Several months ago, I was invited to preach on Ephesians 5:21–6:9. I was thrilled—finally, there’d be a sermon on this passage that I actually approved of, even if I had to be the one to give it (public speaking is not my thing).
Having read dozens of articles published by CBE and others, I’ve learned a lot about the intricacies of this passage and I get excited thinking about how perfectly a good application of this passage challenges hierarchies that divide and calls us to beautiful relationships of mutual submission, love, and humility. I was eager to share this vision of mutuality with my faith community.
But my initial excitement quickly gave way to despair. I quickly realized that I was equipped for riveting (to me, anyway) discussion about context, structure, word definitions, and debates. However, I had very little idea how to actually talk about this passage in a simple and helpful way, especially to a group with varied backgrounds, perspectives, and biblical knowledge.
How could I distill all the details to something simple and clear? How could I convey my passion and perspective in a way that respectfully challenged people who might not agree? What if I caused division in the congregation?
I went looking for examples of how others had preached on difficult passages and topics, figuring they would not only help me preach, but also be a better representative of my beliefs. I was surprised that I didn’t find as many examples as I’d hoped. Most of what I found was what I was used to—articles or lectures going into great depth about specifics, but not really presenting a helpful or practical overview.
Perhaps, I thought, Mutuality could be a space to share some good examples of leaders who have navigated the waters of speaking about difficult passages and topics. That’s the heart of this issue.
Too often, church leaders fail to preach on divisive or difficult topics for the same reasons that I ran into. It’s hard to do it well, and it risks creating conflict. It may be uncomfortable. There are plenty of other things to talk about that everyone can get behind. Unfortunately, this means that many Christians never hear an egalitarian perspective, even in an egalitarian church!
In this issue, we share sermons on three difficult passages—Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 2, and Colossians 3. The last of these also tackles the difficult and often neglected topic of domestic violence. Also included in this issue are an inspiring mini-sermon from blogger Ashley Easter on embracing your calling, a parody of the popular worship song “Days of Elijah” re-written by Stephen R. Holmes to focus on Bible women, and a review of Natasha Sistrunk Robinson’s book Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship.
Each of the sermons is recorded and freely available online (the recorded and written versions will differ slightly), so you can share them widely. Just visit follow the link included in each article to find the article online, where, you’ll find a link to the original sermon.
I pray this resource will be a help to you in whatever capacity you find yourself speaking about mutuality in leadership and marriage—whether behind a pulpit, in a class, across the table at a coffee shop, or somewhere in between.