Rights and A Pandemic

            In this pandemic, we are hearing a lot about rights including the right to refuse to wear a mask, the fear of our rights being taken away by the government, the fear of losing other freedoms we now take for granted. I got to thinking about rights, who has them and what right (there’s that word again) we have to defend our rights.

            The characteristics of basic human rights is that they are universal, they belong to all of us.  They are inalienable in that they cannot be taken away.  They are interconnected. They are dependent on one another.  They are indivisible, unable to be treated in isolation.  Lastly, they are non-discriminatory.  They should be respected without prejudice.

            The human rights written up in the international bill of rights are as followed:

  1. The right to equality and freedom from discrimination
  2. The right to life, liberty, and personal security
  3. Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
  4. The right to equality before the law
  5. The right to a fair trial
  6. The right to privacy
  7. Freedom of belief and religion
  8. Freedom of opinion
  9. Right of peaceful assembly and association
  10. The right to participate in government
  11. The right to social security
  12. The right to work
  13. The right to an adequate standard of living
  14. The right to education
  15. The right to health
  16. The right to food and housing

      We cannot argue that anyone does not have one of these rights because they are basic human rights.  What happens when I think my rights are infringed upon?  Am I wrong in thinking I have rights?  What happens when my rights hurt someone else?  This is the quandary facing our country right now.  Number 8, the freedom of opinion and number 15, the right to health, is something we each need to truly consider. What if my freedom of opinion suffers because of your right to health?  If you think you are in danger of losing your life to a virus if I don’t wear a mask, must I wear one regardless of my opinion in order for you to feel safe?  Who has a right to live or die in the pandemic?  Who has a right to determine my safety and yours?  How can I ensure that your rights are being considered fairly while I maintain the dignity of my rights? 

      Being fair means considering the rights of those who are our weakest members because they are less able to take care of their own rights.  It is for this reason that the Underground Railroad was established during the days of slavery.  It is for the rights of Jewish people that Dietrich Bonhoeffer perished during the Nazi regime.  Basic human rights of less fortunate people are at stake. How concerned should I be about them?  Do I have a right to deny a person with diabetes the right to shop at a supermarket because I have a right to not wear a mask?  If someone believes mask wearing makes them ill, should they also be obliged to stay home and let someone who believes in masking go shopping for them?  This is what we believe those who are ill should do, right? The needs of others should be as considered as much as our own needs. We ALL have the right to live well, whether we are sick or not. You do not know if your neighbor is suffering from diabetes or an invisible illness such as autoimmune disease.  You do not know. You cannot see those illnesses. What we do know is that there is a pandemic and we ALL have rights. Weigh this before you go out in public.  Think about how easy it is to put ourselves and our rights first. 

      Jesus said this, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). If you do not enjoy worrying about dying, do not put others in that position of anxiety.  If you can help someone who is suffering because of the pandemic, help them.  If it is a store owner whose store is in danger of shutting down, help them think about alternative businesses or ways to make their businesses safe without hurting others.  Stop being selfish. This is a time in which we need to consider the weakest among us. There are enough wise, smart, rich people among us in our Christian circles to protect the less fortunate among us.       

      Isolation is not necessarily the answer to protection.  There are ways to help the vulnerable without isolation tactics.  We can deliver groceries and drop them off on our friend’s porches, talk on the phone through a window, face-time them through video conferencing, send care packages of fun gifts and treats, and write letters.

      There are the grieving to think of. Who is supporting our friends who have lost loved ones due to the virus? Are you caring for them?  What are you doing? Fear is not the answer.

      It is just as stupid to be afraid of losing our freedoms as it is to be afraid of dying of Covid-19.  We are not stupid.  There are needs that can be met with dignity and imagination and creativity.  Do you not have it? Caring for the needs among us is not impossible for the people of God.  Let other people know of your needs without scoffing at those who disagree with you.  This in not a time to panic or to be angry.  It is a time to be there for our brothers and sisters, our elderly and our ill. We need you.  You need us.

When I Am Wronged

When someone violates me, what do I do?  When we grow up in a Christian environment, we are commonly exampled two easy things.  The first is inward examination. What am I doing that ticked that person off?  The second tactic is to be angry and acknowledge that. Both these common tactics easily veer down unsafe pathways.

First, let’s look at inward examination.  Are your responsible for someone else’s choices? No.  The way every person on earth acts and reacts is their own problem.  We are each responsible for our own issues.  If someone violates me, they are responsible, not me. However, how we respond to violation, is our problem.  We do honestly need to look at ourselves, but not ask the question, “How can I change to placate the person who offended me?”  Instead, we need to remember how not to bow down to that idol.  God is a jealous God.  The question to ask is, “How can I please God?”

God gives us directions on how to respond to harm done to us.  We talk to that person.  If that person does not listen, we talk to them with other people.  If they do not listen, we do not treat them like a brother or sister.  Instead we protect ourselves from them, by attending only their life sustaining needs (Matthew 18:15-17, Proverbs 25:21, 22).

If we live to please God, we will analyze our actions and responses to others with filters. “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Ephesians 5:22-23). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:4-8).

Secondly, what do we do with anger and hurt?  Anger is the natural response to harm done to oneself.  It is not a primary emotion.  It is an easy emotion that covers up a primary emotion, sadness.  It makes us sad when other people violate our boundaries or fail to meet our needs.  It hurts. Very often we lash out angrily, maybe not to them, but to others about them.  We vent.  Talking about things is healthy but I challenge you to go one step further.  Explore the pain.  What should we be doing about the grief?

Grief feels helpless. Anger feels more useful.  It feels like a safety valve. It lets off pressure, or we would implode or explode.  Anger is not wrong. It is an emotion that reveals that something is wrong, pay attention. It is wrong if we use it against someone. There is someone who can validate your anger, someone who has been there.  It is God. When we are angry, we should release our anger to God.  He already knows you’re angry. He can listen and validate it and has the power to take over from there.  “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).  Grieving the harm done to you, might simply be as little as saying, “I’m sad this happened.  I feel hurt. Or it might mean crying and writing down the losses, then burning the paper.  Grief is an acknowledgement of something one misses and letting go of what should have been.  It is draining, but once acknowledged and processed, life is renewed and the new normal begins.

Personal and Corporate Repentance

What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an “unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:15-17 NIV).”

We Mennonites have taken this verse out of context for years now. I’ve been thinking about how pride takes a role in how we look at abuse issues. Those who minimize and deny the sin that happens in our church rest on the fact that we try hard to be a separate people from the world. We try to be hard-working and honest people living by holier standards than the world around us.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Sin happens within individuals. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:1‭-‬4 NIV) The origin of sin is personal. It’s individual. It comes from one person not resisting evil. Then this happens. ‬‬

Because of pride the abuser is not publicly apprehended. “It’ll turn people off if they know we’re like them.” It’s easier to hush the victim up, to sweep things under the rug. To tell the sinner to say he’s sorry (“After all, we need to do something”). In reality, there’s a prescription for sin.Matthew 18 tells us how to approach a sinner. We ask them to stop sinning. If they don’t, we bring a witness and ask them to stop. If they don’t, we kick them out of the church and let them experience the full consequences of their actions.

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Timothy 3:2-5 NIV).”

“I’m sorry” has nothing to do with repentance. Stopping sin does. There’s an example of this in the Bible. “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28 NIV).” Did the thief say he’s sorry? No. Did he stop stealing? Yes. Not only did he stop stealing. He started working to gain his needs rightfully! Not only did he start working, he became a generous giver! This is how the sin of abuse needs to be addressed and this is how an abuser needs to repent.
An abuser needs to repent by stepping down off his high horse and developing a servant heart. He not only needs to stop using his power to manipulate and control others, but in humility serving them. He needs to willingly and humbly and gladly suffer the consequences of his actions. That’s what repentance is. It’s becoming more godly.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 4:5-8).” When we care about being like Jesus, pride becomes a dirty thing and sin becomes a thing we abhor.

Being hurt by abuse is very painful, spirtually, physically,  and emotionally.  The truama goes deep. When the sin of the church complicates it, we tend to flee from all things spiritual.  I am a survivor.  I know how difficult it is to trust God and to trust believers whom you think should have known how to handle abuse.  I challenge you to realize that help is not really found in a church, although I hope and pray that churches corporately change this reality by letting go of their pride.  Help is found in believers who exemplify the love of God to you.  There are godly people who care about abuse in Mennonite churches, and in many other churches.  We are here for you. Please allow God to reach into your life through his people by showing you that through mankind, sin happens, but through mankind the Holy Spirit Comforter also happens.  Get help, open your heart to healing and allow God to show you Who He really is. Emmanuel. God with us.

Footprints

Little one, I never saw your tiny feet.

I never kissed your little toes and called it sweet!

But did your footprints trace a path I can’t erase?

When ocean water sweeps the beaches, not a trace

Of prints remain when morning dawns, the sun

Leaves not a hint of prints where I have run.

Yet you have walked with me and I have saved

Each tiny footprint memory as if engraved

In gold upon the album of my mind.

When first I realised that you would be

Forever in my life as part of me,

I could not know that your last step would be

So soon…from life into eternity.

I’ll never touch your fingers, kiss your nose,

Regard your wide-eyed wonder at a rose,

Or see your smile, but baby mine, I love you

And love the Lamb of Light that shines above your.

Until I see you face to face, I’ll treasure

Each footprint memory I alone can measure.

My time of pregancy, just you and me,

Is all a part of one big memory.

And friends who came to laugh, then stayed to cry,

Are part of memories of you and I.

While other moms display their baby books,

And smiling chat about how baby looks,

I laugh and smile and do rejoice. I can!

For God has blessed me time and time, again.

I’ve other babies growing up with me

But you they aren’t and never will they be!

Sometimes I just remember you and smile

And trace your tiny footprints for awhile.

 

Cultural Trauma?

In my class this week on trauma, the cultural trauma of the North American Native Americans was discussed. There are studies about how descendants of the Native Americans still suffer from the multi-generational trauma inflicted on their ancestors, how they were relocated, their cultural identity was stripped away, and how their descendants still suffer from this loss. The collective trauma was passed down orally because that is how tradition is passed down in Native American culture.

I thought back through my own specific cultural heritage. My mom has no cultural heritage.  Her family broke up when she was 5 or so and nothing about story or culture was passed down except for loss. My mom remembers very little of her life before foster homes and not much about her first few foster homes. Her father and mother were both foster children themselves. My cultural ancestry on mom’s side is Swedish from her dad, a Johnson, and possibly German from her mom.  My dad was descended from anabaptist Mennonites.  He likes history and did a fan chart that goes back several generations.

How did trauma impact these people?  I know how trauma impacted my mom’s family.  She searches for belonging, looking for cousins, meeting her brother for the first time when she was already in her 50’s and losing him a few months later to sudden death. only 2 weeks after the 2nd time she saw him. Most of her siblings met each other at his funeral, rocked by the loss of a brother they didn’t know but who looked so much like them.

I truly believe trauma impacted Mennonites, too, and now we are seeing the need to deal with it. The resistance to change as a culture might come from the impact of forced change a few hundred years ago.  They came to a country where they were unwanted because they refused to fight in the revolutionary war.  Ben Franklin proposed heavy taxation on Mennonites.  It didn’t pass.  They suffered through the revolutionary war, the civil war and the wars since, because of refusal to be conscripted into the army. Nonresistance became their mantra, because they resisted, fiercely, to kill.

But they did kill.  They killed off emotions and pain.  They killed spontaneity. They killed change.  Fear became their defense. They clung to a culture of no change because their identity became about who they were, because they couldn’t cling to whose they were. Why?  Did God become unsafe to them? Why did they pass this fear down to us?  Can we change?  Are we victims of a fear of loss of generational identity or can we think about how our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents processed trauma and somehow find our identity as people willing to change because we have a foundational Rock that doesn’t change?

When a Woman Abuses

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
Proverbs 31:10‭-‬11 NIV

Men aren’t the only ones who can be abusive in relationships. One out of nine men is likely to be abused by an intimate partner. All oppression is harmful and kills relationships. The dynamics of female to male abuse is different because women generally aren’t bigger and stronger then men, but the dysfunction and pain are no less real.

The same factors that cause men to abuse cause women to abuse. They are selfishness, pride and/or untended pain. When a person views the opposite gender with disrespect, it never fails to cause havoc. Women who are abusive often neglect or abuse children more severely then they do their husbands because of the power construct but some can and do abuse the men who love them. Abuse usually happens to those under a narcissist’s perceived authority.

Ways women abuse men are:

1. Often criticizing him in public or to his friends and coworkers.

2. Cheating on him.

3. Throwing things or being physically violent toward him.

4. Threatening to keep him from his children and telling them how bad he is.

5. Refusing to get individual counseling.

6. Refusing to take responsibility for or stop any abusive behavior.

Abuse is a power and control dynamic so one episode of abusive behavior is not abuse.  It is a pattern of behavior that indicates whether a person is being abusive or not.  Domineering and disrespect of the opposite gender is a terrible thing for a person to do and violates the image of God within the other person.

God tolerates mistakes.  He does not tolerate oppression in any way.  When a man is being abused, separation is permissible and encouraged until the relationship issues can be addressed.  It is embarrassing and painful to have to admit that a marriage or dating relationship is hurtful but it is never ok to hide a problem that hides sin in a relationship.

God is not the author of confusion and disrespect. He wants relationships to be uncontaminated by pride and selfishness,  and to be an example of cooperative engagement where both individuals in it can thrive and grow closer.  He wants each person in the relationship to feel safe and loved and validated.

How do you tell if a man is being abused in the relationship?  He might be quiet and not inclined to admit he’s being abused.  He might lash out verbally in anger.  He may withdraw.  He might tell you but only if she isn’t around.  He might be too permissive, allowing himself to be taken advantage of rather than taking initiative.  He might say, “I’m sorry,” too often. He will doubt himself, rather than his partner.  He might stop being around his own friends and family.  You might hear his partner calling him names, belittling him, and making fun of him.  She might act jealous or possessive in public, not letting him talk with other people alone. His life will revolve around her rather than him having an identity of his own.

If you are a woman who abuses, get help.  Get counseling. Separate until you can be a supportive person!  Learn to respect.  Learn to trust and love and give as well.  You do not need to control someone in order to be happy.  Develop boundaries and help the men in your life to develop boundaries as well.  Respect and love help people become better people and that ultimately helps you as well because people who are respected, give out of the overflow of  what is poured into them for their well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

Confusion of the Curse

We know the story of the fall of man, how the serpent deceived Eve and was cursed for it by being forced to crawl on his belly and ultimately be doomed. We also know that men were cursed with difficulty in forcing a living from the ground. I think, however, there is confusion about the curse regarding women.

“Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:13‭, ‬16 New International Version).

Why do so many modern Christians think that this ruling was a command instead of a curse? Men fight thistles and sweat to earn a living, resisting the curse. Jesus died, crushing the head of the serpent, once and for all. How are we mistakenly interpreting the curse on women for a command, rather than a curse? Are we that gullible that we lay all scriptural evidence aside and actually rejoice in this curse, rather than fight it like a man fights with the elements?

It is a tendency of men to subjugate women. Christian men are specifically told how to respond to a wife. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:25‭-‬30).

We are also exemplified it through Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Philippians 2:6). For more information on how he lived out this equality read Philippians 2:1-8. You see a life of servant leadership easily and wonderfully described in those verses.

So if mankind’s curse is for women to be dominated or ruled over, would it not follow that women are subject to inequality, rape, violence, and other forms of being used? What do we see in the world today? We see inequality, rape, and violence toward women in higher statistics then we do men.

It makes sense that a man who is united with Christ fights against the curse towards women just like he fights against “thorns and thistles” to earn a living. The misinterpretation of scripture to mean something it does not mean should be reconsidered in our churches today.

Women of Power

You may have seen marchers in the streets holding signs. “Women power!” You got a visual. Some of you recoiled. Some of you wistfully wondered if there was such a thing as power for a woman. Some of you just felt that somehow women power just is not enough…

I believe women have lost their power. I also believe it’s a war out there. An adversary hates women since the beginning of time. The adversary uses violence to attack women from childhood on up, beginning with the first woman, Eve, whom he deceived in the world’s first garden.

There’s a reason. God says this, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 New International Version). He was talking to the adversary back then. The adversary has been targeting women ever since, via war crimes, rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking, and (most insidious) to cause women to view themselves as not worth much.

“We can take care of ourselves. We can fight this ugliness! See us! We’re strong!” they cry out. “We can do anything men can do!”

Can they? Should they? Frankly, women have forgotten that they are powerful! They were created to be. The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). Men, alone, are not equipped sufficiently. The original Hebrew words for ‘suitable helper’ are ‘ezer kenegdo,’ the translation coming out loosely to mean ‘cooperative alliance.’ Cringers, if you needed help, would you want somebody powerless beside you? That’s not the kind of person God created.

God presented Adam with a counterpart. Somebody who could think for herself, plan, and actually do something useful to help. He did this so Adam wouldn’t have to do things alone, so he wouldn’t have to face life alone. God didn’t create Adam powerless and he didn’t create Eve powerless.

So what does a powerful women look like?

1. She’s not hard. She’s soft. She’s likeable. She’s vulnerable. She’s kind and empathetic. She’s not cynical. She’s not anxious.

2. She’s protective. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
Proverbs 31:20‭-‬21 NIV

3. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25 NIV Now that’s a woman who is confident.

4. She’s valued and respected. “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:28‭, ‬31).

5. She’s a warrior. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”
(Ephesians 6:10‭-‬18). Who said this passage is for men only? No one.

6. She is influential. Priscilla is a good example of a powerful woman of the New Testament. She and her husband, Aquila, moved from Italy to Corinth as refugees when Claudius expelled Christians from Rome Acts 18:2-3. She and her husband were both tentmakers. Paul lived with them and helped them out for awhile. In Acts 18:18 they accompanied him, by ship, to Syria. In Acts 18:26, “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” In I Corinthians 16:19, Paul extended greetings to the church in their home.

The interesting fact about Aquila and Priscilla is that neither were ever mentioned alone in the Scriptures. They were great counterparts to each other. They had a business together, they entertained together, they taught together, they traveled together and they hosted church together.

Lydia of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth was also a strong woman to be admired. She was a businesswoman who was known to be a believer in God. In Acts 16, Paul finds her down by the river at the place of prayer with other women. The ministry this lady apparently already was involved in, prepared her for the gospel. She was influential in her home and business. When she heard Paul’s message, she received it and she and her household were baptized.

Women might have been sold a bad image of what women need to be, but if so, they are missing out on what they really have potential to be. I challenge women to live up to the power of God within you that can enable you to be the women He designed you to be. The adversary has nothing on us.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Feminism or Liberty in Christ?

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” The word itself implies that women are the instigators behind the movement. It reveals that to many women, equality is not equal in gender but rather sought for by women rather than men.

In the Bible, beginning very early in history, we find that males and females were created equal, but that after the fall a man’s tendency to women was to rule over them (Genesis 2:16).  This is where equality between women and men was cursed and women became secondary  politically, economically, and socially. God’s intent is for males and females to be equal, but sin had far reaching consequences. The tendency of unregenerate hearts is still to dominate and abuse women.

Recently a Christian counselor said that, “Secular society is convinced that the church denies that domestic violence is a significant issue, especially within its own environment.  When “godly” church-attending men abuse women, their wives seldom go to the church for help, because the church most often blames them for being the problem.”  I was saddened to hear this. Are we as a church subject to an un-Biblical view of the roles of women and men? I believe we are.

Early Roman law allowed a man to beat, divorce or kill his wife for offenses committed by her. The Catholic church, in the 1500’s made a rule that a man was to stand as judge for his wife and should beat his wife with a stick upon her commission of an offense. In the 1700’s English Common Law stated that a man had the right to beat his wife with a whip no bigger than his thumb because he was answerable for her offenses and should be able to discipline his wife like his children or apprentices.  (This is where we get our expression “rule of thumb”).

In 1871, in Fulgham vs. the State of Alabama, the court ruled that, “The privilege, ancient though it may be, to beat her with a stick, to pull her hair, choke her, spit in her face or kick her about the floor or to inflict upon her other like indignities, is not now acknowledged by our law.”  This is when the first law against domestic violence in the United States was passed.  

First wave feminism in the 19th century and early 20th century focused on women having equal contract rights and property rights and opposed chattel marriages and ownership of women by their husbands.  It included the suffrage, or the right to vote.   Feminism in the 1960’s to 1980’s focused more on social and cultural inequalities and morphed into what is known as feminism today, third-wave feminism.

There seems to be much fear in modern times, especially in Christian society, that feminism is a threat to femininity.  Femininity is, according to Merriam-Webster, the quality or nature of the female sex.  Christians really need to read their Bibles with an open mind that is untainted by political propaganda. The Bible has a little to say about equality and femininity.

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him (Acts 10:34-35 KJV).’”

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This clearly shows that God does not recognize inequality in his children. In Ephesians 5, when God is telling us how to walk as his followers, He gives us all the same instructions. First, He tells us to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2).  I Corinthians 13 describes what love is and what love does.

For the many Christians who use Ephesians 5:21 to point out that wives are to have a subordinate position under men, notice that Ephesians 5:21 says to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord.  Rebellion of both women and men is a wickedness compared to idolatry in the Bible. The relationship that God calls us to is that of humility and walking in love and following Christ.  The word “submit” is a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden (Strong’s Concordance).”  It does not mean slavery or even indentureship or servitude.  It was also required that a woman be in this position to her husband, rather than any other man. A husband is the protector of his family.

Christ has a unique role that he is commended for by his own Father. In Philippians 2, we read about this role.  The New International Version explains it best.  “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-9)!” If husbands were commanded to love their wives this way, it seems that the greater burden was on a man, if anything, because it is a position of great vulnerability to stand between a loved wife and death.

Wives, interestingly enough, are not commanded to love.  Emotional vulnerability is often easier for women than for men. Secular society honors the emotionally vulnerable man.  Hollywood thrives on romantic forays into the softening of a man’s heart toward his woman, making mega bucks off romantic movies. From Song of Solomon to Shakespeare, the love of men for women and women for men is revered in literature.

As men and women come to know Christ, Christ draws us into intimate relationship, and equal relationship.  Unregenerate men and women will always struggle with power struggles and inequality, but only through healthy relationship with Christ will men and women have equality, powerful intimacy and respect for each other.

In Christian liberty, a woman is free to buy, own and inherit land (Proverbs 31:16). She is free to be a business woman (Proverbs 31:24). She is cherished by her husband and children (Proverbs 31:28, Ephesians 4:32). She is a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ. She has freedom to speak up and be believed when she is injured by a fellow human being (Matthew 18:15-17). She is a woman who can host a church in her home (I Corinthians 16:19). She can teach others (Acts 18:26, Proverbs 31:26, Titus 2:3-5).

Apart from Christ, many men will abuse women and children, women and men will fight for dominance, and Satan will have a heydey accusing and abusing them all. The fact that a feminism movement even exists is a sad and shameful testimony to the lack of sacred dignity that women have been afforded so far.

When women are seen as honored human beings, there is no danger of bringing unwanted children into the world.  A baby in her womb will be hoped for, cherished and very safe. In Christ and around Christian men, a woman should be safe and protected and free to be at liberty because she is protected and valued by the husband she chooses and who has chosen her and honored by the family of her father God and the family she is blessed to mother, if she is privileged to do so.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25.”

How to Get Your Wife Back

Here you are, abandoned and alone…wondering how you messed up your life so badly and wishing you could somehow miraculously undo the results of your actions.  You wanted a hint of hope, so you asked me.  I don’t know your story, but this is my answer.  I’m warning you.  It will be the hardest thing you ever did.  You will be beginning your life all over again and becoming a different person.  If you succeed, you will be a hero.  Here is how to get your wife back.

  1. Never say a bad word about your wife. Don’t shred her character. This is the most important step. Sure, you will be able to recall things about her or things she did that were wrong, but remember this: she can do the exact same thing about you. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
  2. Respect and honor her. If she felt disappointed and betrayed enough to leave you, work on this. Do not treat her like a wife, treat her like a potential girlfriend. Win her like you would a woman you never met before.  There is no place in your life in which you have a right to talk to her about her place in the home, her role in the home or her responsibilities to you as a wife.  She probably knows everything about that and if she does not, it is the role of a woman to teach her how to be a good wife.  Your job is to be the man she enjoys being around.
  3. Apologize and repent. If, and when she brings things up again, apologize and repent again.  “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”  It goes a long way.  Do this every time.  Yes, it may be often.
  4. Don’t minimize your offenses. In fact, go into detail about why your offenses were wrong. That way she believes you really mean it. If you don’t know why you were wrong, find out and whatever you do, don’t deny it. If an action of yours made her feel unsafe or violated, you had better find out how not to repeat it.  Your job is to protect your woman, not to dictate to her or to make her feel unsafe or uncared for. You are the leader.  Lead out by exemplifying the kind of person you wish she was.  Go ahead, be her hero.  Make her feel safe, valued, important, honored and loved.
  5. Be humble. Don’t talk about spiritual things, right now. Right now, you are not a leader. The woman who followed you started running the opposite direction because you made her feel threatened.  She knows all your faults.  That time you started belittling how she parented?  She remembers that.  That time you started shaming her for the way she talked to someone?  She thinks about that every time she sees that individual.  She’s trying to forget the pain your actions caused her.  She knows your faults.  Walk in humility and grow into your place.  Acting holier than her will not work.  She knows how holy you really are.
  6. Build your relationship with Christ. This could have been my first point, but I chose to put it under the point about humility which goes along with pretending to be holy. God knows you.  He knows your weaknesses and where you went wrong.  He wants you to love him more than you love your wife and he longs to build an intimate relationship with you, just like you long to build an intimate relationship with your wife.  Do not fail to seek him with all your heart.  He is the healing for your pain, the source of your joy, the intimate lover of your heart, the balm for your wound.  He is the ultimate leader who laid down his very life for his often way-ward bride.  Do you love your wife like that?  Would you die for her?
  7. Limit your contact with other women. You have no business building a relationship with other women. Be loyal to your wife. If you find yourself longing for a woman’s approval, remember you once had hers.  She once loved you enough to marry you.  She once trusted you.  Another woman has no place in your heart and God calls that adultery.
  8. Be accountable. When you are sweating out the loneliness and the gut-wrenching hard work of allowing God to reveal your sin and to learn new principles of how to live, you’ll need a good man or two or three in your life that will treat you like a son. They can teach you how to honor your wife and be loyal to her. You can go to them when you are angry and they can walk you through the repentance and the sorrow and get you back to being willing to climb the next mountain and scale the next wall.
  9. Don’t compliment other women. You have a wife to compliment. One day you saw that girl and thought, “She’s sweet and beautiful and I want to marry her.”  She’s still sweet and beautiful.  That girl is still there.  Date her when she begins trusting you enough to date again.  Compliment her.
  10. Get counseling. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). It’s the little things that lead up to the destruction of the marriage.  It’s the bad habits that creep in and run about unobstructed. When the habits grow up into full-fledged monsters, it has gone way too far. I do not advise couples counseling for deeply entrenched habits such as abusive relationships.  Individual counseling helps you deal with the things that come up in your life.  When you can handle your own personal issues, and deal with them wisely with knowledge and integrity, then you can handle your side of a relationship.  When your wife sees you working on the issues in your life, she can see that you are actually changing and becoming the man she knew you were behind the bluff you were putting on.  Go find the humble, kind, godly man you once were.  If you never were humble and kind, go find Jesus.  He will teach you how to be like him. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

Blessings, my friend, as you become your wife’s hero.

Note: This post is written for a man whose wife has left because of his own acts of domestic violence or infidelity.  It is not written to address a man with an unfaithful or abusive wife.  We must never condemn another person for our own actions and failures but above all live a morally and godly life that honors the other partner in our marriage while challenging them to race us toward the goal.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (I Corinthians 9:24-27 New International Version).”