your lives entirely. Speak to one or both of you, redefine your calling, or ask you to act on that instruction h gave you when you were 10 and you forgot all about. God could change your physical circumstances, or your mental even! And it is silly – and I often make this mistake, as a single – to think that it’s possible to get all your shots in order before the big day so that your life is sorted for the rest of eternity. I, of all people, should know the answer is ‘Never’ to the question: Since when has the Lord ever made things that easy?! Provision, yes. Love, yes. But trivial and easy lack of challenge – no.

Neither husband nor wife can take a decision FOR each other – unless that couple decides to do that equally and unequivocally for each other, and they take no decisions for themselves. It can’t be one partner taking every decision for the other, unless that is mutual. That undermines the value of each person that God has placed within them. If it were mutual – wow, what a testimony; but also man, that’s going to be hard! Hierarchy goes against the verses that speak of mutual submission and considering others better than yourself. You lay a claim to that authority OVER someone else (Mark 10:42), you immediately destroy the model of servanthood and leadership that God provides.

Paul’s use of the term ‘head’ is a rather complicated thing – no? It strikes me that over and over again, he overturns the image we have of a ‘leader’ in our heads. He makes it instead evident that the leaders are called to lay it down – him saying that to a culture of patriarchy would have been a pretty radical thing. Perhaps he was asking those husbands who had, as their culture dictated, held all authority until then to lay it down? He’s doing a pretty radical thing in the Corinthian church too when he asks women to be silent – women who’d never learned the language the Scriptures were taught in and sat to another side to gossip… Well, suddenly, they needed to shut up and listen. Women who came from a temple culture of matriarchy and female worship – Corinth. And then he kinda turns it upside down for the men in the political and male-dominated city which then became a pretty central spot for Christianity – Ephesus.

He compares the men to Christ, he uses the term ‘head’ in the same way he used it for Christ – and then he says, go do that. I think there is something to that model of headship. And I – personally – don’t think it defines bottom-line decisions but giving, and nurturing and making sure the other is benefited, can grow and can reach their full potential and glorify God best. I’ve been reading a few articles by NT Wright (<3) and Gordon Fee, Tim Keller (who is complementarian but one of the most egalitarian ones, apparently) and also Piper and Grudem, who are on the other side. Piper, however, is very nearly egalitarian too or seems to have become, in his later writings. And almost all of these people have constructions for how the verb ‘submit’ is not repeated with the word for women, but rather remains in the first injunction to both and then is extended to the next clause. Quite a few details like that.

*On a side note – I picked all men for my list of exegetes, intentionally, to avoid any accusation of bias :). It would be kinda cool, incidentally, to see an argument by all-women exegetes to explain this position (or even another topic) and even cooler to see a guy do it 😀 Okay, aside over.*

Bottom-line – there are two theological positions on this – both very clear, and both with a measure of persuasiveness. And I think that in reality, in the practical outworking of life, it will be up to the couple to choose to work their family in the way that serves and produces fruit for God best. In a way that makes use of the giftings of the husband, wife, and children not in any way that reduces the wife’s or the husband’s gift at all. I think I personally might need to remember that in pursuing my calling and my giftings to the exclusion of my husband’s – if that ever happens 🙂 – I have a very high degree of answerability and even blame before God for those things that my husband might miss out on. And I pray I have a husband who thinks likewise!

However, it could be hard if the man or the woman wants to be the authority and grasp for it consciously – it could be hard in that there will be pride on both sides and hurt and ineffectiveness.

TBC…

Whatever things are admirable

27 Mar

I have been hearing, reading and listening and writing on how many people within the church and the ministry fall into the worst kind of temptation. And I have to say that I have seen stories so full of grace. And judgement tempered with grace. I just wanted to point one out to you.

And another, so full of honesty and the willingness to be vulnerable and repeat the pain over and over and over again in confession and explanation because they wanted to make it work. They loved each other and they chose to.

I think vulnerability is such a challenge. And I pray that I get given it in spades – I run from it. But there is no way that I can honour God with the people around me if I am not entirely vulnerable to them, and willing to be hurt.

I am so in awe of the pouring of grace that God gives in the messiest stories.

And then I’m in awe of the wonderfully healthy marriages I know – one where wife or husband always runs to the door when the other arrives (so beautiful and it gives me a heart-longing), another where every argument however often is made up, another where you would never find one without finding the other (no, not unhealthily tied together but openness and sharing of lives like best friends. I only need to text one.)

And I am in awe again.

Communication in the Bible

22 Mar

I’m trying to find what the Bible says on communication.

I know the emphasis on being slow to anger, and gentle in response to a tell-off. All of that. But I’m looking specifically for how to be open, how to talk to each other, social norms.

I know I’m kinda shooting myself in the foot here. The Bible doesn’t do ‘social norms’. It merely says Be imitators of God.

But if you have an idea of what the Bible might say for how to un-hurt a friend (small or big!), how to be genuine in your care for the other in the way that you talk to them…

We have common sense. Here’s some of mine:

Listen to people. Really listen to them.

Honour their commitment.

Be grateful that they want to spend time with you.

Consider their emotions, anticipate their feelings.

Look for detail – in their reactions and in yours!

And there’s a lot online about how to be friends, how to be a couple, how to be leaders… Especially a lot on dating and marriage from the Christian net circles 😉 Like:

Loving one’s spouse according to the Scriptures involves four elements: 1. A genuine care and concern resulting in self-sacrificial attitudes and actions to meet the needs of your spouse 2. A commitment to fulfill your God-ordained marriage responsibility to your wife or husband 3. A romantic and sexual desire and attraction 4. A commitment to separate oneself from others of the opposite sex for exclusive and permanent romantic and physical intimacy. 

– Ron Jones at the Titus Institute.

But remind me of your favourite verses in the Bible that deal with those things? Or stories in the Bible that allow us to “be imitators”? All those relationships, please! Thanks!

Keeping It Wise

20 Mar

I had a Skype date with one of my best friends – she’s pretty close to being best, except there’s God and all that 😉 and there might be a guy in the offing, ya never know! And I’d like him to be a best friend too… I’m conscientious about these things 😀

Anyway, the K-dawg and I got down to it and sniffled our way through her early Sunday morning and my powdery face mask, with video off and on… We talked among (MANY) other things about passive-aggressiveness and intimacy (however minimal) before marriage. Now the one only relates to the other in this: a mutual friend entirely disagrees – or equally possibly, resents – K’s closely held views on the subject, but instead of confronting her disagreement, she makes jibes at the invalidity of her position… And I share it in the hope that any one who reads this will disagree or agree (phew!) without discounting it 😀

Well, before we go further, I shared K’s position. We might have minor differences but in general, we agree on that one. I’m not in agreement entirely with some of the theology in this subject but there is validity, although it is highly personal.

We were talking about a couple at Oxford that we knew that had a no-kissing policy until marriage. I actually know a few others like this – and I think it’s awesome. Quite simply, I do not want to be able to compare an experience. K shared how she was glad that a friend she’d known had held to that policy for her and him, when she was new to Christ. She is so grateful although she wasn’t then… It isn’t just kissing – haha, I am neither so legalistic nor trivial. It is a personal judgement we make for ourselves of course, but it is something we do need to think about and too often we have forgotten to think about it, deliberately. And I think it depends on the person entirely. If you can shrug off the intimacy, and you know that there is a different level of emotional giving that is solely for the woman or the man you marry – hey, go you 😉

I know that I regret every moment I spent not seeking God, before he found me. I know I would regret every moment of seeking someone else, who wasn’t it… I am entirely in favour of relationships with the opposite sex where we get to know them, socially, in mutual contexts, interactionally, as a friend and people we share our thought lives with. These help us grow. I am even in favour of seeking each other – taking one man and woman now – with intention, honouring each other but asking to know more about the every day person, the interests, the thoughts, the ideas and the passion for God in the other person. The relationship they have with God that defines them – because it defines you. These help us grow and mature, and love within Christ, honourably. But to imagine more without a God-confirmation, to give covenantally without a covenant… It isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and to that extent, spiritual.

If the relationship of a man and woman on earth is a metaphor of that between God and us – take it seriously, take it personally. I have to remind myself: Stop abstracting it. He wasn’t looking just for a dating relationship, he wasn’t looking for a maybe. He wanted us and he asked us to choose. It’s God, you know – he’s a jealous God… You just – you just don’t touch that.

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