“Why do you care so much about the women’s issue in the church?”
The question came from a friend, as I was trying to express why a sermon on gender roles in marriage had deeply upset me. It wasn’t an accusatory or dismissive question; it was a curious one. But I knew that, as a pastor, my friend was weary of debates in the church, and that he was tired of self-righteous Christians arguing with one another over matters both small and significant. I had been busy highlighting to him all of the errors I saw in the sermon’s logic, so I paused before I answered his question, examining my motives.
After years of studying biblical equality, was I simply enjoying having the knowledge to correct those who were misinformed? Was I just exerting my pride, and disguising it as passion?
“Here’s what I think,” he offered, while I sat silently forming my response. “Jesus prayed for God’s kingdom to reign on earth. Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. When it comes to gender, the church has been settling for a lot less than God’s kingdom here on earth.”
It was a good answer. It went straight to the heart of the issue, reflecting why so many of us work so diligently to advance biblical equality. We yearn for God’s kingdom on earth.
In God’s kingdom, one person does not exert power over another. In God’s kingdom, leadership is given to those who lay down their authority, and even their lives, out of love for their neighbor. While the world awards power based on wealth, education, ethnicity, and yes, gender, God’s kingdom values all people and honors humble hearts turned to Christ.
This “heart of the issue,” which my friend so beautifully articulated, is the focus of this “Power” issue of Mutuality. As Susan McLeod-Harrison highlights (p. 7), Jesus radically redefined power, teaching and modeling new ways for us to live as God’s children, in community with one another.
Be sure to also read Desiree Guyton’s story (p. 4) of encountering discrimination in the church because of her gender and calling. In a powerfully redemptive and graceful way, she explores the difficult realization that her African-American Christian community which supported her as a person of color was also rejecting her because she is a woman. She offers insights for all who have been marginalized by the church because of their ethnicity or gender.
Kriste Patrow and Cristina Richie (p. 10) provide insights into an area in which power is often abused: sex. Patrow highlights power dynamics of pornography, while Richie outlines the biblical model for healthy, mutually-submissive sex in marital relationships.
Emily Rice (p. 13) presents an insightful devotional on James 2 (p. 13), exploring how the patron-client relationship prevalent in the first century would have impacted James’ readers. Drawing on her experiences as a Filipino-American woman, she inspires both those who are in power and those who are not to break free from favoritism.
David Korsen (p. 16) provides practical insights into recognizing when power is being abused within the gender debate. Explaining certain propaganda techniques, he calls us to reject methods of communicating that do not encourage respectful and fruitful dialogue.
And, finally, Jenny Rae Armstrong (p. 18) reviews Courageous, the recent movie from Sherwood Baptist Church which considers fatherhood. Weighing the positives and the negatives of the movie’s message, she explores the concept of responsibility, a prevalent theme of the film.
We pray this issue of Mutuality is encouraging to you! Please be sure to send us your feedback, and to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Blessings to you as you read and reflect!