Why are we as the people of God not talking a whole lot more about gender?
Here are some comments I have heard recently and increasingly that might help to answer that question;
1. ‘We are so over this, do we have to go over the “gender thing” again?’
2. ‘This is such a contentious issue it only causes division. Let’s just get on with it’
3. ‘Everyone has pretty much made up their minds about this and things are just not going to change’
4. ‘We have already made enough progress the “battle” is won’.
5. ‘I don’t think that the gender thing is a gospel issue so let’s just focus on the important things rather than the peculiarities that separate us’.
6. ‘John Piper says…’ , ‘Mark Driscoll says…’
You might be able to think of some more comments that act to stifle discussion and imagination around this issue. At the moment I can’t think of any public forums and resources that are widely held and circulated in this city which engage with the topic of gender to a level that can inspire and teach people about the kingdom of God perspective on this.
And I do mean the kingdom of God perspective on this.
For me the Kingdom of God has always been a source of inspiration ever since I heard about it when I was studying at Morling Theological college over ten years ago now. The picture of this kingdom of God presented to me as I read Scripture is of justice, beauty, kindness, reconciled relationships. A place where loneliness is banished and violence ceases to exist, abuse is unheard of, talk is peppered with generosity, insecurities are nullified, joy is released, boundaries between rich and poor are taken away and organisations experience renewal. In short the Kingdom of God or the reign of God is an notion which engages the deepest longings that reside in every human being, sometimes termed in our popular imagination as the desire for utopia.
This kingdom however is not a shadowy ideal but it is an embodied idea, it has invaded the earth through Jesus Christ. Moreover as we all know, the kingdom is “now” but it is also “not yet”. So we have been given a kick start through Jesus and also we have been given resources needed such as a new nature, the power of the Spirit, a renewed mind to be able to receive and extend more of his kingdom on the earth. This is the “now” aspect of the kingdom and it is where my imagination is ignited visualising all the possibilities of the way our world could be.
The “not yet” aspect of the kingdom can sometimes make me feel discouraged. I know that we will only see the magnificence and unspeakable beauty of the kingdom when Jesus returns. I know that. I know we must still live in a broken world with sickness, death, sin. However if we have been given a new nature, a renewed mind and the power of the Spirit why do we see so little change now? Why is this vision of the kingdom of God so small and seemingly plodding…one step forward, two steps back.
And so this is where I get quite annoyed with the 6 comments written at the beginning of this blog.
To me each comment seems to lack imagination of what could be, To me each comment seems to accept the status quo. To me each comment seems to not understand or see the disparity between what is and what could be. It seems to me that these comments not only show a blind spot regarding gender but also a shortsightedness regarding the theology of the kingdom of God. Seems to me sometimes we would rather narrow down the gospel to a reductionist ‘Jesus saves me from my sins so that I will go to heaven’ type “gospel” rather than understanding that the gospel impacts every aspect of our lives individually and communally, locally and globally. The kingdom vision is that big!
Not only are we sitting in the status quo moreover, if we live out the comments stated we seriously undermine that crucial part of the kingdom of God- reconciled relationships. Jesus came to reconcile humanity with God but he also came to be the source that reconciles us to each other. Some might disagree with me but in terms of human relationships I think the biggest reconciliation that needs to happen is between men and women!
You just need to have a look and listen to popular culture to see the desperate need for reconciliation between men and women. For example the theme for the next Masterchef series a popular cooking show, is the ‘Battle of the sexes’. In the advertisements typical gender stereotypes are perpetuated which only act to inflame and highlight the competition and unresolved resentment between men and women. How can a battle of the sexes be good in any sense? We might laugh and chuckle about it and say that it is a lighthearted attempt to get a competition going. Really? And we hear that sort of terminology like ‘Battle of the sexes’ in our society in general continually.
Even though Christians might be ‘over’ the gender debate most of society is engaging with the issue constantly. We might hear one day on the news that women still do not get paid the same as men, on another day that men are confused by feminism and sometimes act angrily as a response but really they are just trying to work out where they now fit in society. On another day we might hear about how young girls in the majority world are the most disadvantaged people in the whole world, another time we might read about the increase of domestic violence in our nation or the increase of confusion regarding gender roles. The issue around the question ‘Are men and women really different?’ still churns over in people’s minds. People are interested in this.
The reason that the world is interested is because the ‘battle’ between men and women is as old as the Fall itself. A distorted relationship is clearly evident in Genesis 3:16. Whatever your view is on gender clearly there is a sad distortion depicted there that has become ingrained in us forevermore…that is until we remember Jesus and the kingdom of God.
I just love this verse of Scripture:
‘For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1:19-20)
‘ALL THINGS’ is pretty clear and it includes the broken relationship between men and women which is reconciled through the cross of Jesus. That means according to Scripture the world looks to us as followers of Jesus to bring reconciliation! Instead we lag behind the world rather than be at the forefront of change. Personally I find this embarrassing and in my dark moments depressing.
The world might run programs, initiate egalitarian work practices, coach people on gender roles which is all good, yet Scripture tells us that the people of God are responsible through the peacemaking cross of Christ to reconcile the relationship between men and women. And this goes beyond the necessary yet tiresome perpetual debate around complementarian and egalitarian views of women in ministry, it moves to seek deep reconciliation, peace, mutuality between men and women.
No wonder we are having a harder time with issues like homosexuality, singleness, transgender people…if we have not developed a hungry imagination for reconciled relationships as would be embraced in the kingdom of God, then what hope do we have to deal with even more complex issues such as these?
Let’s talk more about gender. It is a kingdom of God issue and the world waits for the solution through the cross of Jesus Christ to bring to fulfillment its deepest longings….longings that God himself has placed there.