Christ, the Church and Charlottesville

49240-broken2bjesus2bwm

There is a war on for our souls and Christians are unwittingly taking the side of the enemy and seeking to do his work for him.

More than ever we need to be wise to wiles of the enemy who is like a roaring lion seeking for someone to devour.

The three attacks that are coming at us are fear, division and hate.

Division

After the events in Charlottesville, the media is forcing us to take sides – we must choose between the KKK or anitfa, between the alt-right or the righteous left, between Democrats and Republicans.  This is a false dichotomy, to quote C S Lewis:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”

Soon as we choose a side we end up excusing the behaviour of “our” side and demonising the behaviour of the other.  Merely pointing out the flaws in one side, be it left or right, doesn’t make the other one automatically right.  The reality is that both sides are sinful and neither is our saviour.

Salvation belongs to the Lord and not to any political party*.

“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Abraham Lincoln

We are called to be in the world but not of it and if we are taking sides then we have become worldly:

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? (1 Cor 3:4)

In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, Democrat or Republican, American or Mexican – we are one.  Jesus has broken down the dividing wall and we see in Revelation that every tribe and nation will be worshipping together.  Christ is One and the Church, His body, should therefore be One in Jesus.

Just as the Father and Jesus are One, we are meant to reflect that unity – this will then glorify God (Jn 17:22-23) .  Since there is unity in Christ anything that seeks to disrupt that unity is anti-Christ and so partners with the anti-Christ.**  If our churches have congregations that consists of just one race, or one political opinion, or one denominational belief then we are no longer declaring Christ to the world as we are no longer a unity but a uniformity.

Fear

In the OT the phrase “fear of the LORD” denotes worship of God – giving Him the awe and respect that only He deserves.

However, Satan seeks to make us worship something other than God and so wants us to fear something else.  That’s why idols are often frightening.

You see fear captivates our attention and means that we give something other than God our attention.  And the attention we give something ascribes its worth – this is the definition of worship.  So fear of something other than God is therefore idolatry.  As we give something other than God our fear, our attention, our worship we give it authority in our lives and so we empower this idol†.

“Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.” 1 Pet 3:14-15 (NRSV)

The media is a great tool in Satan’s hand to increase our fear.  It only reports the bad because that takes our attention and brings in their advertising revenues.

“Don’t watch the news and you are uninformed, watch the news and you are misinformed” Denzel Washington

As we give fear attention and authority we end up worrying about events and reacting out of fear rather than out of love, power and a sound mind.  If you’re like me you can end up being consumed by events and scour the internet for more information (as if that could remove our fear) and then praying out of powerlessness (“Oh God this is so big!”).

This is completely topsy-turvy.  Christ has triumphed over the enemy and made a public mockery of Him (Col 2:15).  He has been given all authority and so Satan has none (except that which we give him).  Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He laughs at the plans of the enemy and His name is far above any other name so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.

We need to be far more impressed with Christ and His lordship than anything we see in the news.  We are in Christ therefore we are also seated in heavenly places far above Satan – which is why we will crush him under our feet.

Let’s not give a defeated enemy our attention.  If news is becoming an idol then chop it off – fast from it – people have lives thousands of years without it.  Let’s keep Christ front and centre.  Spend time with Him instead.  Ask the Spirit what He is doing and then partner with Him.  Ask the Spirit to open our eyes like Elisha prayed for the eyes of his servant to be opened so he saw the reality of the heavenly armies surrounding the small enemy army.

We have no need for fear in our lives.  We can let Christ’s perfect love drive it out as we trust in His care and His good plans and purposes.

Hate

If we stay divided and fearful we will always end up hating.  But if we rest in Christ and trust Him we can begin to declare His love to the dark world.  We are then able to love our enemies as Christ loved us when we were His enemy.  We are able to partner with the Spirit and see transformation happen as we bring about His Kingdom rule on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is a short clip of Heather Hayes father demonstrating this reality after his daughter was killed in the riots:

* You may wish to look at my earlier post on this area “Trump, Clinton or Christ?”.

**Please don’t get me wrong – there is unity in Christ and not anything else.  Satan seeks a false unity – uniformity – where if we subscribe to one belief system whether that be a political party, denomination or race.  Just like a marriage is unity of two different sexes and personalities, so the Church should be a unity of differences.

†This topic is covered in far more detail in Jonathan Brenneman’s excellent book “What causes needless casualties of war?”

Advertisements

God, Gender and the Google memo (godly sexuality)

google manifesto 1

In the film Jerry Maguire, Jerry (played by Tom Cruise) has a revelation about what was wrong with the sports agency company he works for.  He writes this in a manifesto which he distributes to all employees.  However, the management refuses to accept the suggestions and he loses his job.

Last week a Google employee, James Damore, noticed what was wrong with Google’s efforts to get more women working there and realised how they could make changes to their environment to improve diversity.  He wrote a memo to all employees.  However, the management refused to accept the suggestions and he lost his job.

What was it that they didn’t like?

Well he dared to mention that men and women are different (and backed it up with extensive research).

You can read the full memo here.

Why is this so controversial?  Why was it labelled “anti-diversity” by the press and why was he fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes”?

Despite the hype, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science (see also here and here).

A little history

God made men and women different to embody His masculine and feminine attributes.  One of the main characteristics that I wrote about in this post is that men embody the masculine transcendent nature of God (outward focussed – doing, taking action, risk taking, creating, initiating, giving, concerned with form (roles)).  Whereas women embody the feminine immanent nature of God (inner directed – being, sustaining, safety, nurturing, responding, receiving, concerned with relationship).

This means that only together do men and women make the full image of God.

This was part of the wisdom of God to ensure that men and women need each other as each has blind spots.  His design was that we honour those differences and create a unity of diversity just like God is a tri-unity.

Satan, who is the anti-Christ, seeks to distort the image of Christ – who is the perfect image of God (Col 1:15).  Adam and Eve, who were already the perfect image of God (Gen 1:27), were tempted to think that by abandoning God they could become like God (Gen 3:4-5).  They sought to create their own image apart from God.

The consequence of this was the relationship between God and man and between man and woman was broken.  The differences that were meant to unite us now divide us.

Instead of loving women as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25) and instead of using their positions to serve others like Christ served us (Mt 20:26-28) they made women feel inferior.  They no longer valued part of the image of God.

It is no surprise that women rose up against this mistreatment. However, instead of fighting against the cause (Satan, sin and the brokenness that came from these) and therefore seeking to reclaim and restore the image of God – they created another false image.

“Contrary to the world’s view, however, the ‘battle of the sexes’ is not between the man and the woman, one trying to dominate the other – but rather between God and the self-centred desires of the ‘flesh’ in both man and woman.” Gordon Dalbey

Since gender had been used to divide people then women figured that removing gender differences would imply equality and remove division and create unity.  So they put forth the view that all differences (other than reproduction) between the sexes were merely socially constructed.

However any unity created outside of Christ is a false unity – it is partnering with the anti-Christ and so presents a false image of God*.  It also rejects the expression of differences that glorify God (and can also demonise masculine traits such as competitiveness).

It is not unity but uniformity.  It pays lip-service to diversity but as the reaction to the google memo shows, it is incredibly intolerant of any view other than its own.

The flip side to the uniformity view is that:

“If two people were exactly alike, one of them would be unnecessary.”

And one of the out workings of this logic has worked its way out in men being seen as unnecessary for raising children which children have paid a terrible price.

However, in Christ “There is neither … male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28).  Together our differences make up the Body of Christ.  Together our differences display the image of God to our children and to society.  Together we are co-workers and co-heirs bringing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

From a business point of view, which was the reasoning behind the Google memo (and which some have dubbed the Google manifesto), valuing the contribution that both men and women bring will help businesses to thrive.

Each brings something different, each can see the others blind spots.  For example, men tend to be goal-orientated but on its own they can lack people-orientation and end up with an ends justify the means approach.  Women tend to be people-orientated rather than goal-orientated and so can call out this blind-spot.  However, they tend to see and respond to the immediate needs rather than the long-term issues and so men can call out this blind-spot.  Together they will achieve more.  Which sounds Kingdom to me.

However, the flip side of having differences which add to the business is that these differences will mean that gender parity will not occur:

 Source: quillette.com

As Christians instead of getting caught up in these arguments, let us instead celebrate and honour the differences that God has given in men and women and together go build the Kingdom.  To the glory of God.  Amen.

Gender differences the key to understanding God’s nature (Godly Sexuality)

gender differences

In previous posts we have seen that male and female together make up the full image of God and so both are needed if we are to glorify God.  We also saw that they are created different and yet designed to become one to represent the tri-unity of our Three-in-One God.

We also saw that God in His wisdom did not create male and female the same so that we are dependent on each other to see our blind spots and so we need to honour the differences.

In this post we look at how God also separated Adam into male and female to embody the polarity of His character.

A God of opposites

Have you ever struggled to understand God?  Have you ever struggled to assimilate the seeming contradictions/polarity in His nature?  For example:

  • How can He both far above all creation (transcendant) and yet live within us (immanent)?
  • How can He be a terrifying consuming fire and yet beautiful?
  • How can He be a mighty warrior and yet the Prince of Peace?
  • How can He be both judge and the source of grace?
  • How can He be both working and resting?
  • How can He be outside of time (the initiator) yet responsive to our free will?

This is so hard to understand that we can find ourselves just focussing on one of the aspects (eg His grace) to the exclusion of the other (eg His judgement).  But this then means that we are not seeing his fullness and we have to ignore or “explain away” passages that don’t fit our view (eg we only recite Ex34:6-7a “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. and omit the rest of verse 7: Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”).

The names we use to describe these opposing/polar characteristics of God are masculinity (transcendant, consuming fire, warrior, judge, doing, initiator) and femininity (immanence, beauty, peace, grace, being, responsive).

Sex: A Creation of opposites

Now since Creation makes God’s divine nature known (Rom 1:20), we would expect this polarity to be reflected throughout Creation and this is evident in the two sexes of (nearly) all creatures; male and female.

Since mankind is made in the image of God we would expect to see this polarity most especially prominent here:

…God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27 NKJV)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable (neged) for him.” (Gen 2:18 emphasis mine)

The difference between male and female is expressed most clearly through the Hebrew word translated “suitable” (NIV, NASB) or “comparable” (NKJV) or “fit” (ESV).  The word neged נֶגֶד means “part opposite; specifically a counterpart”, “what is in front of, corresponding to”  or “opposite to each other are set things to be compared” .  The root of this word is nagad נָגַד which means “to be conspicuous, tell, make known” , “to bring to the light” “to stand boldly out opposite” .

“Masculine and feminine can be understood only in terms of each other; basically they are opposite and complementary qualities. They are like darkness and light. It is very hard to understand darkness except in terms of light, and light except in terms of darkness. They are two extremes on a continuum.” Robert Siegel

Since our physical bodies make visible our invisible God, then the transcendent masculine and feminine aspects of God (who is Spirit) are expressed through the physical separation of Adam into the male and female sexes.

“The masculine can only be understood in relation to the feminine…One gives meaning to the other.” Alan Medinger

It was only after this separation that Adam recognised his true counterpart “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” (Gen 2:23a) it is only then after naming (which in the Hebrew culture means understanding their nature) all the animals, that he finally understands who he is and can name his split self “she shall be called woman (‘ishshah),for she was taken out of man (‘iysh)” (Gen 2:23b).  He exists now in two complementary parts that require each other to make sense and we created two but belong together as one:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”(Gen 2:24 emphasis mine)

Only when a man and woman come together in unity can we truly see the full image of God.  Only when the masculine and feminine are both expressed and honoured in the marriage relationship or in the body of Christ or in society will we see God.

If we suppress the feminine then we have a God who initiates but is far off, holy, judgemental and we get a religion of works.  If we suppress the masculine then we have a God who is peaceful, one with nature, all about relationship and accepting of everyone without requiring any change.  Clearly neither is better than the other as neither represents the full nature of God:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.” (CS Lewis)

But if God is both masculine and feminine why is He principally described in masculine terms?

This is a good question and will be addressed in a future post.  Suffice to say, because of the meaning of gender that we have just begun to unpack, God is so masculine that we all are feminine in relation to Him.” (CS Lewis) This is why the Church is described as the Bride of Christ.

War on gender is a war on the nature of God

There is an enemy who seeks to distort the nature of God.  He started back in the Garden of Eden with “did God really say?” (Gen 3:1) and hasn’t stopped since.  He is the anti-Christ who seeks to destroy anything that glorifies Jesus and this will include mankind who is made in the image of God.  In particular, since the marriage of male and female is a prophetic declaration about the nature of a our Three-in-One God then there is war on marriage.

I want to take time to quickly look at three worldviews which seek to destroy the image of God:

The first is that the physiological and psychological differences in men and women are simply a consequence of evolution and therefore merely a by-product of survival.  For example, men were hunters so are strong and have focussed vision and so on, whereas women were gatherers and hence notice colour hues and have a wider field of vision.

Such reductionist thinking not only removes the glory of the differences but leads us to think that the differences are dispensable in the modern age where we have moved beyond such struggles.  We cannot agree with a view that says their purpose is merely to survive (ie be independent of God) as we believe their principle purpose as image-bearers is to glorify God.

The second worldview advocated by the women’s liberation movement is that all differences (other than reproduction) between the sexes are merely socially constructed.  This is understandable view – after being made to feel inferior rather than being respected as equal and valuable image bearers – saying that there is no difference would therefore imply equality.

But such a view not only ignores the evidence from neuroscience and the commonality of gender behaviours and roles common to all civilisations throughout history, it also rejects the expression of differences that glorify God.  Worse since it postulates that men created these roles to denigrate women, it demonises the masculine traits (such as competitiveness) and falls into the equal and opposite error trap quoted above.

“Contrary to the world’s view, however, the ‘battle of the sexes’ is not between the man and the woman, one trying to dominate the other – but rather between God and the self-centred desires of the ‘flesh’ in both man and woman.” Gordon Dalbey

Equality does not require uniformity nor is it desirable.  For example as a parent I desire to love all of my children equally – but I wouldn’t want to remove their differences to ensure that were the case.  To do so would destroy something that is integral to their very being.  So too with gender.  Yes men and women are equal but God has made them different to reflect the polarity of His nature and His purposes for us.  Let us celebrate those differences and by doing so celebrate the full nature of our glorious God.

The third and final worldview is dualism espoused by Plato: the body and thought/spirit are separate, with the thought/spirit being the true self and the body a hindrance.  This was then refined in Descartes’ phrase “I think therefore I am.”  This view says that my existence, my true identity is what I think about myself.  Hence my material sexed body is immaterial and gender is merely a state of mind.

This anti-Christ spirit was refuted in the letter of John.  The godly Hebraic worldview is holistic – we are embodied spirits or spiritualised bodies.  Our bodies express our true nature – they make visible the invisible.  Being male expresses the transcendent quality of masculinity and being female expresses femininity.  This is how we can understand God through what has been physically created as the physical realm is a shadow of the heavenly reality.  The physical world reflects spiritual truths.

In future posts on this topic we will take time to explore the richness of masculinity and femininity and seek to honour both parts equally in our marriages, the body of Christ and the world.  It is my hope and prayer that this will provide a plumbline for those like me who struggle with their sexuality, that it would lead to a deeper respect for the opposite sex as an equal image bearer of God and that it will help us to see God more fully.

Please note that I am in the process of moving “godly sexuality” and my other blogs/writings together under one website johnspencerwrites.com

Trump, Clinton or Christ?

broken-jesus-wm

We have just witnessed one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in American history that has the potential to destroy everything.

Even though I’m British and started watching as an outsider, I eventually found myself taking one side.  This led me to question a sister-in-Christ when she held a different opinion.  I did this in such a way that I hurt her deeply even though it was genuinely not my intention.  I sought to overcome this by subsequently blessing her and giving her a prophetic word, but the damage had been done and she was unable to receive the grace I offered because her heart was closed to me.

I only realised this today when the Spirit showed me that I had been infected by a political spirit that is seeking to divide brother against brother and church against church.

Each of us has been deceived into thinking that one of the sinful candidates is America’s saviour.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Only Jesus is the saviour of America or any other nation, only He has the power to change hearts, transform atmospheres and bring healing and reconciliation.  Only He can do anything of lasting value that’s why He said “apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5).

Let’s update what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthian church:

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ…You are still worldly. For since there is…quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Trump,” and another, “I follow Clinton,” are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Trump? And what is Clinton? Only servants…
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight…So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Trump or Clinton or Johnson or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God
. (1 Cor 3:1, 3-5a, 18-19a, 21-23)

We have everything we need in Christ.  God can work regardless of who’s president.  Indeed some of the greatest growth in the early church came under the persecution of the Emperor Nero.  The Chinese church has seen most growth under its atheistic persecuting government.  To think that God is not able to being about change unless we have our candidate in power is to have too big a view of the world or too small a view of God.  To think otherwise is not faith but fear.

But let’s step and look at the spiritual reality for our battle is not against presidential candidates but against but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).

Why does Satan seek to divide us with this political spirit?  Because the oneness of the church brings glory to God who is Three in One.  It testifies to the world about Jesus:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23)

The Spirit of Christ can bring unity regardless of church tradition or politics or race or class and as the time for Jesus return gets nearer there is a clearer call for unity as One Bride ready for her Bridegroom.  We are seeing it in the UK where churches are coming together not by committees but by the Spirit of Christ causing Christians to work together to bring about transformation in their communities.  The spirit of jealousy that meant church fought against other churches for members is dying as we seek first His kingdom and not ours.  We are therefore seeing more people turn to Christ as they are seeing a love that transcends barriers and as the Church body receives the blessing that comes from unity.

The political spirit is an anti-Christ spirit – it testifies against Christ.  Hence it seeks to divide those united under Christ.  Or it seeks to bring unity under someone other than Christ.

A body without a head is horrible.  A body with a different head sewn on is a freakish Frankenstein.  Both are only going to bring fear.  Neither are going to bring unity or attract people to Christ.

How do we Christians come against this political spirit?

Firstly, we need to repent of this worldly thinking:

Father I am sorry for agreeing with a political spirit, I’m sorry that I have sought to replace Christ with someone else.  I’m sorry that I have sought to point out the superiority of my views.  I’m sorry that I have not been humble and have not valued others above myself (Phil 2:3).  I have sought to be right rather than righteous.  I reject this anti-Christ political spirit that is seeking to destroy me, your church and your country.

Next we need to apologise to those we have hurt.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Mat 5:23-24)

Notice in this passage that we go if someone has something against us, not if we meant to hurt them.  We’re not going to get unity by trying to convince the other side that we didn’t mean to hurt them nor by showing them how they’re wrong.  People think with their heart not their head.  You start by loving them and love always seeks to make the first move.  Apologise for the hurt you have caused.  Don’t do it conditionally waiting for them to apologise back.  Also don’t apologise for hurting someone and then seek to justify your position.  Just apologise:

“I’m sorry for any hurt I have caused you in this election.  I’m sorry for putting politics before Christ.  I’m sorry for wanting to be seen to be right.  I’m sorry for not loving you like Christ has loved me.  Please forgive me”

This is the beginning of our ministry of reconciliation – by taking the lower position.  Healing comes through our brokeness as we mimic Christ whose body was broken for us to reconcile us to the Father.

Thirdly if you can seek to share communion with your brothers and sisters – as that is a prophetic act that signifies our common union under Christ.  It speaks a powerful truth against the lies of the political spirit.

Once we have done this and got right with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ and are operating again as His Body under the true head we are now ready to pray for and serve our nation.  Seek to bring His shalom wherever you go.  His peace, His wholeness and well being.  However that might look.

I’m seeing the church stopping for those who are worried and giving them a hug and consoling them.  I see them bringing in chocolate to the office to share to bring joy.  I see people giving doughnuts to protesters and telling them that they’re loved and its going to be OK.  I see people standing up against fear in conversations and reminding them that there is hope – Christmas is the perfect time for this.

As any prophet – I only catch a glimpse.  If you see more of how we can bring God’s shalom at this time then please feel free to put it in the comments below.

Gender differences: conflict or complement (godly sexuality)

gender-differences

As we saw in our last post, male and female together make up the full image of God and so both are needed if we are to glorify God.  We saw that they are created different to represent the plurality of our Three-in-One God and they were created for unity.  It was the fact that Adam (man and woman together) were created one and then separated that leads to God saying:

For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother, and will be joined to his wife. And they will become one flesh.
(Gen 2:24 NASB)

Adam who has been split into male and female now seeks to reunite and recreate the unity that existed before that reflects the unity of our God who is also One.

Now this all sounds great until you flip it around.  The corollary of “male and female together make up the full image of God” is that individually a man or a woman do not reflect the full image of God*.  People don’t like that.  People don’t like being told that they need someone else.  It’s the sin of pride and of rebellion that goes against popular culture “you can do it all” attitude.

However, unlike Jesus who is the exact image of the Father (Heb 1:3; Col 1:15) God in His wisdom did not create male and female the same.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have blind spots and we wouldn’t need the other.  We would already be complete†.

The Hebrew words used for their creation testify to this difference.  The man was יָצַר  (yatsar) moulded/squeezed from the earth like a potter does to clay, whereas the woman was בָּנָה (banah) built/fashioned from the side of Adam.  It is also interesting to note that the development of a baby mimics the split of Adam into male and female when at 7 weeks boys experience a testosterone surge which literally destroys the corpus callosum that joins the two hemispheres of the brain. The male baby is cut off from part of himself.

The saying opposites attract actually has a lot of truth to it.

However, without unity in Christ opposites may attract but they can also destroy each other.  My early marriage is an example of this.  You see I was attracted to my wife because she was so different to me.  I’m actually quite introverted whereas she is such a people person.  I like everything predictable whereas she likes surprises.  Yet I am fine with mess but she loves the house looking ordered.  I am a hoarder whereas she is a thrower.  I’m a sorter, she’s a tidier.  I like going to the same places again and again whereas she likes going to different places each time.  You get the picture.

However, when we got married I assumed that my way was the “right” way and tried to make her like me and said her way was wrong.  I crushed the spirit out of who she was.  She too assumed that her way was the “normal” way and so didn’t understand why I didn’t see the things that she did.  Why didn’t I see the mess, why didn’t I wrap up presents, why did we always do the same things, buy the same food and not go to parties?  She became frustrated with me.

We both became unhappy as we both wanted the other to be like us and neither of us were.  And my domineering ways meant the she capitulated and did things my way but actually this didn’t please me as my life became dull and monochrome.  This is no surprise as we were no longer reflecting the full image of God – the plurality in unity – we were no longer bringing Him glory.

Even our children became partakers in this battle.  If one of them said “I like doing… with you daddy” I would take it as confirmation that I was the better parent.  If one of them said “Mummy lets us …” I would take it as an offence.

Fast forward some 15+ years and we are in a different place.  We came to the brink of divorce but a marriage course, the transforming work of the Spirit through courses such Celebrate Recovery and Freedom in Christ, together with sozo and other prayer sessions and just the ongoing maturity through the Spirit’s work means that we are unashamedly who we were created to be.  We recognise that we are different.  But we realise that our differences are a gift to the other and we need to honour that gift or we will become diminished as a result.  We each have blind spots and the other is God’s gift to to show us what they are.

Here’s a silly example that illustrates this.  I always used to berate my wife that she never checked the oil or the tyre pressures.  This was something that I felt I “had” to do because she never did.  But the reality is that God has made me different – so that I see this but she doesn’t.  Therefore my gift to our marriage is to check the oil and the tyre pressures.  She blesses me if she honours that difference “Thank you for checking them – it means a lot to me” (or whatever love language works for you).  I don’t need to resent that she never does this – because her gift to me is something different.  An example is that she always remembers to get birthday cards for friends and family.  This is something I never did before I was married.  So I honour this difference by thanking her and signing the card and encouraging her to send gifts too.

We also celebrate the fact that the children enjoy doing different things with each parent.  They are special mummy things (like going to a coffee shop) or daddy things (like going tree climbing).  We stop them when they say “I prefer mummy because…” and we tell them that God gave them both of us as only then will they see all of God. It’s interesting to see that our children are becoming a beautiful unity of the different characteristics.  For example our eldest daughter is incredibly creative like her mother and is taking art at A level.  She is also very analytical like her father and is also taking maths at A level.  The school is bewildered but we see it as the glory of God.

But remember marriage is a shadow of the heavenly reality – our marriage to Christ (Eph 5:31-32).  Realising that we need the other opens our eyes to the greater truth that we need Jesus: without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).  Without Him we are incomplete.  Without Him we will never glorify God.

Father, forgive me that I have resented my spouse’s differences.  Forgive me that I have tried to make them like me or got upset when they didn’t see what I saw.  Help me to honour their differences as their gift to me and let me offer my complementarity as a gift to them.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Further Reading

Culture of Honour by Danny Silk

*A note to single people. Don’t let anyone bash you over the head and say “You need to get married to experience the fullness of God”.  The church community is the body of Christ and is made up of male and female and so you will experience this fullness when living and serving in the church community.

†This is the same in a church.  One person does not make a church.  And Christ deliberately gives different gifts to the members of His Body so that all members are needed to build each other up.  We only mature in community.  Despite our worldly mentality that says there is one person in charge who does it all – this is simply not the case.

Unity not uniformity

8db3d-unity2bnot2buniformity

There’s some fantastic laws in Leviticus (no really!) that contain immense truth:

Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals.  Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.  Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Lev 19:19)

And in Deuteronomy:

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this… Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled…Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.  (Dt 22:5, 9, 11)

Why on earth are these important?

God is Three

Well remember that creation was made to glorify God.  It does this by making known God’s divine nature (Rom 1:20) and since our God is three the different genders, species and materials reflect the plurality of the Godhead.

So anything that seeks to remove these differences actually seeks to destroy how creation glorifies God.  That is why crossbreeding, cross-dressing and the intermixing of seeds and material were prohibited.  Each of these actions ultimately causes the loss of the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the different species, genders or materials.

These differences are especially important in marriage as only male and female together make up the full image of God:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Gen 1:27; 5:2 KJV)

And in the church, the Body of Christ:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor 12:12)

The members of the church are different and have been given different gifts and all are needed to express the full image of Christ and all are needed to build up each other (see also Eph 4).

God is love

Intuitively we know that honouring the differences shows love and this reflects our God who is three and whose nature is love.  For example I wouldn’t be loving all my children if I gave them all the same gift of a stunt bike for their birthdays.  My eldest son would be delighted but my three other children would be upset and feel unloved.

We see this in how God deals with the different individuals in the Bible in different ways.  He even heals the same condition (such as blindness) in different ways.  So too the Spirit of love gives different gifts to the members of Christ’s Body, and God created male and female different to each other.  These differences glorify the full nature of the Godhead.

God is one

However our God is also one (eg Jn 10:30).  There is unity in the Godhead hence we use “Trinity” which comes from tri-unity.  And so God is glorified when there in unity amongst the differences.  Jesus prayed that the church would be one like he and the Father are one (Jn 17).  Hence we speak of communion which comes from common-union.  And one flesh (Gen 2:24) comes from the unity of male and female.

Unity is a beautiful and godly thing (Ps 133:1) but the counterfeit to unity is uniformity.  This has been seen throughout history, such as in the Hellenisation of different cultures.  It is more prevalent than ever in our common age under the guise of technological advances or equality.  The world speaks of diversity but to think different is to be classified as sexist or a bigot.  To say anything different is now classified as “hate speech”.  Love has been confused with agreement.

This lie has permeated the church:

  • There must be one “right” way of ministering healing – all methods must be wrong.
  • There must be one “right” way of worshipping – other methods are clearly inferior/not spirit led or unscriptural.
  • There is one “right” way of doing church – all other denominations are wrong/unbiblical.

And so we end up not with unity but competing ministries/churches where each contain cookie-cutter Christians who look the same, think the same and act the same.

It’s easy to understand why.  Because uniformity requires no grace/love for those who are different.  It requires no sacrifice/change in one’s own life.  It’s convenient Christianity.  It’s not taking up your cross and denying self (Mk 8:34).

How can we have unity of differences?

If we return back to those laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy there was actually times when the forbidden mixture of wool and linen was allowed – in the prayer tassels and the clothes worn by priests.  Only priests were allowed to mix the aromatic spices to make the anointing oil (Ex 30:33) and for the mixing of seeds in Dt 22:9 the Hebrew word (bizarrely translated as “defiled”) is qadash (H6942) which means consecrated/holy.

You see the holy unity of differences can only occur through our great High Priest Jesus (Heb 4:14).

Jesus is glorified if there is unity amongst believers (Jn 17:20-23) but it’s impossible to have unity between a zealot and a tax-collector without Christ’s spirit of love.  And so this could only be realised after the Spirit came at Pentecost:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
(Acts 4:32 see also Acts 2:42-47).

It is this unity between differences that glorifies/speaks of God.  That’s why Jesus said “everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (Jn 13:35).  A sign of a church that reflects Christ’s love is one that crosses social, racial, political and denominational barriers – people who are different – that’s what the world will see as astonishing.

That’s why when Paul speaks of the differing gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor 12 and 14 he speaks of God’s Spirit of love in 1 Cor 13.  And again when Paul talks of the different gifts and ministries in Eph 4 he speaks of unity in love through the Spirit.

Jesus is glorified when there is unity between the man and women in marriage.  And this is only possible through the Spirit of love.  Hence God breathed his breath, his spirit into them (Gen 2:7) and the man, woman and Spirit makes a cord of three strands that is not easily broken (Ecc 4:12).

Only in Christ is there unity in churches and marriages.  But greater than all of these is the truth that only in Christ can there be unity between God and man.  Things so different that could never be together on their own.

Making it reality

So when you become frustrated with someone who is so different to you, whether that be in church or in your marriage, and you find yourself crying out “I just can’t love ” then look to Jesus who cried “it is finished” and through his death broke down the dividing walls (Eph 2:14), ripped the curtain of the temple (Mt 27:51) and brought unity between God and sinful man, Jew and Gentile, slave and free and male and female (Gal 3:28).

Father, forgive me that I want to take the easy route of uniformity.  I want everyone to be like me so I can have a convenient life.  Father, I can’t love them on my own, I need your Spirit.  Help me to honour their differences and to sacrificially love them like your Son sacrificed himself for us when we were your enemies so that we can be one.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

In case you’re wondering about the picture.  It’s all the components of a camera.  Only if all those individual parts are become one do we get the whole camera.  Only together do they give the full picture (pun intended).  So too may it be in our marriages and churches.

Further Reading

  • I am indebted to this Jewish article that first opened my eyes to the significance of Leviticus and its application to sexuality.
  • To read more about oneness in sexuality you can read my earlier post here.
  • I also highly recommend “The Culture of Honour” by Danny Silk that gives some great tips of loving and honouring the differences in the church.
  • And finally I thought this article from relevant magazine on sub-cultures of uniformity in the church rather than unity in love was worth reading.