What are our fleshly responses to the threat of difference? Some of the most destructive sin patterns of women in the church arise from ungodly responses to perceived threats. We judge other women as making “wrong” decisions. We assume others are judging us (even when they’re not!) We dismiss the importance of another’s gifts. We silently glory in another’s pain. We envy. We ignore. We scorn. We gossip. In short, we destroy potential (if not actual) life-giving friendships.
Have you ever had one of those “aha!” moments where one statement brings clarity to so many past experiences? For me, one of these statements came from the lips of a dear mentor and friend: “Rachel, women feel threatened by differences.” These few words have illuminated the way I understand myself and other women in the church. From personalities to professional callings, Christian women are a diverse bunch. This was true of biblical women, and it’s still true today. The perceived “threat” of these differences has been impacting church life for centuries.
Why The Threat?
Pardon the generalization, but I think it’s accurate to say that most women are highly relational. Furthermore, shared experience is a key sphere in which we relate. Why can two women in a checkout lane eagerly strike up a conversation about the same gluten-free item they’re both buying?
If shared experiences are unifying, must differing experiences be disunifying? Biblically, of course not! Yet realistically, our diverse experiences sometimes do divide. We may eagerly relate to the gluten-free stranger in the check-out lane while secretly resenting the woman in our small group who has chosen a different method for educating her children. The list of potentially-threatening differences is endless: food, dress, entertainment, education, jobs, spending habits, etc. We carry the unconscious assumption that life in Christ should homogenize women’s gifts, temperaments, and lifestyle choices.