“From the beginning it was not so.”

“Patriarchy is the backdrop of the Bible, not the message of the Bible.” — Carolyn Custis James

One of the common counter-arguments to the egalitarian view is that God would never pander to culture or let it influence His word. Therefore, many of the biblical limitations on or commands to women that egalitarians claim are cultural (women should always be “keepers at home” for example) are seen by complementarians as eternally mandated by God.

I used to think that since the culture of the Bible was patriarchal, then that was how it was supposed to be — mandated by God. It was written mostly by men, mostly TO men (women weren’t educated as well as men for the most part, after all), and with a clear bias towards men. It was just women’s lot in life to play second fiddle, and culture, biblical or otherwise, was a reflection of that law, not vice-versa.

But we encounter a scripture that says the very opposite in Matthew 19:3-10:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

WHAT??! It seems incredible that a law that regulated God’s people could be influenced by fallen culture, but it’s there in black and white. And this particular issue is not alone. Polygamy was also allowed and regulated under Mosaic law, even though this was clearly not what God desired or designed.

This passage is just one glimpse into how egalitarians interpret scriptures and gender issues. While we acknowledge that there are “problem” passages that don’t exactly align with egalitarianism, there are also those snapshots of freedom for women that reveal the ideal (Gal. 3:28).

One principle I try to follow, then, is that when we know how things are SUPPOSED to be (the pre-fall equality of Genesis, the equality of Gal. 3:28, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on male and female in Acts 2), then anything that contradicts that ideal is most likely an accommodation to fallen culture. I’ll get back to this idea later.

Egalitarians point to slavery as a parallel example. Anyone could make a clear pro-slavery case using scripture (indeed, many people have), even though most realize that slavery is neither an ideal situation nor a condition that we should perpetuate and encourage. In fact, part of Jesus’ mission on earth, as revealed in Isaiah 61:1 and repeated in Luke 4:18 was to:

“bring good news to the poor.
comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.”

And yet we still see laws and regulations for slaves in verses like Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22. These passages are not proclaiming freedom at all, but rather affirming the existing culture by insisting that slaves serve and obey their earthly masters AS THEY WOULD CHRIST. These instructions to slaves are identical to the ones given to wives. Why would God allow the results of the fall exhibited in culture to prevail over His intended purposes for women and slaves?

We will look at the answer to that question in the next post. In the meantime, let’s make sure that as ambassadors of God and His kingdom, we are truly doing all we can to answer Jesus’ prayer that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In our current culture of equality and opportunity for all, let us not waste the chance to set right all things that “were not that way from the beginning.”

Step 2 and Sanity

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

In Step 1, we admitted we were spiritually sick and powerless. All of our willpower and efforts to control others always had the same result: inability to change ourselves, situations, or other people. We also learned that this doesn’t just apply to a skid-row alcoholic or a porn addict, but to ALL PEOPLE who have habits that are harmful to themselves or others that they cannot stop doing despite the desire to change: overspending, overeating, resentment, worry, fear, overworking, pride. In a nutshell, SIN.

Now, in step 2, it’s time to deal with the fact that we are INSANE!! Are you excited yet? Before you click the little X at the top right corner of your browser, just humor me for a minute…

What comes to mind when you think of insanity? Maybe something like “mentally deranged” would be your first answer. You probably envision a psychiatric hospital patient wearing a straitjacket. In general, you might think of people who can’t function properly because they lack reason and good judgment, or the classic definition, people doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

All of these are legitimate views of insanity. So what does that mean for us? Maybe the first two don’t apply to you so much, but you can relate to the last two. If you’ve admitted you are powerless, then insanity goes hand-in-hand with that. Remember, the very realization that you are powerless most likely came from months or even years of trying to fix problems or people your own way, with the result always being failure.

Keith Miller, in his book A Hunger for Healing, describes his realization like this:

I began to recall many habits that hurt me and other people and that I repeated for years without even being aware I was doing so (e.g., feeling resentment and fear, procrastinating, giving advice, dumping feelings, putting myself down when I made a mistake). I recalled repeatedly experiencing the negative results of these recurring self-defeating behaviors and thought patterns and being miserable each time, but I accepted the negative response by others to my unconscious abuse as being their fault. This was all a part of my “being surrounded by unreasonable, controlling, or imperfect people.” I tried to be more thoughtful to them so they would change, but I didn’t seriously consider doing anything about my most controlling self-defeating behaviors – because I couldn’t see them for what they were: my sin, my problems. So I was living out the program’s definition of “insanity” by “doing things the same way and expecting different results.”

Mike, one of my good recovery friends, uses what he calls the “broccoli analogy” as an example of dealing with insane behavior. Let’s just say that sometimes when you eat broccoli, you develop a severe stomach issue with uncontrollable explosive diarrhea (great visual, huh). Or maybe sometimes after you eat broccoli you get a splitting headache, blurry vision, or heart palpitations. You’d probably avoid eating broccoli at all costs to avoid the unpleasant side-effects, no matter how much you enjoy eating it. It’s just not worth the risk of having a bad reaction. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

And yet we all have “broccoli” in our lives, stuff we keep doing even though we know the results will probably be negative:

-Maybe it’s having the same old conversation and giving the same old advice to someone who clearly isn’t interested and hasn’t asked for your opinion. It inevitably ends in anger and/or argument.

-Maybe it’s starting that next series on Netflix even though you know you’re going to binge-watch and neglect your other duties.

-It could be choosing the same type of person repeatedly as a romantic partner, even though every relationship has ended in heartbreak and destruction.

–  It could be spending more money than you know is in your budget, using the credit card just “one more time.” You’ll just pay it off “later.” 

– Perhaps it’s believing he will quit drinking and giving him one more chance. He said he’s “really serious” this time and he doesn’t need help, even though he’s said this before and always gone back to his addiction.

– It might be giving money or other resources to “help” your child or friend out of yet another financial jam, even though it’s clear that they aren’t doing anything to help themselves. 

See, recovery doesn’t have to always be for people with drug and alcohol addictions! All of these examples illustrate insanity in some way, doing the same thing over and over even though you know that most likely the outcome will be the same as it always was: negative. Yet you keep eating that broccoli, even though someone looking at your situation from a more objective perspective would clearly see that you are, in fact, not in your right mind!

So, what now? It seems hopeless. We keep doing these things and we are powerless. Thankfully, the other part of Step 2 recognizes the CRUCIAL element to recovery: a power greater than ourselves.

Most Christians have been aware of this power for some time, in the form of Jesus Christ, and we know on some level that He is able to help us with our sin problem. But a lot of Christians I know, including myself before recovery, see Jesus as a higher power that will take away “all their sins” in some abstract, generic form. They’ve never looked at themselves introspectively enough to realize that some of their actions are, indeed, insane!

It is so, so important that Christians start living in sanity, recognizing and naming their specific sins, coming out of denial, and believing that their higher power, Jesus, can help them with their particular patterns of insanity and restore their spiritual health, not just their “sins in general.”

Miller ends his chapter on Step 2 by giving the definition of sanity according to his dictionary: “to be free from hurt or disease; having mental faculties in such condition as to be able to anticipate and judge the effects of your actions on other people,” and “being without delusions or prejudices…wise.” This is the goal of recovery: to break those harmful, sick patterns and start acting and thinking like a wise person, able to predict probable outcomes and make good decisions based upon that knowledge.

So how can you take Step 2? You can start by identifying the actions and thoughts in your life that match up with the definitions of insanity we covered today. What is the broccoli in your life that you keep eating even though it causes pain for yourself or others? Only after you’ve done that can you truly, concretely believe that a higher power can really help you on a personal level and restore the sanity you didn’t even realize you were missing.