Paul’s various teachings on women in the church also demonstrate cultural sensitivity and awareness to various situations. Some, like my “modernity-is-the-best-theology” friends, struggle to make ONE logical teaching out of Paul and Jesus’ diverse treatment of women. The result is a messy, insensible teaching. How can women be allowed to prophesy in one place, and then be told to be silent in another? How can women be the first to testify to the truth of the resurrection, be noted among the apostles, and yet be unable to hold positions of leadership? It’s hard to explain if you believe all truth must always fit into tight little logical syllogisms. If you read the bible through the lens of western-modernism it is hard to make sensible. But if you understand some truth must be tailored to the culture, these contradictions are no problem – just examples of how the truth of God’s grace, love, and righteousness can be applied correctly, yet differently depending on the situation.
This is exactly the kind of relativity the “Friends” abhor. This is not about opening the door to heresy, but opening the door to unity and cultural inclusively. The “Friends” rejection of this biblical practice is part of the reason some see them as racist. By rejecting diverse – yet scriptural – beliefs and practices they de facto embrace and perpetrate white privilege through their power and theology.
I have witnessed first hand the destructive power this tacit and silent (and often unintended) form of racism has on people of color. Because of this the church continues to be one of the most racially segregated places in America and because of this many non-whites have rejected the Jesus of Nazareth. They reject him not for the truth of who he is, but because they are told they must view him through a euro-ameican lens.
When Jesus told the parable of the tares (Matthew 13) he was addressing the desire of those who, for the sake of doctrinal purity, wanted to rip the weeds out of the field of wheat. He made the point by trying to weed out the bad you will also destroy the good. Maybe we should focus more on sowing good seeds and being fruitful, and less on trying to search for weeds and rip them out.
Would the church would be more respected as the body of Christ if we tried to live out verses like this?:
- 1 John 3: 16ff We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Could you imagine a church or college where this verse was part of the “test” for who is a real Christian?
But too often it seems us Christians fall into the trap Paul warned Timothy about in 1 Timothy, when we have a pet theory or doctrine we want to promote –
- …. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
Lord, Let us humble follow you in love, and not drive others away with our arrogance.