The ditch between complementarian and egalitarian theologies runs deep enough to cause debate at pretty much any level. But only if someone’s in the mood for a debate.
When I came across a recent article in Relevant Magazine about dating, I was at first glance more interested in exposing a logistical flaw in presupposing that asking someone out meant “initiating.” Clearly if someone is asking another person out, that second person has initiated something, if nothing more than a friendly interest or curiosity in some time together. After all, folks: Jesus knocks…he doesn’t open the door and invite himself in. But divulging into that kind of question might best be left for another day, because while I was yet pointing out that logical mishap, it suddenly dawned on me that I had fallen prey to a ridiculously clandestine temptation in modern Christianity: a proclivity towards debating things that shouldn’t be major issues. In reality, any “major issue” is far more serious than an initial desire lets us see.
What I mean more precisely is this: why aren’t we, as Christians, more concerned with decisions that are clearly ethical, rather than who’s more (counter-)culturally agreeable?
In the case of the above article’s topic, why are we more concerned about who should take what particular action in a relationship, instead of how to discern the potential efficacy and worth of that relationship? Even at a foundational level, what is the point of being in a relationship, from a Christian point of view, if that relationship isn’t propelling more godly behavior or activity? “How is your relationship fostering God’s Grace Kingdom?” is a more worthy question of debate than, “Who started it?” The first question is likely to challenge, empower, and preserve us, with answers not exactly easily discerned. The second question is more likely to evoke a response of “tee-hee” within the first three seconds of asking it than a response of any kind of legitimate spiritual merit. And frankly, no matter how we answer the second question, if we don’t ask the first question, the second one becomes meaningless at-best and self-destructive, at-worst.
At the moment, I have to wonder if the crux of our lack of depth and challenge has more to do with our ability to only discuss what we can handle. More directly, many of us seem more at ease with what we can control—how we can seem more in line with our peers, how we can ensure what we want—rather than how we ought to live. Perhaps we fear judgment in order to increase our likelihood of acceptance (“As long as I follow such-and-such more culturally acceptable practice, I won’t be a failure”). But if we do, wouldn’t that belie our greater fear of judgment for failing to behave ethically, since that is clearly more important to God and thus would be addressed more regularly if we were concerned? And yet Jesus continually encourages us, either way, not to be afraid, not to fear judgment, and at the same time to do things that are clearly ethical practices, behaviors centered on bettering our interpersonal relationships. Talk about a turning of the tables!
Perhaps we are afraid of judgment, in other words, because we shy away from that which could cure our fear of judgment: our own relationship with God.