Thursday, May 29, 2008

the goal of the kingdom (men and women)

In understanding how we're to live now in Jesus we need to look to God's goal of the kingdom which is already here in Jesus and is destined to take over the world. As God's people in the world but not of the world we are on mission to see people come to Christ, and also to work at God's will being done now on earth as it is done in heaven. Yes, someday that will be perfected and made complete. But it begins even now, in Jesus.

This arguably goes across the board in regard to many institutions that are considered sacred. The slave/master institution used to be considered sacred. Masters were over the slaves, and actually slavery in Israel was ahead of its time, as it was for the benefit of those enslaved who needed help. With careful laws set in place in the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), slaves were to be elgible for complete release at a certain time, having received the help they needed. In Paul's time, while he taught Christian masters to treat their slaves well, and Christian slaves to serve their masters well, yet in 1 Corinthians 7 and particularly Philemon we find him arguably, and I think clearly on careful study of these passages, putting the nail in the coffin to end that institution altogether. Of course slavery has a different sound to it today, given our own relatively recent history as a nation, over slavery of the past. Though in reality, much of the slavery of the past had its share of vices and problems as well.

A key passage in my understanding of the goal of the kingdom being important in our thinking and actions today is Galatians 3:26-29 (note also Colossians 3:9-11):
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul is saying that these distinctions, in a sense, break down, in Jesus. So that in accordance with God's creation and his new creation in Jesus there are no longer people enslaved to other people. Women are no longer ruled over by men, a consequence I believe of the fall (Genesis 3, note verse 16). As we gather from Matthew Henry, woman was created from man's side, and from close to his heart to be a partner with him, side by side, not over or under him.

Paul had to deal with the institutions of his day and the partriarchical society in which they lived. So as in other places in Scripture, God's truth accomodates to where people are living, but revelation is progressive, bringing God's people along towards the goal of the kingdom of God in Jesus.

As for men and women relationships I consider myself to be something of a complementary egalitarian (though "egalitarian" as a word is reduced because of its misuse in society today, to me simply meaning there is an equality while at the same time acknowledging the differences between male and female). I take passages as in Ephesians 5 to speak to us today directly, while at the same time accomodating the truth of God to the conventions of that time in that heavily patriarchical society. (1 Corinthians 11 must be compared with 1 Timothy 2, and other passages, in looking at this issue. A most helpful book and clearly written is by William Webb: Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. He sees the first two entities as parallel, and the last- the homosexual, as not, but forbidden in practice across the board in all of Scripture, and therefore not in God's goal of the kingdom.

Today we live in what we might call a soft patriarchical society among many and more of an egalitarian society among others. But among Christians, I doubt that the practical outworking between the two positions is different at all. Except for the place my side gives to women to serve as pastors. Most married couples make decisions together on either side, sometimes choosing to defer to one or the other as well as compromise (as we all know).

Just some food for thought in thinking through these issues in which we Christians are divided.

Any thoughts you'd like to share on this?


Anonymous said...

interesting information.

Ted M. Gossard said...

This is a tough one, Nancy, and good Christians who are equally devoted to the Lord and equally good students of Scripture are going to disagree on it.

Darrell Bock, an evangelical scholar wrote the foreword to William Webb's book I cite in this post (and Webb's book is to be reckoned with when it comes to hermeneutics, which is the "science" and art of Biblical interpretation). Bock disagrees with Webb on it, but agrees largely with the point Webb makes in the book, I think. That God accomodates himself to where his people are at, without ever condoning sin in what he instructs. And God moves us towards the goal of the kingdom of God, to be realized future but beginning- that future- even now, in Jesus.

But don't easily change your own views (which I don't think you will). This would certainly speak against the idea that the husband is to "boss" his wife around, though a wife in that situation will gain alot of help from the passages of Scripture that speak to a heavy patriarchical society in which men rulled. The husband may very well have authority over his wife, but it's to be one of a servant and one of love. So that the wife should have her way in a good number of areas and it should be a partnership. But the wife in a difficult place, while not just accepting abuse dished out on her, must by her life seek to win an unbelieving husband over. So much to say in practical outworking of this, and I wanted to share it, I guess right now, to get such things out into the open here, a little.

Anonymous said...

i appreciate this. it really is a situation that many people live in. one spouse being a believer and one not. as you know and are becoming more aware of my situation. i could, i am sure share more of what i struggle with because it might help me and others to stand. though i do not have a husband that abuses me in any worldly way, i know that the battle is spiritual and is draining emotionally and makes me sad in ways that i can not connect in these ways. i feel the battle taking place daily in our home in these ways. my husband is a very sensitive, caring, driven in his work, does not show his emotions easily (i have never seen him cry), is a very loving father but is very involved in his persuits and is working hard to provide for me and his daughters in a financial way. he is very logical with a catholic upbringing and a background in schooling and work of mechanical engineering...very logically minded. he belives in a supreme being that made everything and does not know if he prays. i think that he would prefer to ignore anything sprirtual...except that he is very active physically and needs to be...type hocky, bike riding, even reads while eating a lot. very mentally and physically driven. however, in the past few months he has been taking a yoga class at his club. and that concerns me. i went to one of the classes and it does seem to me like a door into the new age movement. we are moving father apart over the years in belief and physical and mental abilitiy. we are connected by caring and love that we started with many years ago. we also share the day to day routine and children. i know that he is a caring and loving person. still it is hard to live with the underlying battle that is going on between us. i know that it is taking it's toll on my strength and other things. as far as i know he once believed as a child, so i do not know what is in store for him...or us. all i can do is wait and hold on tight to Jesus, and think that someday i will be done here. i know that i am not living up to what i should always be in Christ...i get tired and crabby and it shows first in my closest relationships of family. i will keep my eyes on Jesus and hope that I can do what i need to do.

a good testimony to marry someone of the faith while one is strong in the faith...though no guarantees there... maybe there is a better chance, i think, to be joined spiritually as one over the entire life of the marriage.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for sharing your hurt here with us. We/I will be praying for you (have prayed some) over this.

I think you need seek to rest in the Lord more in regard to your husband. You can't do the work of seeing him come to Christ, or have a living faith; only God can do that.

So you need to look at the passages about this, such as in 1 Peter 3. You just keep living in the Lord, loving the Lord and loving him. Keep doing God's will as given to us in Scripture.

Be supportive as much as you can and let him know that he is deeply appreciated and loved. And I think you are trying to do that.

Let your faith be seen by him in your way of life with him and others. Remember, you can't expect him to do God's will as revealed in Scripture, because it's likely he isn't a believer or in the process of his life isn't where you are now- that's certain.

So while you see him as ahead of you in some ways, you're ahead in others. Let him see that in how you live which while including words is more like just your manner (again see 1 Peter 3). That can speak volumes to him as he sees your love for Jesus and love and acceptance of him. This is the way of Jesus, who also would love and accept him as he is.

Your struggling should be before God in prayer for him, not against him in his presence.

Just my thoughts. Sure would like anyone else to chime in to add to my perspective.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this encouragement and instruction. i appreciate it.

i will read it a few times to let it sink in.