One of those difficult words to spell but a very important word at this time. We can learn a lot as to what is on the agenda by looking at what rises in the world – both the good and the bad… and of course the mixed. God is at work in the whole world, not simply in the church, and I also consider that answers to prayer often take place in the world and we miss them because we have been looking for the manifestation in the church. We are here for the world, so it should not surprise us what rises there – and we should not be expecting some level of perfection either.
I appreciated the comments on the previous post which somehow has seemed to hit a resonance for many. I was interested that I had highlighted as one of the three aspects being exposed the sin of misogyny which has made me think a little since writing. When we track sin as outlined in the Fall we can see that a root and a manifestation is greed and consumerism – ‘I saw, I desired and I consumed…’ The classic gender war Scripture flows from there – ‘your desire will be for your husband but he will rule over you’ – and the patriarchal nature of society certainly bears witness to the accuracy of that statement. And from there we can read what follows as resulting in an increased protectionism and separation, with Empire building being the aspect that draws people together – we will make a name for ourselves. (Gen 3-11.)
The issue of male and female is not a side issue to the Gospel. It is the most fundamental of the ‘other’ relationships. Male and female together made in the image of the Tri-une God (who is neither male nor female but both feminine and masculine). Two in the image of God and not a triad of humans? In the right relationship to the other something is created that is distinct from the two yet dependent on those two. I am not talking about a third gender but of something intangible yet very real. Love for the other is created. Only when that organic and spirit to spirit unity is expressed can we say the image of God is present – that image is not defined by physicality but relationally. If misogyny is present a whole raft of demonising the other will arise. Jesus, the one truly human in the image of God, spelt out what is at the core of God’s being when he called us to love the enemy. The enemy, the one who is opposed to us, who sets out to intimidate, control, manipulate and put us to death. The enemy is beyond the one I create from my fear, and imagine to be my enemy. We will have to move beyond the fear of the immigration wave! It was this seed that Jesus was planting in us through his death on the cross ‘while we were yet enemies’.
If we cannot get the fundamental, and first base relationship, of male and female expressed in egalitarian ways we will really struggle to move forward to any real substance of shalom.
The lid has come off (façades?) in many situations. It does not mean that everything expressed is totally accurate (why do we expect perfection?) but there is something happening. The culture of sexual abuse and intimidation, unjust salary differences… The lid is not going back down. In the body of Christ we will need to example something clearly. If not then we can only expect to see an increase of language and action that demonises the other.
In the scheme of calling for big changes there is always something so simple, so small right at hand that we can respond with. We often miss it as it seems irrelevant. But the small and the at hand is the leverage point to shift something bigger. What can be shifted that seems so immovable if we go deeper and allow ourselves to be delivered (men) from the misogynist culture? What can shift when women faithfully inhabit their space even to the discomfort of those who resist?