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If the life of a single, as Paul admonished, is to be undistracted by the world, concerned with the things of the Lord, then unmarried ministers have a unique calling indeed. And it is one the church ought not ignore—or usurp.

Where I live, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, young marriages are common. Younger than the national average at least. Yet few single men and women are involved in ministry. My pastor leads a large church-planting network and I asked him recently, “How many single guys are planting in the network?” He named a mere few. The dearth of undistracted men and women in ministry is sad, but more so, it is alarming.

I am in no way discouraging marriage (I want to be married, after all), but I believe the church can do better in this area. If the trend of delayed marriage continues, we must have men and women who have walked the narrow path of godly singleness teaching those who come after them. The church’s tendency to primarily hire married men and women, for whatever reason—stability, plantedness, longevity—should be reconsidered for multiple reasons.

Read the whole article over at Christianity Today.

 

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It’s been a season where I have hesitated to write about singleness for obvious reasons. But Tim Challies linked to this post this morning and I wanted to comment on it briefly.

First read the post on how to make your wife more beautiful.

Now, let me say that a woman who is fully loved by her husband is markedly different than a woman who is not, or does not feel loved by him. We all know both women, and there is a definite glow and confidence in a woman who feels the security of her one-woman man.

That said, I worry about the message this sends to unmarried women, particularly those of you who are in your thirties and beyond. Shakespeare said it best “Age, with his stealing steps, Hath clawed me in his clutch.” We cannot stop the inevitable blurring of our birth year behind us and the empty grave in front of us. For a single woman aging feels achingly more hopeless than for a single man as he ages. Every month we watch our fertility fade and the crows-feet crowd in. We feel less beautiful as each day goes on.

On top of that, there is rarely someone tending to the garden of our souls. There isn’t someone delighting in us, in every curve and nuance, every idiosyncrasy, speaking to fears and sheltering us in times of question. The lack of these things begin to eat at the blossom that bloomed in our twenties, and soon the withering comes.

If you know a single woman (and you all do), take a few moments today and encourage her inner beauty. Comment on her character and your hopes for it. Speak to her fears and lead her to the cross. Affirm her good desire to be married,  speak highly of your own marriage, and assure her of her eternal position within the Bride of Christ. And practically: serve her. Nothing makes me feel more cherished as a woman than a brother who notices and serves my sisters and me.

We should desire for the whole bride of Christ, not just the women, or just the married women, to be beautiful. Proclaim the manifold wonder of what the gospel has done in our lives and how it has transformed us.

That is true beauty.

Review of Jesus Feminist

October 28, 2013 — 3 Comments

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Sarah Bessey has done a unique thing in her book and it’s something the whole Church should try a bit more. Interwoven with thoughts on theology, history, and her vision for the future of the Church, Sarah told her story.

Raised in Canada, educated in the Bible Belt, on staff at a church in Texas, and then relocating back to Canada gave Sarah a bit of a unique story. Though she grew up in the Church, she did not grow up in the kitschy church-culture so many of our contemporary couch theologians did. Her experience is not one of “I was this but now I’m enlightened, so now I’m this,” but instead it is a story of roots and wings in healthy ways.

Jesus Feminist is not the tired story of a woman raised in patriarchy and conservative theology who threw off her shackles after a theological awakening. That story is all too familiar and, unfortunately, so often riddled with grinding axes that it is difficult to see the trees for the forest. Sarah grinds no axes, points no fingers, and brings every point of her story to the beautiful complexity that is faith in Christ Jesus.

She has woven the gospel through her story and her theology, and this is why I do recommend Jesus Feminist.

Primarily I recommend Jesus Feminist to pastors and teachers, men and women who are in positions of influence and whose duties including shepherding people. I recommend it for the sole reason that Sarah’s story is the story of every-woman in some way. Perhaps not the same path or set of experiences, but it tells the journey of a woman who lands on her theology through the lens of both experience and the word of God.

These days many words are spoken, preached, or written in pragmatic ways—I often wonder if some of our modern theologians have walked through difficult things because it doesn’t seem to come through in their message. Sermons neatly packaged with four points and a promise—even in the gospel-centered crowd. I do not doubt they have experienced difficulties, but we need to hear it said explicitly. If true shepherding is to be done, we need to sit at the table with the people and their stories.

I recommend Jesus Feminist next to women in the Church who come from a more conservative position on gender roles, but who have wrestled with their current roles as women.

Serving in ministry, I see two main types of women in the Church. The first is a woman who has no construct for theology or Church history but feels the constraints of both. Without having a robust theology or prescriptive design for their role, those constructs can feel suffocating and I see women leaving good, healthy churches in search of churches more accommodating to their personal story. The second is a woman who has a deep theological grasp on complementary gender roles, but who may struggle to feel her ministry as a woman is valid. Jesus Feminist spends copious amounts of time on the descriptive role of women in the Bible and the roles of women in our present lives. I was personally encouraged to engage more fully as a woman, to bring my femininity to the table along with my theology.

Jesus Feminist, contrary to its provocative title and subtitle, does not seem to be a book meant to convince the reader of a radical position on gender roles. Instead it seems to be a book intended to point to the character of God, the purpose of His creation, and the journey He takes His children on toward the fullness of His kingdom. Is there a theological bias in the book? Yes, absolutely. Sarah is an egalitarian and believes in roles for men and women without distinction in the Church. But the book does not terminate on her bias, because her true bias is the name and renown of Christ, and a robust Church filled with all kinds of people fully used by Christ.

If there is a caution to potential readers, particularly ones from a more conservative perspective, it is this: let us not be so quick to ascribe definitions to words and catch phrases that we miss the deep complexity behind them. Feminism has brought with her many good and right things; she may have left the back door open too long, letting in the draft of culture’s sway, but I think we can agree we are grateful for the breeze of freedom, equality, and voice.

What Jesus Feminist does not do is explore the ways in which modern feminism has taken its toll on the people of Jesus. This could be because Sarah doesn’t believe it has, or it could be because Sarah believes to do much good there has to be an uncomfortable itch under the hem of the Church’s robes. I think Jesus Feminist is a fair handling of feminism in the Church, but I think to properly discuss what a Jesus Feminist is, we have to wrestle with feminism’s origins. This is my only critique of the book. I think if you’re going to title a book thus, the subject at hand should be handled in its own respect, historical and modern implications. Otherwise, if what Sarah espouses to be feminism is this Jesus Feminism, count me [nearly] all in. There’s a lot more to it, though, but I’m grateful she set the table and invited us in for discussion.

Acknowledging

October 28, 2013 — 3 Comments

Before beginning a book I read the acknowledgements. Not every book has them, but the ones that do hold a litany of treasure. Here, at the end of a book or at the beginning, you have the list of people who made the work possible. While it is a personal touch, I think it can hold the potential for much more meaning if we readers will give it a thorough look.

When I opened my advance copy of Sarah Bessey’s debut work, before reading the table of contents or back cover, I paged through to those acknowledgements. I knew within them there would be some men and women whose names I do not only recognize, but whose lives and words have touched my life in impacting ways. As I read the last words of her acknowledgements, I felt the tears rise in my eyes: here was a woman whose heart beats as strongly for Jesus as mine does. In that alone, she is kindred, and I need nothing more to reach across the table of friendship.

Why am I telling you this? Because Sarah’s book is titled Jesus Feminist, and it already has some people around the table rearing back their heads and huddling together with a rebuttal after a mere glance at the subtitle (an invitation to revisit the Bible’s view of women). I am telling you about Sarah’s acknowledgement because the blurb on the heading of the book is an important one for all of us: Exploring God’s radical notion that women are people too.

So before you read any further, stop. Just think about that. We are all people. Women are people. Men are people. We, the collective, are a people. And we are persons. And that is a beautiful thing. Feminists, even Christian ones, are people. Those acknowledgements of Sarah’s hold a hundred names who are not just names or bloggers or agents or friends, but people.

I asked Sarah if she would allow me the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of her book because I think there’s a better way we can have the conversation about things of this nature. I don’t think it has to be enemies pitted against one another furiously writing blog rebuttals to rebuttals to rebuttals. Sarah has been nothing but gracious to me in the past—even in areas where we are diametrically opposed theologically. Why? Because Sarah understands that behind avatars and platforms and theology and -isms and -ists, there are people. And that is a beautifully rare thing.

Tomorrow I will post my review of Jesus Feminist.

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My fiance asked me out for the first time on a Facebook message. Once he finally got my number, he texted me a few times with other suggestions for hanging out. Of course I turned him down every single time, though, because “Real Men Don’t Text” (and other junk I thought about real men…).

Girls, can I be straight with you for one minute? Whatever your idea of a Real Man is, it would be better for you right now to drop the man and just get real.

A real man is flesh and blood, made of dirt and the breath of God.

He was created in the image of God, made to reflect the many faceted aspects of God. He is merciful and just, he is gentle and fierce, he is strong and tender, he is like a father but he gathers his young like a mother, he is holy, he is sacrificial—these are the ways in which he reflects his Maker.

He is also made. He was created from the ground, the dust, the particles of the earth’s first rubbish. But nothing is rubbish to God and so He took something from nothing and made it good, real good. Real, tangible, touchable, malleable, fallible, but real. So real that you can stand beside him and know that all your realness, your curves, your imperfections, your flaws, your failures, are not more or less real than his. You are the same. And different. There is nothing else on earth as real as the two of you in this sense. Souls and bodies, minds and hearts.

It’s astounding.

As I learn what it means to be joined with a man, I am having to unlearn what constitutes real men and real women. In our relationship I am the internal processor, he is the verbal; I am the risk-taker, he is the solid, steady; he is romantic and nostalgic; I am no nonsense and overlook his many expressions of love. There are so many ways in which we are not what could be termed as Real Men or Real Women, but we are the realest man or woman in one another’s life right now. We are the realest expression of the image of God to one another—and also the realest mirror to our own selfishness.

The only way to be a real man or real woman is to be real in the very essence of what the word means.

Actually existing or happening. Not imaginary, not fake, false, or artificial. Important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way.

You are real because you exist, you are happening. You are not fake or false or artificial. You are not wired for anything except to bring glory to your Maker—and even this is so vast and incomprehensible, how could it be contained?

You are important because you make much of the One who is Most Important.

You are a person, bearing the image of God, the Imago Dei—therefore I treat you seriously, whether or not you text first or email first or ask me out to coffee first or work from home or are a mother or a father or can bear children or will never bear children.

You are real because He took dust and bone and made you real.

Men and women, go. Be real.

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Try as I might, I’m not sure I can hold the identifier “Single Complementarian poster-child” at bay much longer. We’re a rare breed—some of us sold a barefoot and pregnant mantra since we played dress-up in our mamas’ clothing and learned to make a perfect omelet. It’s hard to let go of dreams as big as these.

For those of us who made it past 25 without a ring on our finger and a bun in the oven, more schooling seemed to be the only option. Slap an MA on the back of our name, we’re still casting sidelong glances at our sisters with misters. Many graduated with honors, fidelity, and an MRS, while most singles are pounding the pavement looking for a job to secure us some semblance of a future.

You ask why we’re a rare breed and I’ll tell you this: we’re not. Well, we are, but that’s just the nature of any conservative position in a swiftly tilting planet. But within the church we’re not all that rare. You don’t hear us talking much, though, and that’s something I’d like to talk about today.

Three reasons (of many) why single female complementarians may not be speaking up.

1. For too long the Church has relegated submission to what happens in the home and the sanctuary. The concept of submission to one to another (Eph. 5:21) has been glossed over in our rush to get to the juicy stuff in the following verses. Who wants to talk about something like submission to one another when there are husbands to be submitted to and wives to be loved? Well, I do. I want to talk about it because we don’t have a framework for life in Christ if we don’t understand being in something brings with it a certain amount of submission (sitting in a driving car, for example—you go where it goes.).

In the broad conversation we have often placed the discussion of submission firmly within the confines of marriage or our relationship to Christ, and not in regard to one another. This has created a generation of women who want to submit but are waiting to submit until Prince Charming comes along. In theory we’re complementarians, but we don’t have anyone standing in that gap, so practically, we’re egalitarians. It becomes difficult to talk about something we believe when because of brokenness in the family and an overwhelming absence of fathers, we’re not given a clear framework to practice it.

2. Speaking of frameworks, in the absence of the marriage we were nearly promised, we’re floundering a bit. I’m not going to make marriage out to be a cup of tea, but in marriage there comes a security and measure of certainty that simply doesn’t exist within singleness. Accidents and sin happens, yes, but if death comes in old age and fidelity is kept, there is the promise of a long-term security.

Godly singleness, on the other hand, is actually intended to be the opposite of long-term security. To be “concerned with the things of the Lord” (I Cor. 7:34) gives a wide berth, open pasture, and a degree of flexibility for the unmarried to discern what is the good and acceptable will of God. Our culture, however—and even in the church—lauds a security that will keep us constantly at odds with the things of the Lord. Single complementarians who have been primed for the simple security that marriage affords, might spend years trying to gain their footing in a world that wasn’t what they expected—even for the ones who understand Christ is their ultimate security. So where are we? Still trying to recover from the whiplash that is singleness in our 30s and on.

3. Single complementarian women simply haven’t needed to commit mental energy to contribute to the sort of study and scholarship necessary to defend a conservative theology of gender roles. Many married complementarian women are making radically different choices in the way their marriages look and so live with a constant awareness of the counter-cultural choices they’re making. But for singles unless their lives look radically different from those in the world—and a growing number in the church—they have nothing to defend. The biblical paradigm of singleness we’re given is one who is concerned with the things to the Lord, how she may please the Lord—this is a radical call in a tepid world, few rise to it fully, and even fewer defend it well. Without the pressure to defend, though, many won’t rise to the occasion of sound, biblical defense.

Don’t be discouraged. There is hope here and I think many complementarians are chomping at the bit to see a change in the conversation:

1. Change the culture of submission. Reframe the conversation. Speak of mutual submission, teach young people the value of covenantal living, helping and protecting one another in Christ. There are a few things we don’t have to wait for marriage for.

2. Change the expectation of marriage. Encourage it, yes, but don’t epitomize it or idolize it. Don’t allow those creeping cultural expectations to overtake what God is doing today. Today is a rich, rich day in the life of every person, single or married. Expect God to move today.

3. Encourage singles to be faithful with their concern for the things of God. It is no small thing to study to show ourselves approved. Christians ought to do everything within our capacity to help create a space for good scholarship and dialogue.

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before kings.” Singleness is a special and beautiful gift, and we need singles to come before the rulers of this world, standing firmly for the gospel in an ever-shifting culture.

A Profound Mystery

July 5, 2013

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33

You don’t reach the ripe old age of 32 without having worn sixteen bridesmaid dresses to sixteen weddings. (Actually, seventeen, I wore the black one in two weddings.) Standing beside seventeen women as they vowed to love, honor, and cherish the guy facing them, as well as walking through countless relationships with nearly all of my friends, you learn a thing or two.

This morning, as yet another friend and I were talking about how to handle a situation with a guy she recently started dating, it occurred me to that there would be much more clarity in dating relationships if we really took the “profound mystery of Christ & the Church” seriously. That illustration is about marriage, yet, but shouldn’t that be the aim of dating?

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Christ pursues us from the foundation of the earth. He doesn’t wait until it is less risky or for us to show interest in Him. Because of this, the Church knows Christ’s love for us is true and will not be depleted when the going gets rough.

Men, do not wait for a riskless situation, pursue anyway.
Women, don’t make it difficult for him to pursue you.

Christ never wavered in His sacrificial offering. He wept in the garden, but did what His Father asked Him to do. Because of this, the Church trusts that Christ’s word is true and trustworthy. There is no question or doubt about His intentions.

Men, state your intentions, simple though they may be, right up front.
Women, trust a man who does this and believe him without second guessing.

Christ spreads wide the arms of love. He doesn’t withhold until we are lovable, understandable, or beautiful. Because of this, we can take our unloveliness to Christ with confidence. He sees past our blemishes and we are lovely because He loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.

Men, look past culture’s demands for a perfect wife, love what the world calls unlovely.
Women, you become lovely because you are loved first by Christ—rest in that loveliness.

Christ intercedes on our behalf. He does not stop going to the Father in our defense and for our petitions. Because of this, we know Christ will fight for us. He will not allow anything to break us beyond His capable sight, so we trust Him.

Men, don’t give up on a woman because she is difficult to understand; seek the Holy Spirit for understanding.
Women, be clear about what you need or how you feel, without making it difficult for him to meet your needs—trust him and the Lord’s work in him.

Christ reminds us of our sufficiency in Him. He doesn’t make us wonder if we are enough or too much. Because of this, the Church can trust that every difficult and beautiful thing will be used for the fruition of His kingdom—nothing is wasted, nothing is too much, nothing is not enough.

Men, find your sufficiency in Christ, not your girl’s approval, respect, or admiration of you.
Women, trust your “not enoughness” and “too muchness” to the finished work of the Cross, and know that in your weaknesses He is made great.

It is a profound mystery, I think, Christ and the Church, marriage, all of it. But I think it could be a little more profound here on earth if we really took Paul’s illustration to heart.

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A few quick thoughts on feminism (a loaded word, I know) in the Church:

If you beat someone with a wooden spoon, then try to show them its primary use is for cooking, don’t fault them for never seeing the spoon as it was intended. The rise of secular feminism within the church, from what I can see from my small corner of the world, is many times (though not always) in response to a poor construct or a partial framework of God intention for men and women.

Essentially, if you beat someone over the head with theology that was either poorly enacted, poorly constructed, or poorly represented, and then you try to show them how beautiful the theology is at its heart, you’re going to lose them. This is because God created us with an innate and beautiful sense of right and wrong. Wrong use of something beautiful results in something ugly. A rose on one end is a beautiful bloom and on the other a prickly weapon.

One of the ways I seek to change the conversation within my realm of influence is to remove the spoon for as long as it takes and show them how cooking at its heart brings life and substance, community and joy. I want to show the beauty of the thing at its starkest form, before I need the help of the spoon. The garlic and onions popping and sizzling on the stovetop while I dice tomatoes and mushrooms. The splash of wine, the story of how it came to be. These things are the beauty of creation in their plain form before I stir and toss with spoons and spatulas.

To follow the analogy, I want to remove what has been misused and made ugly from the situation until we can see the heart of God and the beauty of the Imago Dei and then when those trappings are gone, we can talk about intention for gender roles.

Just a few thoughts. I’m still working them out, but I thought it might help to put them before you so you can see how my brain processes these matters.

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I’m sorry.

You were sold the story, hook, line, and sinker. Do this, don’t do that, build it, tear it down, cover it up, write it over—do it all and then this…

This will happen for you. Or this bad thing, that won’t happen for you. Obey, honor, submit, then shut your mouth, don’t ask questions, don’t dare defy. Do all that and it will go well for you.

And then it didn’t. It didn’t go well and it went really bad. Really, really bad. On the other side you stood there with nothing. No morals, no laurels, no crowns of glory, all your delight in shambles and your hope in rags. They said it would go well for you and then it didn’t.

This is a letter to you, you women who grew up asking how short was too short, how obedient was obedient enough, how submission looked on you, and if every single thing you did was right enough, good enough, pure enough.

This is letter to you, you girls who grew up with mothers barefoot in the kitchen, with fathers stern and unappreciative, with every boy a threat, and every girl a comparison.

This is a letter to you, liberated woman. You came out in college roaring. You threw off the shackles of fundamentalism, of second guessing, of moralism, of theology that bound instead of freed.

This is a letter to you, freed women, ones who are looking for the voices of your sisters, the ones who know it as acutely as you do. Who know the shackles, the questions, the fears, and the injustice of growing up always looking over your shoulder.

I’m sorry.

I am so, so sorry.

I am sorry that something beautiful was perverted by an enemy who steals, kills, and destroys. I am deeply sorry that you felt damaged, a cowering bird in a coyote’s world. I am so sorry that you spent your life in front of a fun-house mirror, a distortion of who you truly are. I am not your parent or your pastor, but I am you, and I am sorry.

I know you are looking for strong female voices, women who will lead the charge toward full freedom, birds who have found their flight above the heads of squabbling coyotes. I know you are looking for women who will say that yes, that was wrong, what happened to you. That, yes, the reflection you’ve been shown is not a true woman, a woman who fears the Lord and loves His word. That, yes, the subservient cloistered crouching woman is nothing like what a daughter of the King ought to look like.

I know you are looking for her.

And so I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I haven’t spoken up. I’m sorry that in the face of one perversion, I’ve let another extreme pass me by without saying anything.

The enemy’s favorite tactic is to pervert what is good, and there is none good, no not one. Except Him. And the wholeness of Him cannot be perverted.

Here is my promise to you, my sister, my friend: I promise you I will fight on your behalf. I promise I will fight for truth, for the culmination of all things in the Only One Who Is Good. I promise I will wrestle with theology and that I will not let go of God. That I will not let go until He has changed the names of each of us. Until we do not find our identity in a name or label, but that we find it in the fullness of Christlikeness. I cannot promise we will not walk with a limp, each one of us, but I think our limp will be our mark, our Ebenezer, our fist in the face of the enemy.

I promise to wrestle with the One who promises to lead us through to the other side.

After much prayer, counsel, and time, I’ve accepted an offer to join the teams of writers over at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Many of you are encouraged to have my voice there and I know many of you are disappointed in me. My promise to both of you is that my fight is not for equality or distinction, biblical womanhood or feminism, my fight is against the powers of darkness and my delight is to walk in the light.

I believe that CBMW recognizes the lack of a strong young female voices in the Church today and they care about the practical implications of a complementarian view. I am a complementarian, that hasn’t changed, but I believe the answers many egalitarians have been pressing for have not been handled well. Unanswered questions, coupled with the distortion of truth many of us grew up with in evangelicalism, only breeds room for more distortions. I do not aim to answer questions, so much as I am to fight for purity of the Gospel. With the Lord’s help, I will aim for clarity and consistency, that’s my promise to you.

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The Young, Restless, & Reformed Complementarian crowd is often caricatured by a flannel shirt wearing bearded young man who gulps craft beers and talks theology from scribbled notes off his moleskin notebook. He quotes Piper and Packer and Paul. He opens doors for his sisters and uses the word “damn” with frequency, except when his simple fundamentalist Baptist mother is around. He never feels completely capable of leading anyone because he feels like he’s playing catch-up for all his years of not. He drinks his coffee black.

Because the movement has historically been so stalwartly male, made of all things growly and gruff, there just hasn’t been a similar caricature for the female side of YRRC. Though if you were going to attempt a one, she’s probably an avid Pinner, crafting the perfect home for her bearded [future] husband, reading Proverbs 31 and feeling like she falls short of everything except being a wife of noble character (and only because the YRR guy wouldn’t choose anything less than nobility of character for his wife). She probably shops at Whole Foods, or for the more frugal, Trader Joes. She writes Bible verses on index cards and tacks them to kitchen cabinets.

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One of the enemy’s favorite tactics is to take what God has not called ultimate and make it so. If he can confuse the Christians, get them to devour one another, well, he can call it a day. No need for the Crusades part deux, Jesus came to bring a sword, and by golly, the first people we’re gonna use it on is one another.

One particular area of glee the enemy is basking in these days is the division he’s bringing to the Church concerning gender roles. And he does it by making caricatures rampant.

Humanity is important, which means individuals are important, which means men and women are important, which means what men and women do is important, and if the enemy can make what we do (or have done) more important than what God has done, he will seem to have won this particular battle.

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A concern of mine I see as I stand on the sidelines, and am being invited into the midst, is that we are taking caricatures of men and women and making them ultimate. For the YRR complementarian man, he thinks a principal way of Being A Man is fighting for his sisters: he wants them to be protected and flourishing—only he’s a little clumsy at it sometimes and it can come off like he’s being a chauvinist. For the complementarian woman, it’s to find a husband as quickly as possible—not because she’s half a person without him, but because how can she prove she’s a distinct helper if she’s not helping anyone? For the egalitarian man, he wants to serve his sisters by fighting to give them a voice where traditionally the most a woman can do in the Church is change diapers and hand out bulletins (Note: both tasks are valuable, I’m not knocking them, just how they limit the abundantly distinct gifts of women.). For the egalitarian woman, she has distinct powerful words burgeoning up inside of her and wants desperately to share them with the world; she wants to help, even if she ends up just sounding shrill.

Theologically we’re not at all alike, but practically I think we are.

I don’t think we all are. But I think we are sort of kind of maybe are.

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Hear me out.

If the enemy’s favorite tactic is to distract us by what is not best, so we would miss what is, wouldn’t you say he thinks he’s succeeding in some respects (Gen. 3.1-5)?

We have brothers who are fighting on behalf of their sisters, wanting to see their strengths utilized and maximized within the bounds of scripture, and we have sisters who want to do what they were created to do: help bring wisdom, counsel, a distinct voice, a feminine voice.

We’re not so different after all.

But if we continue to get distracted by terminology, practicality, and sustainability, we’re going to lose sight of the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. I am not saying a theology of gender roles is unimportant here—I’m saying the world and its constructs are dead to us, we boast in the cross alone (Gal. 6.14).

Piper said, “We’re not here to make men and women, we’re here to make disciples.” And my heart leaps inside of me when I hear that. Practice is important, but our practice should be to make disciples in the shadow of the cross, not to make mini-mes. “Come and die” is our mantra, “it’s gonna hurt” should be our caveat.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,
male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:28

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Are you trying to fit yourself into a caricature of what your church or your theology deems you to be? Can I plead with you to not? You are doing a disservice to your theology, your brothers and sisters, and most of all the Gospel, if you make your position or personality ultimate.

Brothers, help your sisters. Fight for them when they are being marginalized. Fight for them not because you want them to lead you, or because you think it will make you more capable of leading them, but because the more you fight for your sisters, the more they will fight for you, and the more you will contend for the Gospel together as one.

Sisters, fight for your brothers. Help them see things in different distinct ways, help them with gentler tones and aspects of humanity that have been characterized as feminine. There is a deep need in the Church today for strong gentleness, ferocious lovingkindness, and articulate passion, and you are absolutely built to bring it to the table. But bring it for the sake of the Gospel, not your voice.

“Jesus is tough and tender, absolutely will get in the face of wicked, self-righteous leaders, and then hug a child. So when we come to Christ, men get appropriately tougher and appropriately more tender, and the same thing happens with women. It’s like the last chapter, the end of a movie. There’s a sense that my life makes sense, my experiences make sense. I am a female, but it’s a bigger deal than that, I am a part of a greater story, I have a sense that I’m bringing to the table not just my femininity, but my spiritual gifts. I am not just a man, but I’m here to give my life away for the body of Christ. And that only happens when we come to Christ.” —Darrin Patrick

For the sake of the gospel, friends, be like Christ. Tough and tender, both for both, all at once, all one in Jesus Christ.

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As always, comments are closed on Sayable, but also as always, you’re invited to join the conversation over on Facebook or on Twitter.

Leading Ladies Everywhere

January 21, 2013

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I am, however, still interested in faith trends. I’m lured by them because I love the culture of heaven and I think it ought to affect the culture of earth, and what are trends if not culture’s response to heaven’s delay?”

Continue reading Leading Ladies Everywhere over at Project TGM today.

While I am calling to mind the things for which I’m grateful this week, it seems that singleness is topping that list for real. I italicize that because I have exercised that muscle of gratefulness before, but it has never felt familiar, good or right. It has always felt like a cheat, stealing away the best years of my life, chances for babies, young love and all that.

Continue reading Every Single Season over at Single Roots today.

 

 

There was a new kid on the block in 2012 named Project TGM: Theology, Gospel, Mission, and they recently asked to make me the newest kid on the block (and the first woman to join their team.) I jokingly said to them yesterday that I have seven brothers and ain’t skeered of them, but I’ll be honest, it’s a solid line-up over there and I’m humbled they asked me.

I hope you’ll join me over there today, but also make a habit of heading over there for some great pieces by regular writers (Owen Stracham, professor of Theology and Church History at Boyce College, Logan Gentry, pastor at Apostles Church in New York, and others) and occasional guests.

My inaugural post is up today on how the greatest need for women is not parenting/marriage/singleness advice or tactics, but gospel realignment. Please hop over and give it a look! 

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A Better Fruit

October 29, 2012

I may be a complementarian, but I dole out my respect sparingly enough. I do not believe that every woman needs to submit to every man and I do not believe that every man can righteously wield power over me with wisdom or criticism.

I believe that every practical act of ours on earth ought to be a reflection of what happens in the Kingdom. It seems clear that the Trinity beautifully displays a threefold relationship I’m happy to take my part in as helper—equal, but distinct.

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One of the few who has won my hard[ly] earned respect is a pastor who moved to my native north from the Bible-belt to replant a church. He’s an author, speaker, and blogger, and never once have I heard him put out anything distracting from the glory of God. Not once, that is, until he stepped on a seeming hornet’s nest a few months ago.

He unwittingly quoted someone who had prefaced something controversial before they said it, but he quoted it without the same warning. And well, we’d all like to be able to pull back our words a time or two, wouldn’t we? Fortunately it was on a blog and so he removed the entry after a discussion ensued when a fuss was raised from an opposing movement (in this case Christian feminists), and issued an apology.

It was in poor form, I’ll give you that. But I took neither offense to it nor did I see the need to address it. Why? Because the most freeing aspect of being a complementarian, for me, is trust. I trust that he has people in his life who will point out any error and, in fact, they did—but nobody seems to want to draw attention to that because it would imply that hierarchal systems actually work without the undo drawing of attention by the masses, gossipmongers, and those who take offense easily.

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It may have taken a few minutes to get here, but what this post is about is trust.

It seems to me that on a very base level the problem of the feminist movement and the patriarchy movement, and indeed sin itself, is principally a lack of trust. We have, from the very beginning, been attempting to wrench what was not given in the search of what was labeled off limits.

The whole garden, every tree and plant, the dominion over the whole earth was ours—everything but this one tree, and yet this one tree is the one Eve took the fruit from and gave it to Adam to share.

From the start we are in search of what is not within our grasp. And if we feel powerless holding onto what does not belong to us, we grasp, we cajole, we plead, and finally in an act of spirited defiance, we take it. We reach high into the branches and we twist that fruit until what looked so good is now so bad, and we eat of it—we dominate in the name of righteousness.

And what happens is not satisfaction. It is not completion. It is not godlike presence or perfection. What happens is that we are immediately found wanting for more and nothing covers us fully enough. We need something more to satisfy.

This, to me, is the major practical flaw in movements that attempt to thwart a design, albeit a design with limits, to attain what was not designed to be ours.

We are never satisfied.

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Isn’t that the look of all sin though? Isn’t it just, as Augustine said, the reordering of good things until they become ultimate things? Isn’t it what happens when we put our hope in a thing or an action or an apology or even a theology, instead of in God himself?

Here is why I am a complementarian (aside from the fact that I think the Bible is clear about it and I’m too tired of all the other mental gymnastics I do to add one more routine): because it goes against my nature to submit to anyone on anything. I’m aware of it so strongly that I war against anything that teaches me to reach for a higher branch of forbidden fruit.

I war against anything God has said clearly it is not right for me to have (I Tim. 2.12). I war against anything that demands action of me I have not been fit to act on (I Peter 3.7). I war against anything that says if one person has something I ought to have it too (Rom. 12.3). The truth is trust is where I belong, it is where I am safest, where I am held, where I am known, where I rest, and most of all where He has made His glory known to me.

You may call me foolish or underfoot, you may even accuse me of being blinded by my male leadership, and I am okay with that, because here is what I know: I am seen and noted, I am chosen and delivered, I am full of the Father’s design, the Groom’s love, and Spirit’s help. The more I trust, the further into Himself He takes me.

I eat fruit from low-slung tree branches and it is juicy and full and ripe in its season.

And it is good because He has said it is good.

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