God’s A-Team: Male & Female

What do 10 inches of rain, a sump pump failure, and a hurt toe have to do with the current discussion (on this blog and others) of the hazards of male/female relationships among Christians? Plenty, I’d say.

Last Sunday, when torrential rains were drenching Boxford, the sump pump in our basement malfunctioned. Water began seeping in at an alarming rate. Buckets proved useless. So Frank, a neighbor, and I began frantically moving furniture and boxes out of harm’s way.

A moment of klutziness on my part left me with a hurting toe. Nothing serious or life threatening. Should be fine in a day or so. But in the meantime it hurts, wakes me up at night, affects how I walk, and silently but relentlessly demands my attention all day.

The topic of male/female relationships in the church can remain at the level of sexual temptation, professional conduct, our fallen humanity, hurt feelings, and precautions (there are precautions) we should take to keep our relationships on the up and up. All of these issues are serious and important. But there are deeper questions we need to be asking.

The church isn’t the same as the workplace. We are called to a significantly higher standard. We are a body. Our goal isn’t simply to figure out ways to co-exist safely and peacefully. We are to strive for the oneness a physical body experiences when every member does its part. As Christians we are necessary to one another. My toe keeps reminding me of that.

God’s design for the world started with a male/female team that has his blessing (Genesis 1:27-28). His image bearers are male and female. It can be said that the history of men and women working together is longer than men working with men and women working with women. We lost that when we fell. And the standard to recover what God intended in the beginning will not be found by looking around at progress made in the corporate world or elsewhere. It comes, at least in part, from an anatomy lesson.

Jesus desired and fully expected that his followers would achieve a level of oneness unprecedented in human relationships, the kind of oneness a body experiences when every member is healthy and fully functioning. Jesus’ brand of oneness is grounded and manifested in a rich selfless love and a mutual and vital ministry to one another that is sure to catch the world’s attention.

Neither Jesus nor Paul ever married. But both men had women in their lives who joined them in ministry and ministered deeply and spiritually to them. With the Spirit’s help, it can be done.

We are the Body of Christ. The question before us is really, How healthy is Jesus’ body if it functions like your or my view of male/female relationships among Christians?

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7 Responses to God’s A-Team: Male & Female

  1. Anna says:

    >>How healthy is Jesus’ body if it functions like your or my view of male/female relationships among Christians?< < Good question. Bodies have the advantage of nervous systems that can communicate fairly easily. You totally understand that your toe hurts. In male/female relationships, that open understanding seems to be missing in many cases.

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  2. Nicholas says:

    This was a much better post than the last one until your trailing comment as it begged the question of how the differences between the sexes should function.

    You are right to point out that we _aren't_ a professional organization and we shouldn't expect to function that way. I'm glad to see an improvement in your reasoning.

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  3. Ethan C. says:

    I think you're quite right that the standard for the Body of Christ is much different from the standards of a company or professional organization. We're called to be a family and a body, rather than just get a job done together with a minimum of fuss.

    However, when it comes to restrictions on male-female relationships, I can see this argument cutting both ways. Since our standard is indeed higher, perhaps there is *more* need for standards of sexual restraint than there is in a business. The consequences of failure, after all, are much greater than just a hostile environment or a dysfunctional workplace. They are scandal to the gospel and damage to the souls of our brothers and sisters and ourselves.

    Or maybe not. But either way, I don't think understanding the height of our calling to unity, as important as that is, really answers the question of *how* we achieve that unity.

    And as I said in my previous post, this might well be very different for different individuals. We shouldn't too hastily rule out the possibility that some of us — or even perhaps many of us — might require some pretty significant discipline to begin overcoming our brokenness.

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  4. skc says:

    Ethan,

    I'm intrigued by your comments. Can you elaborate how talking about the gifting of all the working members of the body to function as the true body of Christ would lead to a lessening of sexual restraint?

    I see sexual restraint issues as character issues – and possibly education regarding boundaries, avoiding red flags, and policy issues. Matters which would be important under any authority structure.

    I understand the scriptural references to this posting as relating to humility, servanthood, and the value of each member of the body.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    the famous quote from “when harry met sally” states that men and women can't ever be friends because the sex always gets in the way.

    i think that's why we hold back from each other – both in secular and Christian communities. it seems challenging to relate to each other deeply without one or the other person (whether married or single) being attracted to another.

    i wonder how we draw closer to each other and live in community with these issues of boundaries, purity, etc., etc.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    >>the famous quote from “when harry met sally” states that men and women can't ever be friends because the sex always gets in the way.< < I don't agree. I don't think sex gets in the way unless one or other person has some sort of problem. There seems to be a fair amount of dysfunctional sex in religious circles, e.g., the Ted Haggard scandal, the pedophile scandal in the Catholic church. Then there's the horrible sadomasochistic stuff that goes on in the quiver-full movement. I think sexual misfits are sometimes are sometimes attracted to religious circles, perhaps out of guilt or some sort of effort to cure themselves of their problems. I don't see why normal, healthy men and women can't work together without problems.

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  7. Ethan C. says:

    skc,

    I don't think I'd say that having a full understanding of the church as Christ's body would by itself lead to a lack of sexual restraint. What I think do think is that such an understanding lets us see that the stakes of sexual misbehavior in the church are much higher than they are in the utilitarian realm of business.

    Because we realize the great harm that sexual sin can cause, I think we ought to be sympathetic to those who feel that they need to take strong measures to avoid it.

    We also need to be sure that when we come to understand the glory of redeemed relationships between the sexes, we don't forget that we are all still sinful people who need discipline. We can't fall into the trap of thinking that just because relationships untainted by sin are wonderful and desirable, that they are easy to achieve in our fallen world.

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