I’ve been reading Jeanie Miley’s new book Joining Forces. Several of you at Southland make appearances in the book (all positive), so you may want to check it out. Jeanie covers quite a bit of ground in this book, talking about the many struggles we humans encounter as we attempt to live out our maleness and femaleness in this world and in the church. She starts where every discussion should start on this topic, with the great truth that God made both male and female in his image. In fact, when we read Genesis 1, we realize that a community only truly reflects God’s image when both male and female giftedness are allowed to shine.
The church has struggled with this for a long time, from many different directions. The most obvious is in the way the way the church has attempted to quiet feminine forms of leadership, whether openly or subtly. How many Spirit-filled sermons, how much pastoral care, how many wise decisions have been hampered through the centuries because well over half of the church’s participants have been refused a voice? On the other hand, while the church has emphasized male leadership through the centuries, it has often struggled to attract and keep male participation at the lay level (this has been true since the beginning days of Christianity when a Roman official described the church as a collection of “women and slaves”). Books about why men hate the church are the latest fad to hit Christian book stores. They seem to indicate that male ways of thinking and acting often feel out of place in current styles of worship.
It’s easy to turn these problems into an “us” vs. “them” situation. My gender vs. your gender. We’ve done this in the past and left injured and hurting people in our wake. But such gender warfare clearly misses the point of Christian community and the way of Christ. Healing begins when through the Spirit’s power we attempt to return to Genesis 1 and remember that we were created together to be God’s reflected image in the world. In the church, exclusively male ways of thinking will not suffice. Neither will exclusively female ways of thinking. We need one another in all our uniqueness, both male and female. Our coming together doesn’t mean giving up our maleness or our femaleness, but rather recognizing that our being a male or a female is itself a gift from God meant to be used for his Kingdom’s glory. We remember also, that my neighbor’s gender, especially if it is different than mine, is also a gift from God.
Jürgen Moltmann, the great German theologian puts it this way, “If we want to do justice to the fellowship of women and men in the church, we must therefore come to have a new understanding of the church based on the shared experience of the Spirit. There is one Spirit, but there are many spiritual [gifts] . . . To be a woman is a charisma [a gift], to be a man is a charisma [a gift].” How true. I hope today, whether you are male or female, you’ll know that you, with all your gifts, with all your idiosyncrasies, with all your uniqueness, are made in God’s image and are his gift to our church and to the world.
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them – Genesis 1:27.