(FYI: there is more to the panel conversation from Sunday that you can see here)
We did something unusual on Sunday. For many, it was lifegiving and liberating. I’ll share some of those stories in this post. But I also want to acknowledge that Sunday was confusing for some folks. I’ve had a few people reach out to me about it. It’s obvious that I could have done a better job of connecting the dots. So I’m going to attempt to do that here.
Let’s be honest, the picture above is how most of us deal with some topics. We sit alone and imagine how others feel, but we don’t usually go into the dangerous waters of actually inviting someone who might think differently to honestly share their experience. That’s what I was doing. When the treatment of women became THE topic of conversation in America a few month’s ago, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, ‘that doesn’t apply to me.’ I assumed that the issue was limited to predators and gropers and perverts.
But I was wrong. God reached into my soul and reminded me that what ends in bad behavior begins with attitudes and perspectives. I felt God prod me to look harder and to ask more questions. And what I discovered revealed my own naiveté. I had no idea what was really happening, and I was totally shocked by it.
If you were in church on Sunday, you might remember Samantha Dillenback say, “I’m surprised at the surprise. Women have always known this was happening.” I confess that I did not. And I’m a little embarrassed about it.
I’m not talking about explicitly bad behavior. Everyone knows that sexually assaulting someone is wrong. And everyone knows that it happens.
What I was oblivious to was the more subtle and seemingly innocent ways that we don’t always equally value women. It isn’t usually with ill intent. And sometimes we blame it on tradition or heritage or ‘the way I was raised’. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it.
So Sunday was intended to highlight the reality that the Acts church elevated the value to women to where God always intended it.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
From God’s perspective, women are completely, totally, 100% as valuable as men. That’s a statement that probably everyone nods their head at. But we don’t always live it out. This includes people who are inside the church and pursuing the character of Jesus.
Beth Moore, who has been a powerful Bible teacher for decades, wrote an open letter on May 3 that spoke boldly to this issue – an issue that many have dismissed. Here are some of her words:
“I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women…I long for the day – have asked for the day – when we can sit in roundtable discussions to consider ways we might best serve and glorify Christ as the family of God, deeply committed to the authority of the Word of God and to the imitation of Christ.”
I strongly encourage you to read her entire post here.
If you say, like I did, ‘I don’t need this conversation’, then, with all respect, you might need it more than most. You, like me, might be blinded by your own naiveté. Ask some women around you to sit down and ask them questions, like I did of that panel. Don’t be defensive and don’t get political. This isn’t a conservative or liberal thing. There’s no hidden agenda, except to learn from each other so that we can achieve the intent of Galatians 3:28 and live it out fully. I think you’ll be shocked by the stories you hear. I know I have been. I didn’t have to search through a bunch of women to find a small minority who could testify to being devalued. Almost everyone woman I talked to had a personal story about it. I was shocked. Sometimes I cried for them. Sometimes, the emotion was remorse at my own ignorance. Shame on me for being silent for so long. Shame on me for burying my head in the sand.
Yesterday, I walked into a local coffee shop and as soon as I stepped through the door, a chorus of people shouted my name. I turned to see some folks from our church sitting at a table. They excitedly called me over – they had been talking about something that happened as a result of Sunday’s service. A young woman in her early 20’s described to me a situation at her work where she was being treated differently (and worse) because she was a woman. This wasn’t a grey area kind of thing. When I heard the story, I was shocked at how she was being treated. I though, “THAT is still happening today?!?
She said, “After Sunday, I knew what I could do. I knew I had the tools and the inspiration to have the conversation. So today, I sat in a meeting with 6 men…and me. And I told them respectfully but clearly that things needed to change. I was of equal value as any man. I asked them to treat me that way.” Then that young woman and her family looked right in my eye and said, “Thank you for what you did for me on Sunday.” I was blown away. I walked to my car and cried and thanked God. She’s not the only story of thanksgiving that came out of Sunday.
At the same time, doors have been opened for me to have conversations with women who had put all men into the ‘predator’ category. I had one woman say to me, “Most men are not good guys. You’re the exception.” I listened to her share tearfully about being abused by multiple men. No wonder she though most guys are bad! But by listening and caring, I was able to share that, while I understood why she would feel that way, she was actually a little misguided factually. Most men are actually good guys, I told her. The predators are the exceptions – they stand out, but they are the small fraction of men. And she heard me! Her perception is changing, but that only happened because I listened to her first.
James, the brother of Jesus, said,
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry…” (James 1:19)
I know Sunday was different. I know it was unexpected. I can see that I didn’t explain it as well as I could have. But if you trust me, then hear this: the devaluing of women is not a rarity, it is the norm. Today’s church has to lead the way – like the Acts church did – if this is going to change. The first and greatest battle is the one in our minds. So invite some people to the table, ask questions, listen well, and we will all be changed for the better.