Our own proud human experiments since the Fall for living as men and women has proven to be a destructive, dysfunctional and failed mess. Male chauvinism is a march that is oppressive, with women forced to live by the harsh drum beat of men. Feminism is a race that is crushing, with sexes set against each other in endless and exhausting competition. Both are so ugly. But what our wise and loving creator offers is neither a march nor a race but a dance. Where men and women – equally precious as creatures made in his image but with distinct God-given roles – together move as one in harmony. His design is perfect, of course! And it is beautiful.
The passage we are studying this Sunday (1 Timothy 2:8-15) presents us with something that the world hates but is crying out for even as it denies it. We alone have what it needs through the gospel. We alone have been re-created by God. But not to be autonomous individuals! God has given us new birth into his household or family and into a spectacular mosaic of relationships with each other (1 Timothy 3:15). Our willingness to embrace our Father’s wise, life-giving and good plan for how we relate to each other as men and women (and also indeed as brothers and sisters, as husbands and wives, as elders and youngers, as masters and slaves etc.) is vital to our success or otherwise in our mission to the lost people God has placed us among. As our unbelieving friends and neighbours see us, and how we live in such a counter-cultural but wonderful way, they will be seeing the power of the gospel to transform on display. Our weird but strangely attractive family is the living ‘plausibility structure’ of the gospel. Some will be blind to what is before them but others will discover to their surprise that God really is among us (1 Corinthians 14:25).
Since I arrived at St Thomas’ I began letting people know that the first book I wanted us to study on Sundays was 1 Timothy. In many instances the response was a raised eyebrow or a comment: “that’s brave”! It was obviously because of this week’s passage. I can understand that. What is being said is so radical and unpalatable to our culture you might forgive a new young Rector for wanting to dodge it for at least a bit. And I may well be a fool for embracing it first up and head on! But – forgive me if this is too bold – I don’t think so! God’s word is so good and so good for us. Including this passage. I’m thrilled that we get this chance to hear and wrestle together with God’s word at this stage of our life together. It is exciting to think how God will challenge and shape us according to his word to make us even more aligned to his radical, beautiful and attractive pattern.
I thank God for but also pray that we will be more and more a church where we men embrace spiritual leadership in our families and church family by being at the forefront of gospel advance through prayer. What a wonderful thing it would be to be known for being a church where the men act as men by leading their families and our church in heartfelt, earnest, constant prayer.
I praise God for the multitude of extraordinary godly, intelligent, able women in our fellowship who teach God’s word to other women, to our children and who – in contexts outside our public gatherings and as up-front authoritative teachers – teach and encourage their brothers including me (Colossians 3:16). The person who God used most of all over the 5 years of my time at St Helen’s to encourage, train and stretch me in my appreciation and understanding of God’s word was Ruthanne Monclair, my colleague and women’s worker whose boss I was. I am for women teaching. But in the right God-given context. And when that happens in a church family it is dynamite.
What a privilege we have this Sunday!