This post is hard. It’s hard because I have literally just had my soul wrecked by my own sinfulness and arrogance. It’s because of those two things that I have to write this, because I know I’m not alone and there are many people who need to hear this story. Not for the sake of reading about the Spirit convicting me, but for the sake of doing a much better job of pursuing unity in the Church and making much of Christ.
Last weekend I spent a good ten hours reading Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey so that I could finish it in time to run my review on it this past week. If you haven’t read it yet, please go read it. I received several positive responses to the review, and it seemed to spark the interest of some of my other friends. But there was one response that literally sent me away in tears.
One of my youth leaders from the church I grew up attending left a comment on my Facebook link to the review that said:
Jesus fit their political disposition.
Y’all, I’m not kidding when I say this sent me away in tears. This crushed me. Partly because I could see and feel so much of Sarah’s heart in her book that I could only imagine her having to read those words. And I only post them here because this post needs to have its full weight. This comment also got to me because this is the kind of stuff I FIGHT against every day online and in life. Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and in person conversations I am trying for the love of God to be an example of a conservative evangelical Christian who doesn’t just dismiss people who have a different view. I’m trying to have conversations and build relationships as best I can with people who have been burned by the church or who view Complementarian gender roles as oppressive and patriarchal when that’s not what it is or is supposed to be. And to see that coming from one of my youth leaders…all I could do was fall on my knees and beg God to move by his Spirit to break our hearts and unite us. I felt like William Wallace begging Robert the Bruce to unite the clans in Braveheart. Not even kidding. There is that much at stake here, guys.
After I spent time in prayer and went on to finish reading the book I was working through, I kind of got past it. Then the next day as I’m reading in Starbucks my mind and heart was drawn back to that again, and the feeling of both annoyance and longing for God to move his Church past this overwhelmed me again. In the midst of all of that, while I was staring at the ceiling doing my best to hold back tears at the thought of Christ’s Bride continuing to stab herself because we’d rather be right than rescued, I realized that if I didn’t know Sarah from reading her blog and conversing somewhat on Twitter, that I’d have done the same thing. That’s when the bomb dropped and shattered any pretense of “togetherness” I thought I had.
Because the reality of it is that if I walked past this book randomly in the Christian section of Barnes and Noble or saw it on Amazon, I’d have rolled my eyes and moved on. Wondering what in the world the author thought she was doing putting the words “Jesus” and “Feminist” together. And I’d have been wrong. I’d have been arrogant and prideful and as a consequence I’d have missed out on the enormous blessing that reading Jesus Feminist turned out to be.
Conservatives. Complementarians. Whatever we want to call ourselves, we can’t be this way. We can’t flippantly dismiss others just because they don’t agree with us. Hear me now, even if (emphasis on if ) they are doing some kind of hermeneutical gymnastics to make their point, they are men and women created in the image of God who deserve better from us. I’ll give you that secular feminism has infiltrated Christian feminism and that we have to do hard work to differentiate the two. But we need to do that work because there is a difference. We need to thoughtfully engage each other and TALK, not argue or fight or debate, about what’s going on and what their real concerns are. Jesus Feminist didn’t even touch politics that I can recall, and it certainly wasn’t the heart of the book. When we assume we know what those who disagree with us mean, we really make an ass of ourselves and don’t display the glory of God well at all.
Liberals. Egalitarians. Whatever you want to call yourselves. Pretty much everything I said to the conservatives above applies here, but with one thing added: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how we, how I, often treat you, even if it’s just internally and is never expressed verbally. We love you. I love you. Holding back tears as I write this, we need to pursue unity. Not uniformity. There is grace to be different for everything else, from baptism to spiritual gifts to eschatology, there has to be grace for this too.
We need to pray for strength and wisdom to love each other well. We need to forgive each other like Christ forgave us. The world is watching. The world is dying. How effective are we at proclaiming the gospel to the lost when we’re so busy being distracted by gender roles?
How are we going to reach the lost if we’re so concerned about proving ourselves right? Guys,the whole point of the gospel is that we can’t get it right without Christ’s work on the cross and the Spirit illuminating our minds and hearts?
Let’s pursue humility and unity. Let’s pursue and extend love and grace.