The Modern Oppression of Women

One of the most common critiques of Biblical Christianity is the complaint that the Bible champions the oppression of women. On the surface, this seems to be an easy complaint to make when you read a passage like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 where Paul instructs Timothy to have women “learn quietly with all submissiveness” and that he doesn’t “permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” When most modern, secular women read this they point the finger and say “Oh what an awful primitive idea! This is why I’ll never believe in the God of the Bible. He’s clearly patriarchal and has no concept of women’s rights. This is oppressive to women and has kept us from our potential for ages!”

Now, I could go and explain why these verses don’t carry the tone that you are imposing upon them, but let me present a different problem. When you look at that passage and claim that it is oppressive to women, you are implying that the culture and the beliefs that you subscribe to do not oppress women. Sure, there are still obstacles to overcome, like the fact that men generally make more money than women and still hold jobs higher up the ladder. But we have made leaps and bounds in the last few hundred years.

You may think that the three pinnacles of womanhood are a high-paying job, physical attraction, and sexual freedom. In light of that, let me explain three things our culture holds to that collectively oppress and marginalize women today.

1. Homemakers as Inferiors
The modern practice of devaluing the woman who wants to be monogamous, raise kids, and take care of her home is incredibly oppressive to a large portion of American women. There are plenty of women who have no ambition to work themselves up the corporate ladder, but want to raise a family, hold down the household, and love their husband. That ambition is no less respectable than a woman who wants to be successful in business. The minute that you feel superior to a homemaker, you have begun to passively oppress them.

2. Physical Beauty as Paramount
Many women in our culture are indirectly and even directly oppressed by magazines, cosmetic companies, gyms, fad diets, and plastic surgeons. They continually promise that if you’ll take their bait, you’ll finally feel self-confident, important, and respectable. First off, how many of those products actually deliver what they promise? And secondly, even if you get washboard abs, implants, and a face-lift, how does that make you feel any better? Typically, people who buy into any of those things never feel satisfied. There is always someone prettier than you, younger than you, and more interesting than you. It’ll never be enough. Someone is always breathing down your neck, telling you what to do to finally find self-satisfaction through physical appearance. They are stealing your money and your joy because of all the pressure our cultural norms put on you.

3. Sexuality as a Means of Self-Expression
I doubt anyone would disagree with me if I said that monogamy is going out of style. The traditional view favors monogamy instead of sexual prowess and sexual experience. Women (and men), in our culture, who haven’t had sexual experiences with multiple partners are somewhat disdained, either as unattractive or boring and rigid. Cohabitation is on the rise making couples who don’t live together before marriage an anomaly. How is this oppressive to women you ask? Well, what does sex represent? Engaging in sex with someone is the most intimate physical act that one can commit. When you expose yourself in that manner to somebody, you aren’t simply “expressing yourself”, you’re giving that person a part of you. You’re letting them see you at your most vulnerable moment. So our culture, by encouraging women to sexual promiscuity, isn’t merely liberating them to sexual freedom. Instead, the culture is refusing them the ability to ever have a unique, intimate, love relationship.

My purpose in this so far has been to show you that our modern culture oppresses women. The way in which our culture claims to liberate women from primitive, traditional values is actually enslaving them. This happens because the natural tendency of humans is to oppress. When we think we’ve got the superior knowledge, we treat those who have a “primitive” or “unenlightened” view of things as less than us. So what’s the answer? How shall we cease to oppress women?

I’m convinced that the answer is found in the Christian gospel. I’ll explore that in the next blog post entitled The Christian Liberation of Women. Stay tuned.

Grace and peace,
-Dustin

Advertisements

Suffering in God’s Presence

At one point or another, in every person’s life, suffering becomes intensely personal. If you’re reading this, then you have probably experienced suffering or are currently suffering in some measure. You suffer regardless of your religious persuasion (or lack thereof), political alignment, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. You will suffer due to economic woes, death of loved ones, tragic accidents, relational breakdown, and the like. So what’s my point: everyone suffers.

So if we all suffer, the question then arises: how should we navigate suffering? Obviously, I can’t address all the many different ways we suffer. My observations have to be very general. Let me note though, that I am not referring to suffering that comes as a direct result of your own sin (i.e. if you commit a crime, then you go to jail). Sometimes we are given mercy from bad decisions we make in this life, but other times we aren’t. In this post, I’m talking about suffering that does not come as a direct result of bad decisions you’ve made. I’d like to propose two things that we can cling to for dear life when in the midst of unprovoked anguish.

1. Suffer in the Light of the Cross
When you suffer, the natural struggle is to wonder why God is allowing such heinous things to happen to you. And there is nothing wrong with wondering that. What happens, though, is that there normally comes a point where you feel like you’re being punished. So how do you know, when you’re suffering, that God is not punishing you? The cross.

When you look to the cross, you understand that Jesus took every last ounce of the punishment you deserved. As the old hymn Before the Throne of God Above says:

For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

I can confidently say, that when you suffer, God is not punishing you. He loves you. The cross is the proof. God no longer sees you as a rebel in defiance of His commands, but as a precious child. He is a good, a caring Father who gives you that which is for your good (see Lk. 11:11-13, Rom. 8:28).

2. Suffer in God’s Presence
Another problem you may experience in suffering is loneliness. Sometimes, you can feel alienated from others who aren’t suffering as you are. Then to compound the problem, people will quote cliché phrases in an attempt to comfort you. All you really need is them to weep with you and hurt with you, even if they can’t comprehend your pain.

How, then, does God’s presence alleviate this sense of loneliness?

Firstly, He doesn’t expect you to “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” and “move on with life.” He expects you to feel the pain. He’s not sitting on His throne looking down at you, waiting for you to get over it. Is it any wonder that Paul refers to Him as the “God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)? He wants to see you persevere through the trials, not circumvent them.

Secondly, He is able to sympathize with your suffering because He, Himself, suffered. When He looked ahead to His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ even asked the Father if it would be possible not to suffer (Mt. 26:39). He suffered just thinking about His coming suffering!

Lastly, He has put His Spirit in the church (1 Cor. 3:16). If you are surrounded by a loving church family, then you can experience God’s presence in the community of believers around you. This is the most intensely practical and helpful way to find comfort in the midst of hardship. If you are disconnected from your church family, then get involved with people at church.

Let me finish by saying that this post is really for people who are not suffering. If you are suffering, you don’t need information; you need a community of people around who will pray with you, cry with you, hug you, hold your hand, and to generally be present. Hopefully, these things will help, but they are more helpful to work as reinforcement for those not currently suffering.

May the Lord’s steadfast love carry you through all of life’s trials!

One Deficient Wedding vs. One Delightful Wedding

I was listening to a sermon by Tim Keller the other day called “Lord of the Wine” which was about Jesus’ first miracle: changing water into wine (You can listen to and download the sermon by clicking here). Normally, people like to use this passage as a justification for Christians to drink, which is wildly offensive to the text (not that I disagree with that assertion, but making that the aim really trivializes the meaning of such a rich passage). Anyway, Tim talks about Jesus’ response to Mary and how it indicates that He is looking forward to His future wedding. Jesus is profoundly moved by reflecting on what is needed to purify His bride for that day. He understands that the wine of His blood must be spilled in order for His bride to enjoy wine at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Is. 25:6, Mt. 26:29).

This got me thinking, “How does my wedding measure up to the one which we will enjoy with Christ in His kingdom?” I came up with three deficiencies from my wedding, which will in no way be deficient in the feast we will enjoy with Christ (This warrants a qualification: I am in no way unhappy with my wedding. Kristin and I had a great wedding and are very satisfied with it!). So take a look at these three contrasts.

Contrasts of Our Wedding with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:

1. No Wine
Kristin and I didn’t have one drop of alcohol at our wedding. Right off the bat my conservative Christians readers are thinking “Yeah, smart move. Alcohol consumption is evil”; whereas my liberal readers are thinking “What a couple of judgmental, conservative freaks. Don’t they know how to have any fun?” Well, you’re both wrong. We didn’t have any alcohol because we were paying primarily out of our own pockets and couldn’t afford it. Our venue charged a huge extra fee to have alcohol and then forced you to hire a bartender. We decided that it would have to be left out.

So how is this contrasted with the feast we will enjoy with Christ? There will be plenty of wine at His party. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 26:29: “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Why is wine important? What does it signify? In the words of Tim Keller: festival joy. Wine is important because it, especially in ancient cultures, defines the life of a party. When the wine runs out, the party is over. This is why it is so critical that Jesus turns the water into wine in John 2. He saved that party, thereby showing that He would be the life of the party at the coming feast. The presence of wine at the feast can be boiled down to represent one thing: joy! Our senses will reach an ultimate ecstasy, never experienced here on earth. Wine is a shadow, a sign that points us to the joy in which we will partake. This is secured for us because Christ poured out the wine of His blood to cleanse us for that day.

2. No Food
The second struggle on our wedding day was lack of food. Now saying that we had “no food” is a dramatization. There was SOME food. However, the guy we hired to come and do tacos only sent one employee to cook and serve 150 guests. Needless to say, his services were unquestionably deficient.

Isaiah 25:6 reads, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” This verse pictures a feast which will take place in the established kingdom of God. Here, there is no shortage of food. The marrow and fat off of meat represents the best parts of it, not the gristle. This abundance of food teaches, similarly to wine, that our senses will be absolutely satisfied. A note to remember: we will not go away to heaven to enjoy the kingdom of God, the kingdom will be creation restored. Our mortal bodies will be perfected and we will eat and drink just as Jesus did after the resurrection. We will eat, not out of gluttony, but to glorify God and celebrate all that He has done for us. It is the same with alcohol; we won’t drink to be drunk, we will drink to glorify God and celebrate all that He has done for us.

3. No Time
My last point is that Kristin and I were only at our reception for about an hour and a half. For those of you who understand wedding time lines, that is ridiculously short! This is attributed to the fact that nobody was getting fed and our plan was to have our grand entrance once everyone had food. This of course didn’t work out so great.

The beauty of our festival joy with Christ will be that it never ends! Just imagine having joy that is infinitely greater than anything you’ve ever experienced for an infinite amount of time. The point is, you can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like! There will be no constraints, nothing better to do, no other places to go or people to see. We will enjoy Christ forever.

How did Jesus secure all of this for us? Through sacrifice. In our world, people are only saved from poverty when someone with more wealth sacrifices it for their sakes. We are the spiritually impoverished, so Jesus, by giving up His riches, has secured an incredible inheritance which we shall enjoy for age after age after age to come. Oh what rich blessings has the Savior secured for weary, broken sinners!

I pray that your hope would be complete in knowing all that Christ has purchased for you with His precious life!

The Forgetful God

One of God’s most important qualities – especially for sinners like us – is His forgetfulness. Where would we be if God were not a forgetful God? But before I go further, let me explain a distinction between how God forgets and how we forget.

We use the word forget to refer to something we lose track of unintentionally. That is, when we forget something, we normally don’t mean to! Some unfortunate things that we typically forget may include our spouse’s birthday, our password, our keys, our coffee (terribly tragic), and so on. We don’t desire to forget any of those things, but we do because of our lack of capacity to remember.

God, on the other hand, only forgets when He intends to. This is because His capacity to remember is infinite. He can’t forget anything! That is, of course, unless He means to.

So if God can only forget on purpose, what does He forget? Consider the following three verses:

Isaiah 43:25
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Jeremiah 31:34
“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Ezekiel 33:16
“None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.”

The only thing that God willfully forgets is sin. But how does He actually do that? If His capacity to remember is infinite and infallible, how can He make something disappear from it?

Understand that He doesn’t just magically wish your sins away and they disappear. Instead, He “remembered” your sins on Christ, and as a result He “remembers” Christ’s righteousness on you! Do you realize how costly that was to Him? Do you know how much it hurt God to forgive you? It was infinitely costly for God to forget your sins. You are indebted to Christ for what He has done on your behalf, but He doesn’t require you to pay. That’s the point of the Gospel: that Christ has done it all so that you can have it all even though you’ve done nothing. Only an experience of that kind of extravagant grace can propel humans to live the kind of life that God requires of us. It has to be a life of gratitude, not a life of duty.

So how, dear reader, in light of this Gospel, can you store up grudges and bitterness toward others? Instead, may you forgive as you have been forgiven, even though it is exceedingly painful to forgive. Teach others about the love God has shown you by remembering their sins no more.

May you know and then model the same kind of forgetfulness as our gracious God!