Learning unity in Christ

Any discussion of shared authority and responsibility between men and women must start with the importance Jesus placed on unity among His followers. Jesus’ prayer over all believers in John 17 places unity at the top of the list of concerns He brings to the Father. In that prayer He asks that we would be one even as He and the Father are one. Jesus specifically states that this unity among His followers will cause others to come into relationship with Him (verses 21-23). The unity He describes lays the foundation for shared authority and responsibility between all Christ followers. Paul expands on this when he emphasizes in Galatians 3 that as we follow Christ we no longer live within the boundaries created by differences of race, cultural belief, social status or gender that commonly separate people. These differences don’t disappear and we shouldn’t expect them to. Unity is oneness, not sameness. We are to be avenues of grace to each other, mutually submitted to one another, learning to live as one in Christ. [Read more…]

Male and female He created them

I try to read a variety of sources to help keep my thinking flexible and my mind open which is what brought me recently to The Gospel Coalition blog. As I read this article, however, (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/07/22/beware-romantic-pornography) I felt troubled rather than challenged. This certainly isn’t the first thing I’ve seen decrying the perceived emasculation of men in today’s society. There is a lot of discussion going on about how Christ followers (those who strive to emulate the example He gave us and reflect His image in the world) should represent gender. This article attempts to make the case that current American culture is predisposed to require men to act like women in order to be found acceptable. The author points to movies and television shows to reinforce her premise, specifically mentioning the writings of Nora Ephron and Jane Austen. (A quick review of the highest rated TV shows or top grossing movies this year paints a different picture.)

The article compares sexual porn targeted at men with so-called “romantic/emotional porn” targeting women. The comparison is based on the premise that both sexual and “romantic/emotional” porn twist the perception of the viewer concerning the reality of the other sex. I agree with this to a certain extent. Replacing realistic understanding of one another with skewed or fantastical images does not contribute to building healthy relationships or to reflecting the image of God. The author, however, moves on to make this statement:

“And the unidimension of men in romantic porn gets magnified because our mainstream culture has a “man bad, woman good” view that opposes traditionally male qualities (unless they turn up in women, but that’s another column). In a symptom of what’s going on in the culture at large, “rom coms” and many television sitcoms denigrate such traits such as aggression, competitiveness, a certain amount of stoicism, and even the desire to protect and care for a woman.”

[Read more…]

Advancing the kingdom

“Thanks, everyone, for helping to advance the kingdom.” The words hung in the air and I could almost see them in a comic strip-style balloon hanging over his head. The man who made the statement is the senior pastor of the community of Jesus followers my husband and I are a part of.

Let me start by saying that our community describes itself as “a church for people who aren’t into church.” This description plays itself out in many ways, one of which is an intense focus on home churches. Every week there are small groups of between five and thirty people meeting together in someone’s home to discuss the sermon. The setting is informal, relaxed and very much like extended family. In short it seems to embody much of what it means to be part of a community of Jesus followers. The weekly teaching is available by podcast and on the church’s web site, so frequently there are home church participants who didn’t attend a Sunday morning service. The teaching comes from a general perspective of advocating for peace and the end of religious forms without meaning, among other things. All of these things have contributed to helping me feel comfortable there as I’ve spent the last couple of years exploring what I really believe about church.

I’ve started cautiously putting my toe back in the water of church involvement by volunteering. I spend my time counting out support materials for the children’s Sunday morning classes. There’s nothing about what I’m doing that could remotely be described as high profile and that’s fine with me. Like I said, I’m just getting my toes wet. I believe that in the description Jesus gave us of His values, He sees substance in all contributions. [Read more…]