July 29, 2010

Complementarity and Team Partnerships (pt2)

In a previous post I began to open the topic of Complementarity and Partnership, it was the first in what will be of a series of posts. 

I now come to considering it's application. 
I begin by exploring the important question: 'how may our theology of complementarity be expressed in our teams, with men and women together in servant ministry'?

Here is the 1st of a series of proposals.

Proposal 1: Complementarian partnership means viewing each other through the scriptural lens of ‘family co-workers’ in the kingdom, not as ‘other’.

At times I think there can be an unhealthy fear about men and women working alongside one another. While it’s imperative that we always act and relate with unquestionable purity, integrity and wisdom in all relationships, with no hint of “sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or greed, as are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph 5:1-5, Col 3); there’s also a danger that out of fear or ‘over reaction,’ we may employ practices of relating that can diminish the richness of fellowship and reduce spiritual realities to something 'less than' God actually intended for us.

What do I mean?

1 Timothy reminds us that God has given us to each other primarily as a ‘spiritual family,’ members of God’s household where certain rules of conduct apply (3:15) and which knit us together as a ‘spiritual community’. As such we’re called to no longer view one another in fleshly or earthly terms but through a spiritual lens and through spiritual relationship (1 Cor 12:12-14).

In chapter 5 of this letter, Paul commands us...
“to not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (v3). 
This passage calls each of us to treasure and regard each member in Christ with all the appropriate honour, respect, and wholesome genuine love and care that family relationships bring. We’re commanded to view and relate to those older in the faith as parents’, likewise neither are we view our male and female peers simply as ‘colleagues’, ‘ministry partners’, ‘workfellows’, or even ‘friends’, but as ‘siblings’ (Matt 5:28, 1Pet 3:8, Rom 12:10).

What we find here is that on our entry into the family of Christ we’re called to, and brought into, a radically new and profound relationship with one another. We’re called to review our understanding, perception and practice of all male female relationships at every level, whether that be husband to his wife, wife to her husband, parent to child, man to woman, slave to a master, team member to team member (1Pet 2&3,1 Cor 11)

At every level of our social and relational strata we’re no longer to consider ourselves, or one another, as mere individual entities, objects of sexual interest, or biological units of connection, but as spiritual family.

This radical re-think of relationships was a challenge that even Jesus’ own mother and brothers had to come to terms with …
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."      Matt 12:46-50 (cf Lk 2:48-50,Jn 19:26-27)

Once we begin to view one another through the Biblical lens of ‘familial relationships’, rather than as potential objects of ‘danger’, ‘suspicion’ or of ‘incomprehendable difference’, we lessen the likelihood of abusing, mistreating or distorting those relationships. 

It is also less likely that we will neglect the many ‘helpful’ and ‘edifying’ ways of serving and caring for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, as members of our spiritual family with whom we have a spiritual relationship as well as God- given spiritual obligations (1Cor 12:12-27).

For example as brothers and sisters in Christ we are called…
*To faithfully and committedly encourage each other as a means of spiritual protection (Heb 3:13).

*To abound in deep and sincere brotherly or sisterly love towards each other (Rom 12:10, Heb 13:1,1Pet 1:22).

*To help carry each other’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).

*To consider how we can spur each other on to love and good deeds (Heb 10:2).

*To be loving, sympathetic, compassionate and humble towards each other (1Pet 3:8).

*To actively and regularly pray for each other      (Jas 5:16, Eph 6:18).                                                        

These are just some of the deep truths, obligations and responsibilities that come from being woven together into the body of Christ. Forever inseparable and indispensable members of God’s family, just as the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family…” (Heb 2:11) so men and women share in a unique relationship and familial bond that is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

It’s worth noting in passing the wholesome example of Jesus friendship with Mary and Martha. We’re told in Jn 11 that Jesus “loved Martha and her sister ” v5, and it is patently clear that as he fellowshipped, taught, encouraged and engaged with these women that there was never any hint or suggestion of relational impropriety or improper sexualization of their friendships (cf Lk 10, Jn 12).

Likewise Paul, who speaks of his many female co-workers with great honour and affection in Rom 16 and elsewhere, noting the special reference to his dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lordin v12. The Apostle obviously deeply valued, not only the kingdom work of his female colleagues but also their personal friendship and support as well.

So, while we must never ignore the scriptures counsel to safeguard our minds and hearts, to wisely and actively protect ourselves from sexual misconduct or impropriety, as members of Christ's body labouring together in the work of his kingdom, we're also called to foster wholesome, appropriate and relationally rich ways of relating.  

So, as ‘family co-workers’ in Christ, let's take to heart Hebrew’s exhortation to...

“keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters)” 
                                             (Heb 13:1)

© please do not use without permission.


Daniel said...

Great, great post. A helpful corrective to how we view each other in the church - particularly on ministry "teams". I love you sis! :-)

Ruth said...

LOVE your work Sarie.

Sally said...

I have enjoyed reading your blogs this morning. You always have something relevant and helpful to say. They would make a very useful resource for women in ministry..like the leaders at WEB...You should really think about writing them for publication so that more women can benefit!!

Post a Comment