Equality and Diversity in Community
(This article can also we found on our website
at http://www.bethelkingston.com under the tab called "Blog")
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This morning we begin a two-week series that is, for some, very hot. You can speak to some about this issue and before they even form their words, their face says it all. Our goal in this two-week series is to teach what the Biblical view is on women, model what it means to co-exist with others whose view may be slightly different and to help people understand how the Bible champions the value of women. And although men can experience sexism as well, our focus is mainly on the experience of women. Our big idea for Week 1 is that even in our diversity (how we may differ in interpreting some of the harder texts) we share a lot of common ground. What is that common ground? What should we believe about both sexes? Genesis 1-2 provide great words of blessing for both genders.
EQUALITY GEN 1, 2
The first thing we noticed on Sunday morning is that God speaks words of EQUALITY to both men and women. Where do you see God speaking about equality in Genesis 1-2?
Genesis 1:26-27 is crystal clear: men and women are BOTH created in the image of God. So when we speak about equality, in the first place we see equality of VALUE. What does this mean? It means that the value of a man is equal to the value of a woman in the eyes of both man (generic, not masculine) and God. God lavishes his affection and excitement about His new creation on BOTH the man and the woman. When does God celebrate? AFTER both the man and the woman have been created. We said on Sunday that the centerpiece of this question of equal value is the reality of the image of God, not male plumbing! (Mark’s line, not Adam’s)
The other part of equality is STANDING. Image is not only bound in our creation, but it’s bound to our re-creation – read Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:10 to see what we mean. We bear the image of God not only because of who formed us, but because of who saved us. There is no distinction between who receives the Spirit (Joel 2:28-29) and there is no distinction between who receives God’s promises and inheritance (Galatians 3:28-4:7). God does not give his Visa card to the men to shop at Holt Renfrew and then turn around and give the women a few dollars to spend at Value Village; both are ascribed the same worth.
But do you know anyone that does not believe women are on an equal footing or equal worth? Have you ever seen anything in culture that has compromised this truth? Ever seen something in Scripture that would make you think otherwise?
For example someone might ask, “If male and female are equal then why is God predominantly portrayed as male?” In our highly sensitive culture on this issue some see this as bigotry and sexist. However, when you understand the context we discover that one of the reasons that God being described as male was to demonstrate to us that He is a person, not less personal than the humans He has made. As a person He holds us accountable in a way that a universal principle could not. God is not an impersonal law. This would have contrasted the paganism of the day where one’s view of god was not personal. All agree that when Scripture calls God “Father” or “King,” we are not to understand by these that God is literally male. God (ESSENCE) does not have male hardware. One other point is that there are plenty of Scriptures that portray God as acting like a mother. ‘You deserted the Rock who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth’ (Deuteronomy 32:18). God is here represented as the divine parent, both male and female. Elsewhere, God cries out ‘like a woman in labour’ (Isaiah 42:14), and showers the people with the affection of a mother (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13)—while Psalm 131:2 compares God’s love with quiet rest in the arms of a divine mother.
Not only does the foundational text of Scripture (which all of Scripture needs to be interpreted through) teach equality but it also teaches diversity. If you are in a small group talk about the difference between the sexes. In Gen 1, 2 we see diversity. Open up the text and finger through the following examples:
a) Diversity seen in the creative act. Contrast Gen 2:7 with v21,22Unfortunately we struggle to celebrate diversity. On Sunday we gave a couple of examples as how our culture either over-minimizes diversity and ends up hurting people (we question the decision of a Toronto couple who are not going to teach gender roles to their child, nor will they tell anyone what gender their child is, and we learned about the sad trend that a one-size fits all education system that once ostracized and disadvantaged women is now leaving Canadian boys in the perpetual Kindergarten sandbox), or over-emphasizes the differences leading men and women on a path of mutual destruction and Gender-mageddon!!! (there is actually a video-game out there called “Gender Wars”). The only celebration we seem to do well on a regular basis is that of sex: men in our culture place incredible value on a woman’s looks and liberality (not the political kind). Men, what do you appreciate about women, and what can you learn from them? Women, what do you appreciate about men, and what can you learn from them (don’t say ‘nothing’… I’m sure you can find something if you look hard enough!) What does Proverbs 31 teach us to celebrate in a woman? Check out the text.
b) Diversity seen in the timing of creation. Who was created first? Is it possible that once God was warmed up he did his finest work in creating Eve last?
c) Diversity seen in Adam’s (the first Adam… not Adam who’s speaking this week… oh this is confusing) comment. Check out 2:23. There is similarity and dissimilarity. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh suggests what? Note the Hebrew for man is “ish”, the Hebrew for woman is “ishah”. Note the sound play between the two names. Similar yet dissimilar.
d) Diversity seen in the “hardware”. The mandate to be fruitful and increase in number 1:28 was given to both of them. Yet without Eve, Adam would have had a hard time, to say the least. He needed someone a little different.
When you look at Genesis, what do you learn about community? Do you see its origin in the creative work of God? Do you see its goodness? Do you see community in Genesis as a place of companionship and celebration? Do you see it as a place of acceptance? Genesis teaches us a lot about what community IS. It also teaches us a lot about what community _ _ _ _ (rhymes with fuzz). Community not only exists, but it expresses equality and diversity in action. In Genesis, the commands God gives to fill the earth and subdue it are given to humanity, BOTH men and women are meant to carry them out. Not only that, but the very language that God uses of Eve as Adam’s “helper” is active, and is the same language God uses of Himself. This word “ezer” in Hebrew is almost always used to describe the kind of help that God provides to people in desperate need of Him (see Psalm 70:5 for an example). God is not creating a pawn or a subordinate for Adam, but rather a rockstar-ette to come along beside Adam as to fully participate in the task God has given them.
How does the New Testament most commonly talk about community? 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Ephesians 4:1-6 say it best, we are a body: equally valuable, diverse in calling and ability, and deeply interconnected to achieve what God has called us to do. The body, the community of God’s people is meant to be the place of truth-telling, hurt-binding, sickness-healing and life-transforming where all are valued, honoured and accepted.
Does this not sound wonderful? Who wouldn’t want to be part of a marriage or church or workplace that upholds equality and diversity all within the context of a community that celebrates those attributes? However, is that what happens in the workplace, the church, the gym, etc.?
Some of you (women) as you listen read this are experiencing some dissonance. In theory it sounds great but in practice it has not always been what you have experienced. Community has not always been done well. How do we know? One indicator; Pain.
Equality has in some cases become inequality, diversity has resulted in adversity and community in some cases has become an unequal playing ground. Women most definitely have been at times burned and men can also experience the same prejudice. Think about this.
Instead of equality and diversity celebrated in community what are some words that would describe some women’s community experience in the church or the market place?
What are some of the destructive ways some women have processed this in their hearts? (insert men for women if that would be relevant to the discussion.)
Gen 3 tells us that we had a great fall and how it has played out has not always been biblical or God-honoring. Next week we are going to look at what happened when sin entered.
As a group or an individual take some time to reflect upon this teaching. Is there anything in your heart that you need to repent of that has in some way compromised God’s amazing blueprint here in Gen 1, 2? Do you need to ask God to heal your heart in how you feel about women or in how you feel about men?
As a man, am I guilty of seeing women only as sexual creatures not fully appreciating all that makes a woman beautiful in the eyes of God?
As a woman have I harbored anger that has developed a bitter root? Forgive for your health’s sake, since that other person may never acknowledge their sin on this issue.
Finally pray this prayer together. This is what we are praying for Bethel!
“Lord help us as your Church to love one another deeply. To uphold both our brothers and sisters as equals. To appreciate the diversity we see in each other, to celebrate it, honor it, and protect it. Build your Church where equality and diversity engage in deep meaningful community. Holy Spirit come upon us, save us from ourselves and make the Bride of Christ, the Church, a fountain of life, an oasis of healing, where Your truth sets us free. Amen.”See you next week!
Adam Davies, Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER READING
Hoekema, Anthony. Created in God’s Image. 1994: Eerdman’s
Johnson, Alan F., Gen. Ed. How I Changed My Mind About Women In Leadership – Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals. 2010: Zondervan
www.macleans.ca – We refer to an article on their website posted in October of 2010: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/10/18/raising-our-boys/
McKnight, Scott. The Blue Parakeet – Rethinking How You Read the Bible. 2010: Zondervan
www.npr.org – We refer to an article on their website posted in June of 2011 - http://www.npr.org/2011/06/27/137342682/the-end-of-gender
Piper, John (with Wayne Grudem). 50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood. 1992: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, Eds. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood – A Response to Evangelical Feminism. 2006: Crossway Books
Stackhouse, John Jr. Finally Feminist – A Pragmatic Understanding of Gender. 2005: Baker Academic
Stott, John. Guard the Truth – 1 and 2 Timothy. 1996: InterVarsity Press
Webb, William J. Slaves, Women and Homosexuals – Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. 2001: IVP Academic