CHRISTIAN PARENTS WITH CHILDREN WHO DON’T BELIEVE

Introduction:
Our small group meets on Sunday mornings before worship service. This particular Sunday one of the group members began to speak about her pain as a parent with an unsaved adult child. As she spoke tears rolled down her cheeks. This prompted another parent to speak out and give her encouragement. When this second parent began to speak words of support and empathy, she too began to get teary eyed leaving me to believe she too is a mother of an unsaved adult child.

I don’t have any children myself, but in that moment I could feel their pain. Few things are more heart wrenching to a Christian parent than a child who abandons or strays from the faith. It’s natural for the parent to ask, “Why?,” “What went wrong?,” and the never ending series of questions that follow from the “What if?” starter. But more on this in a moment.

To add to this already crushing pain, sometimes people in the body of Christ become judgmental and critical of the parents. Because of a twisting or misinterpretation of a couple obscure Scripture passages, at times parents of unsaved or rebellious children are asked to step down from ministry or leadership positions further burdening them unfairly with shame, guilt, and humiliation.

The fact is, the parent can do all of the “right” things and still have one, or more, of their children rebel or never embrace the faith. Only God knows what exactly is going on in the mind and heart of those who deny Him or have strayed from Him.

Hosea 11
If you will hang on with me for a moment I believe I can bring some hope and encouragement to all of you parents out there, especially parents with adult children.

After the small group incident mentioned above, I had an inner prompting to revisit the book of Hosea. As I scanned through I settled in on chapter 11. This chapter gives a beautiful example of God’s incredible love for Israel, who is described as a “rebellious” and “wayward” child. The chapter starts with a beautiful picture of God’s gentle care for Israel, but His love for them keeps getting rejected as they are determined on turning away from Him to false gods.

While it is true that the primary application of the chapter is that the God who loved rebellious and wayward Israel is the same God who loves those who rebel and sin today, I believe it is also has a secondary application of giving insight and even hope for Christian parents today who have children that are not believers. I came up with three thoughts* regarding the issue:

One: God Understands
The first thing to know and remember is that we serve a God who understands the heart wrenching pain that comes from loving rebellious, wayward children. Hosea informs us that the more God called Israel back, the more they went the other way. Even though God taught them and led them calmly and lovingly, without harshness, Israel was dead set on turning their backs to Him.

There is hope in the fact that we do not have a distant and aloof God, but a God who fully and completely emphasizes with the feelings of parents with unbelieving children. He knows what it is like to have a child turn down all advice and instruction, reject patient and loving guidance, and choose to live harmful and often destructive lives. Because He understands, comfort can be found in Him.

Two: Hope Is Not Found In You
Surely there are many things parents can do to “raise up their children in the Lord.” There are positive steps that can be taken to both help get their children “back on track” and to guide them to a faith controlled life. However, no parent can change the heart of their child, that is God’s territory. Only God can change a heart. Salvation belongs to the Lord (see Jonah 2:8-9).

Here is where we get back to the “What if’s” briefly mentioned earlier. Christian parents of adult children who are not saved ask themselves questions such as: “What if we would’ve had more family time, …I would’ve kept better track of his friends, …been less strict, …been more strict, …made her go to church every Sunday, …then maybe my child would be walking with the Lord.” Well, the “what if’s” could go on forever. But the fact is, the only thing this does is unfairly burden the parents with a feeling of guilt for past “mistakes,” and leave them pressured with a sense of obligation that it’s their job to “fix” their children.

Hosea keeps us grounded in reality by reminding us that the salvation of the wayward and unrepentant is a work of God, not man. As a parent you’ll still worry, but worry with a sense of hope. The salvation of your loved one rests on God, not you. Now, most of us know this to be true, but we often find ourselves living in such a way where we end up hoping in our abilities. Instead, we need to live out what we know in our minds. Rest in the fact that God is the one who saves, and He does all things according to His will and His perfect timing.

Three: Love & Show Love
It is vitally important to never stop loving, and showing love, to your unbelieving or wayward child. We see an incredible picture in Hosea 11:8 of a God who, despite the constant nastiness of Israel’s rebellion, is still moved to loving and gentle compassion for them.

I am sure many of you have heard of Pastor John Piper. Well, John Piper has a son by the name of Abraham Piper and at one time Abraham was rebellious and abandoned the faith (fortunately he
eventually returned). It did get to a point though where John Piper had to submit his adult son to the discipline of the Church. All of this resulted in Abraham writing an article giving advice to parents dealing with wayward children.

He writes, “If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s —or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home…

“What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows— especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.”

Conclusion
I mentioned right at the start that I don’t even have children, but I am telling you right now that this excites me! What is encouraging is that the way you respond to your child’s waywardness will show if you are really trusting in Jesus Christ. And isn’t that really the whole point?

It all boils down to the fact that what you really want your children to remember, or discover for the first time, is the beauty and truth of our risen savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. The problem facing rebellious or wayward children is not drugs, sex, alcohol, liberalism, etc., or any other specific action(s), it is “that they fail to see and believe Jesus is truly all that He said His is and will do all that He has promised to do.”**

*Adapted from “Hope for Parents Dealing with Wayward Children,” by Scott Williams, northpointcorona.org.
**Quote from Ibid.

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PROBLEMS ARE NOT PUNISHMENT

“Wait until your father gets home!” How many of you grew up hearing those words? As children we would act out during the day and our mother’s would keep a list of our “bad” behavior and as soon as dad came home she would fill him in on the day’s activities. Dad would then come to us and carry out whatever punishment he saw fit for our misdeeds. This, and scenarios like it, do something very negative. In the developing mind of a child, as they seek to understand how God works, this prototype becomes the means by which we first interpret how God acts toward us. Our first impressions are that God is a strict disciplinarian, that He is “out to get us” every time a mistake is made. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. What happens is, we think that any time something goes wrong in life, or any time something bad happens to us, that God is punishing us.

A woman who has found out she is pregnant hopes and prays for a healthy child but ends up with one who is severely mentally and physically handicapped is in a kind of pain that is beyond our understanding. We cannot come close to comprehending the kind of devastation this brings. The child will never outgrow these defects, they are with the child for life. If that isn’t pain enough, the mother’s suffering is compounded by Christians (whether they be strangers, acquaintances, friends, and even family) who tell her she must have some hidden sin in her life that caused God to inflict the deformities as a source of punishment. Or a comment is made that the mother is being “paid back” for how she lived her life during some given time period prior to the child. The mother’s grief is only magnified and intensified by these kinds of insensitive comments.

This kind of thought process, that is God is punishing us for particular sins with certain problems in our life is baloney. This kind of thinking is in healthy churches to some degree, unfortunately, but it is rampant among the Prosperity Gospel, Health & Wealth, and Word Faith movements. Please do me a favor? Just steer clear of these three mentioned movements. They are false gospels which bring only sadness and pain in the long run. Another faulty concept that is connected to this is the idea that the lack of healing for the child, the failure of the problem being taken out of our way, or the continuation of pain in our life is the direct result of our lack of faith. The person facing the ordeal doesn’t have enough faith, so they say, for the situation to be resolved. With this, as is clear, the person is further blamed for trials beyond their control. It amounts to nothing more than blaming the victim.

It kind of baffles me that so many people believe God is too busy to help them out with things, but in times of trouble He has plenty of time to bring about our destruction through punishing us. We don’t see Him when we need support, but we are quick to blame Him when we feel pain.

Please listen to this carefully, most problems are not results of God punishing us for sin; the majority are simply the results of reality. We live life on an earth that is not perfect. It has been tainted with original sin, all of it has. You can try and change that all you want, but you won’t be successful. Followers of Christ or not, we are going to suffer pain, trials, tribulations, failure, and tragedies as long as we live in this difficult world.

Let’s take a quick look at one Scripture passage. Let’s go to the book of John, chapter 9, verses 1 through 7:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing” (NIV, emphasis added).

So, we see here the disciples asking who it was that sinned, the man or his parents, that brought about this punishment. But what did Jesus say? “None of them did, not him nor his parents.” He basically shunned the whole “sins-of-the-fathers” idea because it did not apply. This belief was polluting faith thousands of years ago. But Christ told them the man’s blindness was not a result of any particular sin, it was not any sort of punishment for something he had done (or not done).

Now, it is true that problems can result from bad decisions we make, negative circumstance that surround us, and as said earlier, the simple fact we live in a fallen and imperfect world. God does not choose to remove the imperfections (yet), and until the time comes when He does (His return), we have to deal with those problems no matter how painful they may be. It should also be said that some problems we face can be the working out of the natural results of some kinds of sins, but that is a far cry from thinking that everything bad that happens to us is a punishment from God. To add further difficulty on ourselves by believing that sin is crouched down behind every problem we face only pushes us away from true, authentic faith in God.

Let me finish with a short quote from a book by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton entitled, Toxic Faith, “Rather than focus on a fictional past sin, it is better to focus on how God can use the problem to build our faith and the faith of others” (p.50).

REACHING OUTSIDE OF YOUR CIRCLE

Mark 7

Everywhere that Jesus went, crowds formed all around him and swarmed in on him from every angle in order to hear what he had to say. News about Jesus kept spreading throughout the land and it started to worry the religious leaders. Many times Jesus openly spoke out against their traditions and man made additional rules. He was winning the hearts of the people, and for the religious leaders of those people, this was not good news.

One day Jesus wanted to escape from the crowds for a bit, as well as their anxious and angry leaders, so he took his disciples and left Capernaum and went to the area of Phoenicia. This area was in Gentile territory (non-Jews). In fact, Jews never associated with Gentiles, so this seemed a safe place as nobody would expect them to be there. It would be a good place to take a quick break and focus on some important teaching for his disciples. To remain secluded and hidden they entered a house. But guess what? They couldn’t keep their presence quiet for too long. Before they knew it someone was outside knocking on the door.

It was a woman, she was distraught, and she pleaded with Jesus, “Oh Lord, my daughter has an evil spirit. Could you please cast the demon out of her?”

I’m sure Jesus took a good look at this woman. She was a Gentile. The message Jesus was preaching was to the Jew first, but at the same time Jesus knew the Jews would reject the message. Besides that, he knew that in actuality his message was for all people, regardless of their race or social standing. Jesus looked at her and gave a very calm and gentle test to demonstrate where her faith lied.

Let the children eat what they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs,” he said.

In most cases the word “dog” was used as a very mean and disrespectful term for a Gentile, but Jesus, in his compassion, uses the word differently. His reference was to young puppies that would have been kept at home as endeared pets. The woman got what Jesus was saying. She didn’t want to distract him from what might be more important things like teaching his disciples. She understood herself, according to custom, as not worthy of his time and attention like the Jews – after all she was a Gentile.

However, she continues, “Yes, Lord, but even so, the dogs under the table get to eat the children’s crumbs.”

It was normal back then for people to eat with their hands, they didn’t use silverware. When their hands would become dirty they simply wiped them off on a chunk of bread rather than a napkin. Once the meal was over the left over bread that was used for cleaning off their hands was given to the house dogs to eat. This is what the woman was referring to. She was just asking for a small portion, or even a leftover scrap if you will, of his grace. She wasn’t asking for a place at the table as an honored guest, no, she was humble.

The result of her humble and faith saturated response was Jesus answering her plea. He could have, and rightly so, turned her away but that’s not what he did. He made himself available to her, available to meet her pressing need. “For a reply like this,” Jesus said, “you may go. The demon has left your daughter.”

The woman returned home and found her daughter resting peacefully and the demon forever expelled.

Now, this woman was outside of their circle in more ways than one. Do you have a particular circle, group, type, or even clique you like to remain in? Do you dislike reaching out of your comfort zone? If someone who is outside of your group knocks on your “door” for help would you answer them or try and ignore them? We see here, our example for life, Jesus Christ, not only answering the door but also meeting the need. Let us follow the example of our Lord and Savior.

JUST BELIEVE

Matthew 11

I am willing to bet that all of us have hoped for something and then became upset when things didn’t seen to be turning out the way we had imagined.

At this point we find John the Baptist locked up in a cell. It would have been rather small, dark and damp cell. John had boldly spoken out to Herod Antipas, governor of Galilee, and told him he was wrong and needed to repent of a wicked thing. Antipas was angered at this and wanted to get rid of John. By this time the Jews had considered John a true prophet so Antipas couldn’t just kill. Killing John would cause an uprising among the people. So Herod Antipas had John taken away and locked up in this cold, dark prison. Antipas had planned to let some time go by and once things had calmed quietly kill John.

A year later – a long, slow year later – John had become more than a prisoner of Herod in a physical cell, he had become prisoner to his own thoughts. The only connection John had to what was going on in the outside world came by way of a few visitors here and there. The visitors were those who had followed him, now they were following Jesus. They would come to John reporting on what was taking place and to give him encouragement. John paid close attention, but I think the more he heard the more he began to get confused and that confusion even grew into doubt.

John believed Jesus was indeed the “One to come.” In fact, he had based his entire life on proclaiming that very thing. He had seen the sky split open, the Holy Spirit descend in some form that reminded him of a dove, and He had heard God’s voice from above announcing to everyone that Jesus was His Son. But, John started to think, wasn’t the Messiah suppose to come and set up a new kingdom? Wasn’t He suppose to come and judge people and put an end to all that is evil?

In the dark loneliness of that cell, John the Baptist started to question (and after a year of that treatment I dare say we all would have). From everything he had heard Jesus was not conquering enemies. The Roman Empire was just as evil as ever and Jesus had done nothing to stop it. Things weren’t happening as John had pictured. Is it possible he could have been wrong about Jesus?

Wanting an answer, John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus a question that was eating away at him: “Are you the ‘One who is to come,’ or should we look for someone else?”

When Jesus heard this question from John, He didn’t get upset, He didn’t get angry, He just gave them a simple but blunt answer to encourage and comfort John the Baptist. “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Everything Jesus told them to tell John were prophecies of what the ‘One who is to come’ would do. And, these were all things Jesus was doing. Then Jesus calmly added, “Blessed is the person who does not fall away on account of Me; who doesn’t lose heart when things aren’t going as expected.”

Jesus was, of course, fully aware of what He had come to do and He knew God’s perfect timetable for doing it. You see, John was expecting everything to happen all at the same time, but that was not God’s plan. John was told to examine Jesus’ life and actions and see how Jesus was indeed fulfilling prophecies.

John was to see the evidence and remain patient, trust God and not doubt. Even though things weren’t going as John expected, they were going exactly as God expected. God is always in control and always sees the big picture. These were encouraging words brought back to John the Baptist. Reminding him of who is in control and that John’s work had not been done in vain. Words John needed, as Herod shortly thereafter beheaded John the Baptist.

So, when times get rough for us and we don’t understand what it is God is doing or why He is doing it a certain way, let’s just believe. Remember who He is and don’t let doubt creep in, choose to trust and believe in Him and His promises.

LYING TO GOD

Acts 5

Halloween. As I write this it is just around the corner. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a treatment or discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of Christians participating in this holiday. That record has been played over and over again and neither side is going to give. I, for one, enjoy the holiday. I might be a little bias though, as Halloween is my birthday. An interesting side note is that it was also my grandmother’s birthday and it is also the day she passed away.

Halloween was always so much fun when I was growing up. Then, and now, it is one day a year where we can put on a mask or costume and pretend to be something we are not. We can be something on the outside that we weren’t on the inside. Well, let me say that Halloween, unless your profession is acting, is the only day that should be allowed. This is especially true if one claims to be a Christian.

Unfortunately, the visible church if full of people who act one way on Sunday when they are among believers and another way the rest of the week when they let their guard down and become who they truly are inside. We’ve all heard the stories, or experienced them in our own church, of a leader who said all the right things, dressed the right way, made sure their family portrayed a certain image, only to have this person’s private life uncovered. They acted one way at church in front of people for reputation’s sake, but behind closed doors they were doing things such as abusing their wives and/or children, having an affair, drinking themselves to oblivion, spending hours online looking at pornography, or living life according to whatever harmful sin it is that had a grip on them.

Today I want to look at one such situation found in the book of Acts. In particular, chapter five of the book of Acts. Wonderful things were taking place among the believers. Even though they knew what would happen if they continued to spread the gospel, they dug in their heels and kept talking about Jesus. God was with them in a special way, in fact, there was such a spirit of unity and love among them they freely shared what they had with those in need. Regardless of how new one was to the faith, they were embraced as brothers and sisters. Barnabas was one such example. Barnabas was originally called Joseph but his name was changed to Barnabas because it means “Son of Encouragement,” and Barnabas was known for encouraging others.

On one occasion Barnabas had sold some land that he owned and brought the money in for the group. “This is to help meet the needs of others,” he said as he laid the money at the feet of the apostles. No one had asked him to do this; he did it out of his love and devotion to the Lord and because he was willing to help and encourage other believers.

Well, a married couple among this group saw what Barnabas had done and witnessed the praise and thanks he received. They wanted a taste of that attention, they wanted some praise, they wanted a pat on the back, so they went and sold the land they possessed. (This is called doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and as is usually the case, it doesn’t end well).

I’m sure some of you have already guessed, or remembered, the names of these two individuals: Ananias and his wife Saphhira. Ananias started with, “Hey, why should we sacrifice all of the money we earned? Why not keep some for ourselves and just say we brought it all?”

Excellent idea!” Saphhira agreed. “How could anyone find out?” So they planned out what they would say, and came up with an amount that they would hold back for themselves.

The next day, Ananias woke up early and took a little extra time primping because he wanted to look his best for when he impressed the others. I can almost hear his thoughts, “Wait until they see what I’m going to do. I can’t wait to see their faces when I show them this money I’m bringing to share.” I’m sure he felt proud and maybe a little smug about what he and Sapphira had planned.

Just like Barnabas had done, Ananias came and laid his money down at the feet of the apostles as he declared, “The Lord spoke to me and told me to sell my field and bring in all the money to help fellow believers who are in need.” I’m sure he waited for some clapping and praise, but he didn’t quite get the response he expected.

Peter responded, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart? What made you do this? You have lied, even saying the Holy Spirit told you to do something that He never did say. You also lied in that you kept some of the money for yourself while claiming you gave it all. You have not lied to men but to God Himself.”

Those words must have hit him like a ton of bricks, they must have pierced him straight through his heart. Not only that, immediately after Peter spoke those words God struck Ananias dead. Can you imagine the reaction of the group at that moment? I would guess they became completely silent and were struck with the fear of God. God demanded that they be pure in heart and would not accept anything less. Dishonesty wasn’t going to fly. Ananias was then taken away and buried.

Some three hours later Sapphira comes strutting in. Maybe she was expecting some kind of party to be thrown in her honor for what she and her husband had done. Not yet knowing what had happened to Ananias, I’m sure the reaction she received wasn’t quite what she was expecting either.

Peter asked, “So, is this the price you and Ananias got for selling your land?” Without even so much as a pause out came the lie, “Yes, that is the price.”

Peter replied, “Have you agreed to lie too? You are testing God’s Holy Spirit to see how much you can get away with before He judges you. Look! The same men who buried your husband have returned and now they will carry your body off as well.” And with that, Saphhira fell at Peter’s feet and the men carried her body out and buried her next to her husband.

Lying to others is bad enough, but lying to God? Come on! Lying to God is a serious trespass, I mean He knows our hearts and our thoughts anyway. When you feel like there might be a barrier in your communication with Him, talk to Him about it, get through it. He knows you inside and out.

Live authentic lives. Love the Lord and serve Him, love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Be pure with Him as He knows the truth anyway.

Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be something on the outside that they weren’t on the inside, that is lying to God. Those we discussed in the first few paragraphs, the ones living one way on Sunday and another the rest of the week, they too are lying to God. I don’t know about you, but if you’re anything like me lying to God is not something you want to be found guilty of.

HALTING HYPOCRISY

Scripture Reading: Matthews 5 & 6

Remember back in Jr. High and High School when you use to pretend to be something you weren’t? You just wanted to be accepted, to be popular. You did things that weren’t really you just in order to get noticed. Adults do the same thing, especially with the explosion of social media. People set up profiles in a way to try and impress those who see it. They offer up all the good, positive, and “successful” things going on in their life, but rarely do you see the whole truth, the real person. Well, to be honest, it was not much different back in the time of Jesus.

Jesus started traveling throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues and healing people. News about him began to spread throughout the land, and people began to follow him around almost everywhere he went. Seeing the large crowd, Jesus took his disciples off to the side and led them up a hill and then he sat down. The disciples knew something serious was about to be said. Many times a teacher would give instruction while standing or even pacing back and forth, but when he would sit down it meant something very important and close to his heart was about to be shared.

Jesus looked intently at his disciples and said, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit – who know they have a need for God – for they shall inherit the Kingdom.” “Blessed are those who are pure in heart,” he continued, “those who are honest with themselves and God, for they shall see God.” Jesus carried on stating character qualities of those who would truly follow him. As he was finishing, he noticed the crowds making their way up the hill, so he began addressing them as well.

Jesus looked at them and knew some were there sincerely, others wanting some kind of personal favor, others just wanted to be healed, some were just curious, and then some were just proud religious leaders who wanted to be sure and make an appearance. But whatever the reasons, Jesus knew the underlying problem was the same. None of these people could live up to God’s standard of righteousness. This was something the religious leaders were well aware of as well, so they took it upon themselves to basically lower the standard of God’s law. They did this by limiting the intent of God’s law and by adding on their own rules that were easier to keep. By obeying just the letter of the law and their man made additions, one could look like they were keeping the law on the outside, however, their heart could actually be far from God.

Jesus addressed this problem head on. “You have heard it said form the law of Moses that you shall not commit murder. But, I tell you that if you even look down on another with contempt you are committing murder in your heart.”

Jesus kept repeating that model, “You have heard ‘so and so’ said to you, but I tell you ‘so and so.’” Jesus was giving a new meaning, a deeper insight, into their old laws. Instead of just obeying them on the outside, Jesus challenged them in regard to the attitude of their hearts. As you can imagine, this was very uncomfortable for them.

Jesus continued, “Don’t do things in hopes that others are going to notice it. If that’s what you do, then you will have no reward in heaven. When you give, do it quietly. When you pray, pray straight to God. Don’t pray for an audience. Don’t use big words and long sentences in your prayers trying to impress others and draw attention to yourself, and don’t stand out in populated places just to be seen.”

This was a big problem for a lot of people back then. Think about it, three times a day they were expected and called to prayer. Wherever they were and regardless of what they are doing, they were to stop and pray. As a result, near the hour of prayer, some people would plan out the timing so they could be in a public place, like the busy street markets, when it was time to pray. They wanted to be seen, they wanted the crowds to notice as they stood their offering up their prayer appearing to be as religious as can be.

Giving to the poor, fasting, and praying were all things people thought were righteous things to do. So, some people, hypocrites actually, started doing all these things publicly for appearance. Some who were fasting would muss up their hair and clothes and would even put on make up or paint to make their faces appear whiter than they were so they would look pale as though affected from the lack of food. It’s disgusting but similar things happen today just with different cultural methods.

Jesus was not fooled in the least by these people pretending to be one thing on the outside while they were actually something completely different on the inside. God’s kingdom is not a place for the religious, it is a place for those who are in right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

A time will come when you are tempted to do something in order to look good, if it hasn’t already. It could even be good things, positive things, but for the wrong reasons. Just be aware this temptation will come and instead live a truthful and authentic life and if you do, no one can effectively accuse you of being a hypocrite.

CHRISTIANITY & WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Introduction:

It is becoming more and more popular to blame Christianity, God, Jesus, and/or the Bible for just about anything that “goes against the grain” these days. Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous. As the title of this article makes clear, the topic I am specifically addressing in this piece is women’s rights. Those who blame Christianity and/or the Bible do so without a proper knowledge of Scripture, the culture at the time, history, and they lack hermeneutical and exegetical capabilities. For the most part, they tend to do a few things: they take certain verses out of context, they use verses that don’t even mean what they assume them to mean, they blame the actions of some on an entire group, or they simply parrot what they have heard or read. Rarely have they done a thorough study of Christianity and/or the Bible as they actual relate to women’s rights.

Let me start by saying that the Bible is an honest literary piece of work. It does not avoid hard issues. It does not tip toe around difficult topics. However, just because the Bible records something doesn’t mean it endorses it. Just because the Bible records that slavery existed, that women may have been treated in an oppressed fashion, it does not mean it endorses such activities.

Ephesians 5

With that said, let’s jump straight to the “go to” passage almost all those who oppose Christianity pounce on when it comes to women’s rights. That would be Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (NIV).

Well, there you have it. There it is right there in black and white!” This is usually the type of comment that will be made when this passage is brought up. These people act as if these two verses settle the entire issue and they disregard not only the verses which directly follow these, but all of the other positive Biblical passages regarding women. If these people would continue reading just one more verse, verse 25, they would pick up an entirely different vibe than what they usually cling to.

Right below, directly in the same portion of Scripture, right after all the “submit to your husbands” language we read, we see this, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up to her…” (NIV). So, if a husband is truly loving his wife as Christ loves the church, giving his life for her, humbling himself, and living as Christ lived, a wife will have no problem submitting to her husband. In fact, Christ lived a life of submission, submission to God, so wives and husbands should have no problem submitting to each other.

Women In Scripture:

Let’s take a look at just how women are portrayed in Scripture:

-To start with, Jesus healed many women. We see Jesus healing women all throughout the New Testament. In that day and age, this is hardly the kind of “marketing strategy” one would use in an attempt to gain credibility.

-Second, when we look at the narratives of the empty tomb we find all four gospels making a point to note that it was women who first witnessed this event. Again, this would be a “culturally awkward” thing to admit in first century context, especially in writing that would be passed on.

-Third, two books of the Bible, Esther and Ruth, are named after women who are the central characters. And both these women are portrayed as having the utmost of value.

-A fourth thing to note is found in John 8:7 where Jesus came to the rescue of a woman from a punishment which she actually deserved by reminding her male executors that they too are guilty of sin.

-Fifth, in Judges 4-5 we find the record of Deborah who was in charge of Israel. She was a powerful leader and was victorious in battle and brought 40 years of peace to the nation.

-Sixth, we see just one example of how a husband is suppose to treat his wife, “Husbands love your wives, and do not be embittered against them” (Colossians 3:19).

-And seventh, this can be found in Galatians 3:28 which reads, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). And all of this is just the tip of the ice berg.

This would be a good spot to introduce a point made by Lee Anna Starr in her book The Bible Status of Women. In it she attests to the fact that Jesus “stands alone as a ‘founder’ of a religious sect that did not discriminate against women. Jesus favored women (and many minority groups) much higher than society did. He did not simply say they were equal. He went out of his way to elevate them. He was a pioneer in crossing cultural boundaries, risking reputation and legal consequences to add incredible value to women wherever he went.”*

The Feminine Side of God:

Another gripe often heard, especially among those into the New Age movement, is the lack of the feminine in the God of the Bible. While it is true that God is Spirit, He is not an anatomical Being, it is also true that when Jesus gave us a pattern for prayer he did instruct us to address God as “Our Father.” There is nothing sexist about that. This is especially true when you take into account some of the feminine descriptions of God found in Scripture.

-Deuteronomy 32:18, “You neglected the Rock who BEGOT you, And forgot the God WHO GAVE YOU BIRTH.”

-Isaiah 66:9, “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God.

-Isaiah 66:13, “AS one whom his MOTHER comforts, SO I WILL comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

-Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His BOSSOM; He will gently lead the NURSING ewes.”

-Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to Her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a HEN GATHERS HER CHICKS UNDER HER WINGS, and you were unwilling.”

-Hosea 13:8, “Like a bear robbed of HER cubs, I will attach them and tear the asunder.”

As is evident, the Bible has an extensive supply of positive things to say about women. Both males and females are created in the image of God and both have sovereign roles given to them by God for both family and the Church. Different roles does not mean different values are placed on either sex. One sex is no more or less important than the other. Mistakes made in the past should not be the criterion for an entire group of people in the present.

Closing:

Let me close with some words on this issue from Matthew Slick of CARM Ministries, “If we are to conclude that Christianity is misogynistic because there are some verses that can be interpreted in a negative fashion, then we must also say that Christianity is not misogynistic because there are some verses that are positive about women. Therefore, the validity of misogyny depends upon the subjective preferences and presuppositions of the person who approaches the Scriptures, not on any universal truth. But not only that, critics must be careful with their ethnocentricity and not judge another culture by their own subjective preferences.”**

*Koch, Chris. “Why Christian Leaders Should Be Pioneers In Women’s Rights,” (March 26, 2017).

**Slick, Matthew. “Is Christianity Misogynistic?” (CARM.org).