The War Between the Sexes
The “war between the sexes” is a common motif, idea, and joke amongst both Christian and non-Christian circles. Think of all the classic episodes of your favorite sitcoms that put the men vs. the women in some wacky game. (One of my favorite episodes of Friends, for examples, involves Monica and Rachel competing against Chandler and Joey to see who knows whom better. It’s a classic, people.) While this “men are from mars, women are from venus” discourse is often a harmless idea, I think that we can (and often have) let it seep into ministry in destructive ways.
The question of how men and women interact is given a whole other messy layer when thought about and discussed within Christianity and the Church. We live in a current Christian context that is obsessed with the question of proper male and female roles. Think of Mark Driscoll, Wild at Heart and Captivating, John Piper’s trumpeting of the doctrine of complementarianism, and many other examples of Christian leaders trying to tell men and women how they are supposed to live out their faith in very specific ways.
I don’t want to get too in-depth to these discussions, as they are obviously touchy subjects that many feel passionately about. Instead, I would like to tell my own story that relates to these questions and the issue of how men and women interact to communicate why I think Christian culture needs a shift in mindset. I believe, desperately, that men and women need to learn how to see each other as spiritual equals, that we need to begin standing up for the value of women within the Church, and that men and women need to work together in unity.
My Own Bitterness
I will admit, readily, that I have a lot of bitterness towards Christian men. I am a feminist (now, before you conjure up images of bra-burning and man hating and shut out the rest of this article, let me tell you that you that there are many different types of feminists and certain types of feminist ideologies fit beautifully with the gospel). Because of my passion for women to understand their value and worth, I have a well trained eye to see how women are often devalued within the church.
I have often felt hurt by Christian men. I have felt ignored. I have felt like my spiritual worth is seen as less important than the spiritual value of men. I have felt angry in how even Christian men position themselves, care about, and comment on my beauty/physicality/appearance as well as the physical appearance of other women.
These are deeply felt hurts and issues that I very much know are destructive. This bitterness is something that I am currently working through with the Lord, something that I pray about almost every day, asking that the Lord would heal me and restore me from. My bitterness towards Christian men is just as destructive to the Church as the devaluing of Christian women is. Because it separates, it destroys, it keeps my heart locked up and afraid. This bitterness is a way that Satan lies to me and it is a way that ministry is stalled.
Moving Towards Reconciliation
We are often told, both within and without of Christianity, that men and women are incredibly different. I think that’s probably true. I think we probably are different. But why I am saddened and angry is that this difference has been used as an excuse to keep men and women apart in ministry. It has been used as an excuse to put up a wall and discourage unity. And this separation creates destruction.
I certainly see the value in same-sex Bible studies and prayer groups and I am not arguing against them. But I also know that I have learned from men and that men have learned from me. I think there are moments, spaces, times in which it is good and healthy for men and women to engage in spiritual conversation with one another. I think we need to learn how to embrace what it means to truly live as brothers and sisters in Christ. I think we need to stop living in fear of each other.
I believe that God deeply cares about His children and that He deeply cares about our reconciliation. I believe that God has created both men and women for a reason. I believe that He has great plans for our ministry and I think He wants us to work together in these plans. Because of this, I believe that we must commit ourselves to working towards a restoration of this great men vs. women divide and we must learn to value each other as the Lord values us.
I leave you with a passage from Joel that I think is a beautiful picture of the vision God has for how his sons and daughters will work together and will be unified in His ministry:
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” – Joel 2:28 – 29
He has poured out His Spirit on both of us, men and women, so let’s walk daily in the unity of that Spirit.