At one of our last small group meeting we discussed male and female relationships within Christian community. Our group has been meeting for over seven years. We care for each other, know each other’s story fairly well, and are respectful as to where each of us is on the spiritual journey. We all honor Jesus as Lord of our lives, believe in Scripture as the Word of God, and want God’s best in our lives. Our discussion of gender roles and values, made it very apparent to me how sensitive and personal the discussion of gender has become among the followers of Jesus. Here are some take-aways from our discussion.
First the need for what I would call “gender sensitivity.” While all six of us are sincere followers of Jesus, is was obvious that we held different views regarding the role and responsibility of male and female both within marriage and in the church. Issues that dealt with such subjects as “headship,” “submission,” and “feminism” were seen from different perspectives. The whole discussion around egalitarian vs. complementarian interpretations of scripture, produced decidedly different points of view. We basically decided to “agree to disagree.” I personally saw the need to practice “gender sensitivity.” Today’s cultural climate is very different from the early 70’s when I was forming my views. The roles have become much more unsettled.
Secondly, the need for “gender security.” This applies personally as well as in marriage. I find that the more I am secure in my gender identity, the more open, caring and responsive I can be in the gender discussions. In my marriage, I need to continue to have frank and honest dialogue with my wife regarding our unique role and responsility as man and woman who are “one flesh.” The more naturally we relate to one another, the more effective our witness can be in a culture that is confused regarding relationships between husband and wives.
Thirdly, be open to hear the storys of “gender mistreatment.” The memory of our personal stories often reflect unresolved anger and hidden hurt due to the dysfunction of mother and father in our family relationships. This contributes to distortions regarding gender roles and responsibilities. For example, when I have spoken before groups made up of predominately women, I confess my misogynist past due in part to my father’s example. I have publicly asked for forgiveness for the way women have been treated in the past by men..
Fourthly, don’t impose your views on others. In the past I have been guilt of imposing my view of healthy masculinity unto other men who are different from myself. I have also reacted to strong women, because my mother was a dominating mother who unknowingly smothered her first born son emotionally. As a pastor I have been guilty of judging the “marriage dynamic” of others, based on my experience of marriage.
Fifthly, respect how each is working out their roles. This can be very difficult in a day with the ascendency of the feminine and the descent of the masculine in the gender wars. Our task as men is to become secure in our masculine soul, learning God’s plan for the role he has given us in the culture and to be have a servant heart to all who we relate to at home, church and in the culture.
Finally, remember that we owe a debt of love to all others. “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).