I’m seeing confusion in the comments on my posts about submission (Part One, Part Two, Part Three and also in The Role of Women in Their Own Destruction). Because I’m speaking out against the abuses of submission, some of my readers have drawn the conclusion that I reject what the Bible teaches about submission.
I think many of you would put yourselves in the complementarian, rather than the egalitarian camp, theologically. I’ve held the complementarian viewpoint for most of my adult life, but I’ve seen families fall apart because of those who take it to the extreme and abuse it. (Update: I no longer subscribe to complementarianism. I’ve seen too much bad fruit from that tree. I believe Scripture teaches mutuality and honor for all people, regardless of their gender.) I just want to understand and apply what God says about submission throughout His entire Book. Believing what the Bible teaches and believing what male leaders teach are sometimes two different things.
When Keeping the Law Means Breaking the Law
What I am attempting to do on this blog in the area of submission is illustrate how Christians can sometimes break the Law of God – in the name of keeping the Law of God. This really confuses and bothers some people. I can’t help that. I’m still going to try to figure this out with the Bible as my guide.
This means losing readers. I’ve received emails from women, after they’ve unsubscribed, telling me they can’t stomach what I’m writing about. They can’t stomach thinking it might go against the heart of God to allow women and children to suffer injustice within the four walls of their homes. They can’t stomach thinking those kinds of people even exist in the first place. Surely I am exaggerating or making things up?
In a cut and dried world of blue skies and straightforward rules, the answer to misogyny is to cheerfully encourage women to suck it up and suffer like Christ. Problem solved with deeply ingrained theological beliefs still intact. It’s challenging to leave your spoon feeders behind you and sit down with just the Bible and your questions.
We all love to draw lines. It makes things so easy. I’ve read this, actually: “But where do we draw the lines? What about the lines? WE NEED LINES!” What we need is to resist the urge to have every jot and tittle compartmentalized in neat little files. Got a problem? Simple. Just find the correct file drawer and folder, follow the instructions on the report, and TA DA! Problem solved.
Does that require wisdom? Does that require a day by day walk of faith with a Holy. Dangerous. Gargantuan. God? Whose job is it, anyway, to make all the files (and adjust them occasionally depending on Wemmick Whims?) The Pharisees took that job upon themselves, and look where it got them.
Some things are black and white. When you cheat on your spouse, you’ve broken the law on a number of levels. Lying, adultery, coveting. Not loving God or your neighbor. Other things are not black and white. If an armed robber is about to slit the throat of your child, and you are holding a gun, do you quote “thou shalt not murder” while watching a murder—or do you shoot and prevent a murder? The black and whiters would let the child die while the robber takes off to murder again. Breaking the Law to keep the law.
If we are made in the image of God, then we must love justice because God loves justice. That’s what I see in Scripture.
Let’s imagine we are sitting in a room drinking coffee together and carrying on polite conversation. In the middle of the room is a woman and child covered with black and blue marks. The child’s arm is broken. The woman is staring off into space. They are dirty and scared. They are silent. But we all sit and sip, softly and gently discussing our goodness amongst one another. Resting. Just resting. Enjoying our Sabbath resting.
So what I’m trying to do is grab that woman and child and wave my hands in front of the group and say, “YOOO HOOO! See this? See what’s going on? AWK!! We’ve got to HELP these people! Something about the bunch of us sitting here resting while these two suffering souls are in our midst – seems off kilter. Am I high on drugs here? Hello?”
All the ladies stop and stare with wide eyes and veiled annoyance. Some get up and walk out with a sniff. And then someone quietly murmurs, “Don’t you know? It’s the Sabbath. Let God take care of the poor dears today. We know He loves them.” Murmurs of approval ripple through the quiet crowd. Faces soften and relax. Sipping begins again.
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6)
This is powerful. First of all, the Pharisees obeyed the law to the letter, but you can see they do not have love. They are looking for a way to trap God and destroy Him. They did it back then, and they do it today. They have the appearance of godliness, but they deny it’s power. God tells us to AVOID THOSE PEOPLE. (I Tim. 3:5)
Notice God’s reaction? He is angry. He is angry and grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Have you ever seen injustice and felt angry because it was approved of by all the Pharisees around you? Because the perps had hard, unrepentant hearts with no evidence they were going to change in your lifetime? I’ve seen victims of abuse told that they shouldn’t be so angry. “Why the deep anger? That’s not very loving and forgiving. Maybe if you were a better Christian, your abuser would leave you alone.”
If Jesus were in the room with those quiet, gentle, Sabbath-keeping women, what would He do? I think it is obvious from His Word. And I can safely draw the conclusion that His emotion would be anger, because that’s what the Bible teaches us. So when His children, made in His image and desiring to imitate Him, feel a sense of anger stirring in their hearts over the abuses of complementarian theology, I don’t believe He is wagging His finger at them in disapproval. I believe He wants us to apply a heart of wisdom. Sometimes that means questioning what we’ve been taught by other human beings.
Is our anger mixed with sin? Of course. We are tainted creatures. But that doesn’t mean we should never feel that emotion or let that anger put feet to our conviction in order to set captives free. Do you think those that fought against the atrocities of slavery or genocide or the murder of pre-born babies did/do so with smiles on their faces and warm fuzzies filling their souls? C’mon folks. We’re not in heaven yet. Life is messy. Throwing a floral rug over it won’t make the mess go away.
So my agenda here is to study this thing out for myself and talk about it with you. I need your help, because your questions force me to think through all the angles. If you go marching off in a self-righteous huff, we all miss out. Be strong and courageous! Tolerate a little discomfort! It’s good for us!