Suppressing Rights Within Christianity

February 2, 2016

Friends,
Who of us do not find slavery repugnant? Who of us do not loathe the sentiments of those who used the Bible to support a system that treated others contrary to how they themselves wished to be treated? Who of us would consider slavery to be condoned by Christ’s teachings or by God’s Word as a whole? Is the LORD a God of partiality –a God who approves or disapproves of human beings according to some innate feature of their physical makeup? Or is He the God who created every person in His image and offers to every one of them the gift of His Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:14) that they may be accepted by Him as “His priests”? (See 1 Pe. 2:9 and Rev. 1:5,6 & 5:9,10)

Yesterday Google highlighted the life and contributions of Frederick Douglass, a man who, though formerly a slave, escaped to freedom and used his life to greatly further the cause of equal rights for all. I encourage everyone to read about him.

Thankfully, slavery has been abolished in many parts of the world and is, at least, viewed by most societies as evil. Is the suppression of others –suppression based on one’s physical characteristics– not evil? It is, and certainly all genuine Christ-followers know it.

I ask, then, what is going on with the suppression of women throughout the world and as particularly promoted by religion? No, it is not merely a suppression fostered by the Muslim religion, but by evangelical Christianity as well. Women are not allowed to speak in church or to teach men the Truth of God’s Word? Women are to submit to church elders and obey their husbands in everything? Is this really the doctrine of the Word of God?

Before we answer, let’s consider this verse: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.” (1 Pe. 5:5)

Now how many young pastors are obeying that command? How many young men –church leaders and lay men alike– are submitting to the directives of older men within their churches? If we are honest, the answer is “few”. And for those who do, should they submit without question, even if they believe God is instructing them otherwise? What about 1 Tim. 4:12 where Paul says to Timothy who is a church overseer, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers…”? And when Paul tells him to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1:3), can Timothy’s commands then be directed only to men younger than him?

Let’s consider this verse: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21) Doesn’t this sound like a command? Why then is it so often not followed amongst preachers? Why are most pastors not submitting to any other pastor? Why are elders not in submission to all other Christian elders? Is every believer to submit to every other believer? Or might these verses be models for us that work if other Christ-followers are using it as a model as well? Shouldn’t submitting “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18) be applicable in every relationship?

Let’s consider this verse: “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3) Are we really to consider every person better than ourselves, or is this a command to heed when we are tempted to think more highly of ourselves than another? And what does the next verse command? It says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” All others? Or at least all others who we come in contact with? Are we really responsible to attend to everyone’s concerns? Or is this, too, a command to use as a guide, a model, a confirmation for when the Holy Spirit lays a person, or group of people, on our hearts that we should give to or sacrifice ourselves for? 1 Cor. 10:24 says, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Really? Nobody should seek his own good? Or is this verse an instruction to be used by the Spirit in guiding us through particular situations where others need our attention and help?

Let’s consider the issue of refuting that which we know to be false doctrine. In 2 Tim. 2:23-26 we see that the Lord’s servant is commanded to not quarrel with those opposed to him, but is to instruct them gently. Yet in Titus we read that bad doctrine is to be refuted (1:9), the adherents rebuked sharply (v. 13), those who continue to reject the Truth, shunned (3:9-11), and rebukes are to be given “with all authority.” (2:15) This would be beneficial if all who claim Christ would make sure they were in line with 1 Pe. 4:11: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” But how many Christians, even preachers, have a flippant attitude about this verse, particularly when they comment at blogs, rebuke someone who tries to correct them, or try to be entertaining in the pulpit?

1 Tim. 5:4 tells us that children and grandchildren are to put their religion into practice by caring for their families, including their parents and grandparents. How many Westerners are obeying this? Yet verse 8 states that those who do not provide for their relatives are actually denying the faith. Jesus teaches the same concept in Mark 7:6-13.

In Mt. 5:23,24 we see our Lord teaching that when someone has a grudge against us, we are not to come before God with our gifts (of worship, service, money, praise, prayer, etc.) until we are reconciled to that offended person. But who obeys this command with every person that gets angry at us or rejects us? Don’t we instead use it as a guide alongside Rom. 12:18 that says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”–?

Now that we’ve been reminded that the Scriptures can be correctly applied only under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let’s go back to some more of the “submit” verses. There are many, but let’s look at just a few more –like Eph. 5:24: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” And Col. 3:22: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything.” And Rom. 13:1,2: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities… [for, in fact,] he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted…” And 1 Pe. 2:13: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men, whether to the king… or to governors…” Are these commands not for everyone, or are they directed only to certain races or to one gender? And what should a man do if a person in authority above him tells him to do something that goes against his conscience or God’s Word? Certainly we know we should answer that with verses such as Acts 4:18-20 and 5:27-29 which teach us that obeying God takes precedence over obeying any person, law, or institution.

So, was (and is) the motto of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist newspaper correct? The motto was, “Right is of no Sex [Gender], Truth is of no Color, God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” Does this line up with the whole counsel of God’s Word? It does. And does this apply across the board, including in families and in churches? Well, have all those who have put their trust in Christ and been baptized into Him also been clothed with Him? Gal. 3:26,27 tell us “yes”. This is why verse 28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So then, all who are in Christ are clothed with Christ, and all who are clothed with Christ are one body with no inferior parts and no parts that can claim supremacy. (1 Cor. ch. 12) “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (v. 13) and the Spirit gives spiritual gifts to each person as He, and He alone, chooses. (v. 4-11) Therefore, if anyone tries to suppress the work of the Spirit in anyone else’s life, the oppressor should understand that he is not gathering with Christ but instead scattering, and that he is not with Christ, but rather against Christ. (Jesus’ teaching in Luke 11:23)

Made in God’s image, every human is intrinsically equal, and yes, everyone in Christ is also –regardless of race, age, gender, or any other physical characteristic. No one within Christ’s church, His body, has the right to exercise authority over anyone else. (Mark 10:42-45) Those who lead are to be everyone’s slave. (v. 44) And everyone is to submit to everyone. –As is fitting in the Lord. For the Lord Jesus Christ is our one and only Mediator, Teacher, and Master of God’s commands. (Mt. 23:8-10 // 1 Tim. 2:5)

Slavery has been abolished in civilized societies, even though the Bible was vigorously used by many to support it. Why then do we see the continuation of this horrible sin of suppressing, and oppressing, women? Truly the proponents do not have the mind of Christ on the issue.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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