Kimberly’s story left me speechless. She had believed that, as a Christian woman, she was to play a secondary role in ministry and in her marriage. “I was determined to be the kind of Christian wife God would be proud of. Yet nothing worked like it should have. I did all the submitting I could think of and more, but I could not do a thing about the abuse,” she wrote. After enduring terrible emotional and physical abuse from her husband and feeling certain that she was worthless to God and everyone else, Kimberly found herself at a breaking point. Then, in a seemingly meaningless chore—taking out the garbage — she discovered a book that would change her life: Gilbert Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles. Kimberly had believed she was garbage, and yet, in the dumpster, she found a book that told her otherwise.
As I read Kimberly’s story (which you can find in the Spring 2009 issue of Mutuality), I felt her misery, her despair, and her questioning of God. And when she found Dr. Bilezikian’s book, I felt her liberation. “I started to hope again, I started to breathe,” she wrote. Her profound sense of relief — her ability to breathe again — reminded me of an analogy a pastor once used to illustrate how deceit is suffocating.
Highlighting Scripture passages that depicts God as our shepherd, the pastor went into lengthy detail describing sheep. Without regular shearing from the shepherd, he explained, a sheep’s wool grows over its eyes, blinding it from the herd, from food and shelter, and from the shepherd. The wool becomes suffocating and can cause terrible health problems for the sheep — even death. The application was clear: what kind of “wool” grows in our own lives, blinds us from God, and separates us from an abundant life in Christ? As I think of this illustration in light of Kimberly’s testimony, I wonder if we the church are being called to allow our Shepherd to gently shear away the wool that is suffocating us, that is blinding us from seeing God, and ourselves, as we really are. Perhaps if we allowed Jesus to shear away mistaken beliefs about the inferiority of women, then we could see him, and ourselves, more clearly. We could hope again, we could breathe.
When biblical equality comes up in conversations, I often come across an attitude among Christians that it is simply a gender “debate,” and therefore is not crucial or important for the church to agree on. “It’s not a gospel issue,” they might say. Yet, I cannot help but feel that this is a vital message for the church, because the healing, freeing shears of Jesus that Kimberly — and many like her — experienced in finding biblical equality saved her faith, and even her life. It was her bridge to the gospel.
As the articles in this issue of Mutuality demonstrate, the bridge that biblical equality can build between groups of people, in marriages, and between individuals and God is vitally important. Kate Johnson’s story of overcoming abuse, while difficult to read, is a beautiful example of how God affirmed her as a woman and gave her a ministry and calling. Yvette Menking then shares how biblical equality became a bridge to greater intimacy in her marriage. Next, I offer some thoughts on dialoguing with complementarian friends, and Sue Hulett explains the process of her church opening doors for women’s leadership. Finally, Bridget Jack Jeffries provides an insightful article on biblical equality, evangelism, and Mormonism. Be sure to also check out the report from the Melbourne conference, and Mimi Haddad’s excellent column on biblical equality as a primary issue for the church.
We hope this issue of Mutuality, themed “Building Bridges,” is an encouragement to you. May God use these articles to gently shear away all that can blind us. Blessings to you as you read and reflect!