“God is not distant. He knows how He will rescue you.” That was a quote from one of my pastors on Sunday in the sermon preached. I thought it was very applicable for this particular blog post. Most of my blog posts come from conversations I have with others, and this one is no different. I had the opportunity to hang out with some young women this weekend and we were talking about this topic. The post just outlined itself and I pray that it is an encouragement to you.
You may think I’ve gone mad with the title above, but believe me, I haven’t. The conversation was about how reading certain books (on the topic of biblical womanhood, complementarianism, and being a godly wife and mother) can be oppressive. I hadn’t even thought of that. But, thinking back to other conversations, I saw the problem. So…buckle up – here we go:
Oppression defined is unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power and/or a sense of being weighed down in body or mind. Both of these definitions of oppression will be covered in this post.
Examples of oppression:
….the nation of Israel under the tyranny of the Egyptians (Ex 1-12)
….women in Bible times (I often hear a quote, “thank God I’m not a sheep, a slave, or a woman.”)
….Christians during the early church movement (see DC Talk’s Jesus Freak or Fox’s Book of Martyrs for examples)
….Jews under the plight that Hitler brought.
….women in the mid-20th century America. Some felt oppressed because of the Leave-It-To-Beaver mom mindset.
….African-American slaves in America’s past or in some parts of the world even today
….The poor and needy under a careless world or most people who live in third world countries
Some people find the roles of a complementarian woman to be an oppression. Martha Peace explains “Wives respond to biblical teaching on submission in a wife variety of ways ranging from immediate acceptance to outright rejection. Some implement the principles of biblical submission in their lives, and they soon discover the joy that results. Others, perhaps because of bitterness or determination to have their own way, struggle terribly. Even if they outwardly obey, they are often resentful and rebellious in this hearts. Instead of experiencing the joy of biblical submission, they are miserable and spread their misery to others. “ (The Excellent Wife, 175) They see taking care of family to be a burden. They don’t see any freedom in their schedule. There is a constant pressure to perform up to the standards of the Proverbs 31 woman or of the writings of today’s Christian leaders. There is a sense of always striving – never ceasing. There is a need to find one’s satisfaction in their wifely duties or their clean homes. There is also a desire to have the same roles as men in the church (to preach, pastor, be elders). With these limitations on women, some see the biblical truths (not how these truths are always lived out) of complementarianism as a burden, or oppression.
God’s laws and truths are not oppressive. I love the truth that I find in Scripture, in the gospels, out of Jesus’ mouth, He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In biblical times, young men were intended to follow a rabbi or teacher of the law. The young man was said to take on the “yoke” of his master. Jesus is offering a light yoke to follow Him. Does that mean that following Jesus is easy or not ever going to be hard…no. But, His yoke, His burden, is light – because of the gospel. Wayne Grudem, a leading theologian on the topic of biblical roles for men and women is helpful with this “Where biblical patterns are not followed, husbands and wives have no clear guidance on how to act within their marriages, and there is increasing stress that brings harmful and even destructive consequences to families.” (Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 52-3)
We take on His yoke by faith, and Ephesians 2:8-9 says that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Our faith, our salvation is not of ourselves, so we can’t do anything to earn it or to lose it. Our standing in front of a holy God is not determined on our good (or bad) works. 2 Corinthians 5.21 says that “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He knew that our greatest joy would only come from Himself and that we couldn’t get to God (because of His holiness and our sinfulness) on our own, so He offered Christ.
However, because we have this faith (given as a free gift) we are expected (out of gratitude not obligation) to obey His commands. Jesus says “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15.14). (Quick side note: you may say that Jesus never really talks about complementarianism. But, the whole of Scripture is God’s Word, breathed from God, and Jesus is God, so yes.)
We obey His commands out of a deep love for Him – because He first loved us. “Beloved, let us love on another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” We love because He put His love in us, and we know the love of the Father. Author and counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick encourages us with this, “How often do you contemplate God’s love for you? I don’t mean His love for His chosen ones in general, I mean His love for you personally, a woman made in His image. Do you remember that He chose you out before the foundation of the world? Do you see that your name is eternally inscribed upon the palms of His hands? Do you revel in the compelling love that provides what you needed before you were even aware of your needs? Dear sisters, since God loves us so much, surely we ought to love our husbands.” (Helper by Design, 129).
The greatest display of that love is the Gospel – the good news that Christ died on a cross on our behalf. Christ died in our place. We couldn’t not have died because the guild penalty would not have been covered. But, Christ was our perfect sacrifice.
And our adherence to the laws of God, especially in this light of biblical womanhood, have a great reach for the gospel. Carolyn Mahaney puts it this way, “The commands found in Titus 2 have been given to us for an all-important reason that transcends time and culture. That reason is the gospel of Jesus Christ. These virtues are not about our personal fulfillment or individual preference. They are required for the sake of unbelievers – so that those who are lost might come to know our Savior.” (Feminine Appeal, 26).
If complementarianism seems oppressive, it is the result of sin in the world, not the laws and rules of God in and of themselves. Sin has distorted everything. Three ways I see that sin affects complementarianism is: our own drive toward perfectionism, sinful ruling of man (abuse, tyranny, not loving their wives as Christ loved the church), or legalism (thinking our good behavior will enable our right standing with our Savior). None of these lie at the foundation of complementarianism. All of them lie in the root of sin. Remember, when the roles of men and women were established was in the pre-fall Garden of Eden, not a post-fall Eden. Beth Impson chimes in with “The Fall left us with sin natures, part of which include man’s tendency to lord power over the woman in his life and woman’s tendency to desire inappropriate control and independence. Redemption in Christ frees us from the power of sin but fleshly patterns and worldly influences can confuse our daily walk and our understanding of the masculine and feminine natures God has given us.” (Called to Womanhood, 121)
1. If single female: pursue Christ. Pursue His Word and how you are to live out your faith, your love of God, and your femininity.
2. If married female: pursue Christ. Don’t become discouraged. Love God, love the God who made you exactly who you are, serve as to the Lord.
3. If single males: Encourage your sisters in Christ with the Word – not with man-made laws. Don’t expect them to be perfect, none of us are (and women, this goes for you looking for Mr. Right as well, don’t expect perfection.)
4. If husbands: love your wives as Christ loved the church, encourage her as your wife. She will not be like someone else’s wife – and expectations can be oppressive. Talk about these, open lines of communication, not accusation or disappointment.
All (women): live out the truths of Complementarianism (Ephesians 5,1 Peter 3, Titus 2, etc) in light of the Gospel – not the oppression of a sinful society.