Brothers and Sisters

I'm afraid that in an effort to avoid inappropriate relationships between men and women, we have forgotten to foster appropriate ones

We don’t need more fences. We don’t need a stronger negative push against sinful sexual relationships.  We need to foster a different mindset altogether. The church needs to plow a counter culture. It needs a new axis on gender, orthogonal to the sexual one, that equips us to live affirmatively in male/female relationships in the Body of Christ. Our culture in Christ should be that of FAMILY.

 

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2

I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks how evangelicals have lost the mentality of family that Paul exhorts here, at least in our public conversations around gender and our actions between genders. For a while, really more than a decade from my perspective, gender conversations among evangelicals have been primarily focused on husbands and wives (or some version of that focus)–encouraging healthy marriages, discouraging relationships outside of marriage, discipling men to be good husbands, discipling women to be good wives, and so forth. I think many of these conversations have been valuable to the church. What does marriage that is in Christ between image-bearers of God look like? Believers must be discipled on this!

But note that Scripture talks of husbands and wives singularly, “the husband of one wife.” The global application of the marriage relationship is only between Jesus and His Church, never between men and women in general. No analogy from the marital relationship transfers to average male/female relationships. In contrast, Scripture speaks of fathers, daughters, mothers, sons, brothers and sisters as categories applied generally outside of biological family.

The average Christian woman knows and interacts with hundreds of men in her lifetime, maybe more, but in most cases only ONE of those men will ever be her husband. Many in conservative evangelicalism respond to that fact by encouraging and discipling women in ways that support only that one relationship with that one man. Instead, women (and men) need to be discipled to image out Christ in the myriad of other cross gendered relationships they have.

Mark 3:35 “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

In my experience, men and women in the conservative church are mostly encouraged to not have any of those relationships at all beyond a superficial level. The fear that an inappropriate relationship between the sexes will develop justifies for many the avoidance of any male/female relationship outside of marriage.

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