This term at church we’re learning together from Galatians. Again and again I’m reminded that I’m saved by grace through faith in Christ and not what I do or who I am. I’m astonished again that God includes me in a promise made millennia ago that was always to be received by faith. Redemption through one man, inclusion in one family, the gift of one Spirit, brings unity. There are no tiers of better or worse Christian, no distinction of lesser or greater salvation. There is one promise and one rescuer.
Yet God’s family is diverse. How are we to act in unity enabled, rather than hindered, by our difference? As always God is at least one step ahead of me and tells me what I need to know in his Word the Bible. Dr Claire Smith has done Jesus’ people a great service by clearly and carefully laying forth what he says. In the first section of her book, Claire sheds light on passages that concern men and women in the regular gathered congregation of God’s people, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.
I appreciate that Claire treats her reader with respect. Claire doesn’t water down the issues, or neglect controversy, or shy away from presenting alternative views, or skip over qualifications or nuances. Nor does Claire avoid affirming strongly what she concludes the Word of God says plainly. I’m so glad to read someone who takes God’s Word so seriously. Her desire to hear God speak makes her diligent and thorough in her presentation. She wrestles with the details in light of both the immediate and broader context.
So I’m left delighting in my salvation and asking myself lots of questions about how to live this out. Much of the application seems to be about my attitude as well as my behaviour.
Do I joyfully embrace God’s pattern of relationships from creation? Am I glad to play my role or do I covet another? Am I characterised by contentment or bitterness? Have I come to a position which has a final ‘It’s God’s Word but…’ clause on the end? Where are my cultural blind spots? Have I gone beyond the Word of God and added extra rules or taken something away?
In the regular gathering of God’s people do I show respect and voluntarily submit to those who are over me in the Lord? Am I learning as God’s Word is taught? Am I sitting in judgment over the authoritative teaching of God’s Word? Do I nurture respect and willing submission in others for whom that is appropriate? Do I engage in gossip about our leaders? How can I encourage godly and gifted men to step up and lead?
What is the culturally appropriate way to express equality in Christ and differences of authority within God’s family? When I teach the children in church am I honouring or undermining those who are in authority over me? Do we have suitable male and female role models teaching our children?
Does my ministry encourage order or disorder? Am I motivated by building the body of Christ? Am I letting my ability to do something lead me to insist that I must do it? Where are the God given opportunities for me to speak and to remain silent?
I have more questions than answers at this stage. God’s Word is sharp, as always.