Equality

Introduction 

Some Christians believe that women are, and should be, subordinate to men, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Having researched and reflected on this issue for many years, I want to examine it in some detail, beginning with a question:

Did Jesus ever teach, state, claim, suggest, imply, or show by his behaviour that he considered women to be subordinate to men?

Jesus’ attitude to women 

The Gospels illustrate how Jesus went out of his way to include and relate to women in ways which were revolutionary for a man in a highly patriarchal society. He talked with them, listened to them, taught them, touched them, healed them and ate with them. He had close women friends and cared about women’s spiritual development. He depended on his female followers’ financial backing, and received their emotional support to the very end of his life, when all his male disciples except John had fled. Women were also the first witnesses of his resurrection. 

Jesus’ male disciples were sometimes shocked  by how closely and equally he related to women, as seen when they found him talking to the woman at the well (John 4:26; NLT).

Perhaps most significantly of all, there is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus excluded women from becoming his disciples:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NLT). 

Saint Paul’s attitude to women 

So, given Jesus’ egalitarian example, where did the belief that Christian women should be subservient to men originate? Here I turn to the letters of Saint Paul. A tough, educated and opinionated man, Paul did not question the culture of his day with regard to the sexes:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (Colossians 3:18; NLT).

Going even further, he instructed churches to silence women members, regardless of their spiritual gifts:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (1 Colossians 14:34-5; NLT). 

In saying this, Paul presumably felt he was adhering to the Gospel, even though Jesus said nothing of the kind. 

It’s interesting to note that in his letter to the Galatians, Paul once stated the exact opposite of what he wrote to the Colossians. Experiencing a moment of sublime insight into the essential equality and oneness not just of the sexes, but of all people, he was able to write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). 

Historical context

I don’t know how Paul managed to square his contradictory views on women, but I take care to bear in mind how strongly his writing was influenced by his historical context. Although he was an extraordinary, sometimes inspired, speaker and writer, he was also a fallible man of his times, whose views were shaped by widely-held beliefs and prejudices, some of which unfortunately crept into his letters.

Unfortunately, these non-Gospel aspects of his teaching have continued to influence others ever since. Thus, when powerful men spent years arguing about which books should be included in the Biblical Canon, most of those by, for, and about women were ruthlessly excluded. The selections they made still influence Christian belief and practice over 2,000 years later.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand why Paul’s conventionally patriarchal attitude to women came to be so thoroughly embraced throughout history, whilst Jesus’ consistently loving, egalitarian approach has been largely ignored. Even as I write, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that Paul’s first-century beliefs about the roles and status of women and men continue to influence so many individuals, families, congregations and denominations right up to the present day.

Nothing

Context: When this little prayer arrived yesterday, I scribbled it down, then had to get up early to go into town. My aim was to tackle my most feared  department store lift (see yesterday’s blog).

After four rides in 2 different lifts, I was absolutely exhausted. During the afternoon and evening, I fell asleep repeatedly whilst working on the morning’s notes, not finishing work on them until after 11.30pm. Here is the result:

Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:39; NLT). 

Nothing comes between us, Lord,
And nothing blocks our way.

We share unbroken unity;
We walk, and talk, and pray.

Our friendship has no start, no end
On earth, in heaven above,

In mind or heart, in life or death:
For we are one in love.

You …are complete through your union with Christ
(Colossians 2:10; NLT).


References 

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9; NLT).

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:11; NLT).

You are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me (John 15:15; NLT). 

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NLT).

Those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life (John 5:24; NLT).

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3; NIV). 

Pray for peace


I will pray for peace (Psalm 122:8; CEV). 

I pray for peace in every mind,
That pride and hate will always fail,
That all will turn to you at last, Lord God,
And faith prevail.    

I pray for joy in every heart,
That rage and greed will always fail,
That you will reign in every life, Lord God,
And hope prevail. 

I pray for truth in every soul,
That lies and force will always fail,
That all will grow in unity, Lord God, 
And love prevail.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; NIV).

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

The song of the dead

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day,
nor the moon to give its light by night,
for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light.
(Isaiah 60:19; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

Father, brighter than the sun;
Jesus, every battle won;
Spirit, all your work is done:
We love you.

Lord, we walked the path you trod;
You, our guide, with staff and rod,
Leading us straight back to God:
We love you. 

Every enemy outrun;
Here, no hatred, fear, or gun;
All will live in union:
We love you. 

Father, we have run our race;
Jesus, we can see your face;
Spirit, overwhelming grace:
We love you. 

Lord, in paradise, at last,
Every pain and grief is past;
You have saved us, held us fast:
We love you. 

Now, our joy, Lord, has begun;
Now, we hear you say: Well done!
Now, we know you, Three-In-One:
And love you.

🖤

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.
(1 Chronicles 29:11; NLT).

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
(Revelation 21:4; NLT). 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12; NIV).

 


We are wretched

All the days of the oppressed are wretched.
(Proverbs 15:15; NIV). 

Father,
We are wretched,
Pitiful and weak,
For we have been invaded,
And the strong oppress the meek.

Father,
We are anxious,
Hungry, thirsty, poor,
For we are now blockaded,
And the strong despise your law.

Father,
We are homeless,
Distressed in heart and mind,
Yet everyone is fragile,
And all lives are intertwined.

Father,
We are battered
By hardship, bomb and gun,
But weak and strong are suffering –
For all of us are one.

🖤


References

You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17; NIV).

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other (Romans 12:5; NLT). 

If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it (1 Corinthians 12:26; CSB). 

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).

 


 

Consequences

You did not reflect on your actions or think about their consequences.
(Isaiah 47:7; NLT). 

There will be wave on wave
Of plague,
Until we’ve realised
Everything it has to teach
About our own shortsightedness,
Our foolishness,
Our selfishness
And greed.

There will be wave on wave
Of plague,
Until we’ve suffered
Everything it has to show
About our basic unity,
Our kinship,
Our fragility
And need.

There will be wave on wave
Of plague,
Until we’ve tackled
Everything it has to say
About our deep unwillingness
To lend, give, share,
Co-operate,
And care.

🖤

Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need.
Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it.
In this way, things will be equal.
(2 Corinthians 8:14; NLT).

 


“Self” is only an illusion

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).

‘Self’ is only an illusion;
‘Me’ and ‘you’, a deep delusion.
‘Us’ and ‘them’ are meaningless:
All God conceives is one.

For he is over all he makes,
And dwells in all he procreates;
To claim autonomy, absurd:
All God begets is one.

For he adores all he sustains,
And lives through all that he maintains.
Three-fold, in unity, he reigns:
All God brings forth is one.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:4-6; NLT).


Every breath (for David)

Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

May every breath I take
Be shared with you,
And every thought I have
Become a prayer.

May every word I speak
Be filled with love,
And every task I face
Be done with care.

Then I will dwell, Lord, always
In your hand.
No matter what I face,
You’ll help me through:

Lord,
May I rest forever
In your peace,
And dwell in perfect unity
With you.

You also are complete
through your union with Christ
(Colossians 2:10; NLT).

In contemplation

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you
(James 4:8; NKJV).

1. Lord,
In contemplation,
I watch my thoughts arise;
Wrapping them in love, I lay them down,
With soft goodbyes.

2. Lord,
In contemplation,
I watch my thinking fade,
Waiting, still and silent, as your glory
Is unveiled.

3. Lord,
In contemplation,
I watch my thinking cease;
Slowly coming closer, till we meet
In joy and peace.

4. Lord,
In contemplation,
I’m drawn into your gaze;
At last, our souls unite, and I am lost
In wordless praise.


References

1. When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

Leave all iniquity behind you (Job 11:14; NLT).

He told them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick (Mark 6:8; NLT).

They left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:11; NLT).

2. Wait patiently for the Lord (Psalm 27:14; NLT).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NIV).

Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).

We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image (2 Colossians 3:18; NIV).

3. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you (James 4:8; NKJV).

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

4. The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love (Psalm 33:18; NIV).

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26; NIV).

Three-In-One

Image: skeeze, Pixabay

1. Father,
The divinity of God:
You form us,
Then you give us life and breath.

2. Jesus,
The humanity of God:
You came to earth
To set us free from death.

3. Spirit,
The veracity of God:
You come to bring us power
From above.

4. Three-In-One,
The unity of God:
You long for us
To join your dance of love.


References

1. You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13; NIV).

He himself gives everyone life and breath (Acts 17:25; NIV).

2. Though he [Jesus] was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being (Philippians 2:6-7; NLT).

He [God] gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; NLT).

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven (Luke 24:49; NLT).

4. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; NIV).

The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; NIV).

The Lord longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; NIV).

The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).