Sunday, March 26, 2017

Christian Leadership and Dating

Two weeks into one of my previous relationships, we decided to play Portal 2 together. I had played Portal 2 in co-op mode before. Player 2 had not. I let him pick the level, thinking it would be a good exercise of ‘Christian Submission in a Relationship’.

We spent the next two and a half hours with me growing steadily more frustrated at the gameplay and Player 2, until I told him the truth. He’d picked the hardest level. Suddenly, us being stuck was my fault for not saying anything earlier. It was a great time.

Folks, today I want to talk to you about Leadership, Submission, and Dating.

First off, I’ll clear the air. I...don’t feel entirely qualified to be speaking on the topic. BUT. This is not a matter of teaching scriptural truths on closed-hand topics. So I consider it okay for me, as a woman, to be talking about it.

*takes deep breath*

Here’s what men and women are listed as equals in, in scripture.

Hosting a church
Priscilla and Aquila are a husband and wife team who ran a first-century church in Corinth. They taught the scriptures, hosted the group, and offered correction as needed.
Acts 18, 2 Timothy 4:19

Earning an income
Paul worked as a tentmaker before he was commissioned by Jesus, and he used the skill to support himself as he travelled around and taught the gospel. In fact, it was his point of contact with the aforementioned Priscilla and Aquila.
Lydia becomes a patron of the early church after meeting Paul and his cohorts in Thessalonica. She’s a merchant of purple cloth. (Which meant she was quite well-off. Purple dye was rare and expensive.)
Acts 16:11-15, Acts 18

Owning property
When his wife Sarah dies, Abraham purchases land so he can bury her. He insists on purchasing the land, despite the owner wanting to straight up give it to him. It's the first piece of land he owns.
After the taking of Canaan, land was allotted to different family groups and tribes. Because one family had daughters instead of sons, the leaders were commanded to not only give land to them, same as their peers, but for that land to remain in their family line, rather than be claimed by a husband from a different tribe.
Genesis 23, Numbers 36

Leading God’s people
The judges were a group of people who looked after the Israelites between them being led by Moses and Joshua after they left Egypt, and having their first king - Saul. The judges were raised up by God, and delivered messages from him to the Israelites. They also got involved in making decisions for the people, and when the time called for it, overseeing their battles.
Deborah and Gideon both took up these duties at different times.
Judges 4-8

Running a country
Shortly after Solomon builds the temple in Jerusalem, he’s visited by the Queen of Sheba. They meet, debate, gift, and trade as equal monarchs.
1 Kings 10

In Genesis, men and women are created as equal. Different, but equal. And throughout the rest of the bible, we see that they are equal in stacks of skill sets, too.

So where does the submission thing come in?

Before we hit the S-word that can have so many hackles raised, let’s have a look at two things that sit on the other side of it.




Responsibility comes first. You can have equals work on a project and one of them will be responsible for the success or failure of the project. After the fall, Adam is held responsible for the sin of mankind, not because he was the first to commit the error, but because he is responsible for Eve.

If you want a more modern example, my manager is responsible for me and my co-workers. It means that she is obligated to look out for the workers under her, and if something goes wrong, it lands on her first.

Because you have this relationship of person A is responsible for person B, it means that there is going to be some degree of authority either awarded or given to person A in order to make the work achieved by both harmonious.

So when Paul talks about the authority that comes with teaching in 1 Timothy 2, he’s also talking about who’s marked as responsible for those being taught. When he calls for women to submit, and to not hold teaching authority over men,  it’s because the men have been marked as responsible for them, and therefore have to be given authority over them in order to effectively be responsible.

Despite the fact that I’ve been working in my specialised field for longer than my manager, she has authority over me, because she is responsible for me. She tells me what to do, because it’s on her if things go south.

Responsibility and Authority are the opposite side of the coin to Submission, and to claim authority over someone without the responsibility precluding it is a foolish thing to do.

If you want an example of claiming authority without taking responsibility, look no further than the gospels. In Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46, Jesus tears into the Pharisees;

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you crush people with your demands, yet you never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

The Pharisees were responsible for teaching God’s law to the people, and they were so devout in doing so that they’d set additional laws to keep to prevent the breaking of the first laws. But at the same time, they didn’t take responsibility for caring for the Jews, or actually teaching them about who God was.

Godly submission should never be demanded, as though men and women were of different value or standing. Godly submission is given.

What things do submission and authority factor into in a God-seeking marriage?

These can be big decisions and small decisions, stuff like
Work - the type of job you take and the amount of hours and effort it will require
Ministry - the type of ministry you or your spouse gets involved in and how much time it is allowed to have
Having kids - how many, when you have them, how you raise them, what you teach them,
The company you keep - the jokes you focus on when you're with them, the nature and content of their jokes, the natural boundaries you have in those relationships
The type of lifestyle you choose/are granted - how much time you spend doing things, how you spend the money you *are* given.

These are all things that both parties weigh in on, and the only reason a husband should take point in the decision making process, is because he is responsible for the wife. He’s called to emulate Jesus, who loved the church and gave himself up for her.

For a husband to ignore the words of his wife and continually overrule them is to sail into a hurricane of trouble, and vice versa. This sort of thing is not a joint decision. It robs both parties of the ability to serve each other, and takes away from the personhood of the overruled party.

If I find you doing this, I am going to bring justice to your door. It’s not okay.

Okay, we cool?

Let’s take a step back, all the way to my light-hearted anecdote about Portal at the beginning.

If you are not married to your significant other,

There is no oath, no binding of souls. There is no obligation to headship/submission as a husband or wife would.

Sure, there is some of it. But it’s no different than to your other Christian brothers and sisters. We’re called to submit, out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)

It’s wise, in that weird in-between space called dating, or courting, or whatever you want to call it, to work out if you could be responsible for; if you could submit to, that significant other, for the rest of your life. But there is no authority to have a say over the other’s work, or their friends, or their area of study.

The decisions that you make as a dating couple are not the same as the decisions that a married couple makes. A couple that enters into marriage enters into a partnership. Equal parties. Working together. One takes point because God decided one of them was going to be responsible for the other.

If that’s not you, then there’s no obligation. Not to demand or give submission, and not to claim or extend authority. We will always be responsible for each other to a certain degree, as brothers and sisters in Christ, but in matters that aren’t directly teaching scripture to a mixed group?

It is okay to disagree on.

In worldly matters where one of your has more experience in the area than the other?

It’s okay to use that expertise.

Besides, the respawn wait in the real world is far too long to allow the making of mistakes.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

For Whose Benefit: Conversations

"I have no right to know. I don't have a method of stepping into the depths of your heart without it getting dirty. So I'll wait. When you want to talk, when you think it's okay to to me." - Rukia Kuchiki to Ichigo Kurosaki

 Thank you, Tite Kubo, for providing me with endless ins for blog posts, and sinking my OTP harder than the Titanic.

 Where This Started

The idea for this blog post started out as a random conversation and the fallout from it made me think about how to apply the strategy in other circumstances. And whether it was a good idea or not. It's also going to stay vague because that's actually how you help the most people with anecdotal lessons. Anyway.

I'd been chatting with a friend. They dropped an interesting fact about part of their life that I was somewhat aware of. I wanted to ask further questions on the topic. But didn't. I had no idea what to ask, or add to that conversation. So I let it slide.

On thinking about it later, I realised that there was something I was trying to do. That's where this comes in, because I think it might be a helpful strategy for conversations with other people.

Conversations can be for my benefit or for yours

Something worth noting before we get too far ahead of ourselves. This is less like an either/or situation and more like a sliding scale, or a Venn diagram. There's plenty of times when you'll have conversations with people that are for the benefit of both parties.

"Where do you want to go for dinner?"
"Well, we both like Mexican, so why not that burrito place down the road?"
"Sounds good."

There are times when the benefit isn't mutual, though.

"Can I talk to you about something?"
"Sure, what is it?"

Worm Can Opening 101, that one. Question is, are you about to open the can of worms because of an idle curiosity or because you want to hear out and care for the person who's just asked you to not freak out at this thing they're about to drop? (That isn't a neat progression of words. But life isn't neat, either.)

When you have conversations that are sensitive or heavy in nature with other people, there does come a point when you need to think about whether what you're saying is for their benefit, or if it's to desperately fill the void left by their words because oh man, this is heavy. I need to say something. Anything. Quick, make a joke. Lighten the mood.

Why should my conversation be for your benefit?

It's important to have conversations that aren't primarily for our benefit. It's important to be investing in the lives of the people around us. It's one of the many ways we can lovingly serve our peers, reflecting a Savior who sat down his closest friends and told them that victory and honour were to be found in service and sacrifice.

"But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”"

-Mark 9:34-35

Sometimes having a conversation for the benefit of someone else can look like just keeping an open ear. Sometimes it can look like acknowledging that whatever they are dealing with is hard. Sometimes it can look like sharing silence, rather than clouding a silent compassion with empty platitudes.

A word to the wise - if there's the chance to offer advice to the other, and you wish for it to be for their benefit, rather than a balm for guilt on your own part of action or inaction, check and see whether they want to hear advice first.

For many, and especially when an event is fairly fresh, offering advice without solicitation indicates a willingness to solve the problem, but it also indicates that the person offering the advice may not have thought about the problem. Or they just don't want it to be a problem for them, and if they offer a solution, then perhaps it'll go away.

So if someone unloads a heavy thing on you, and you want for your words to be for their benefit, check and see if they want your help or opinion first. If they've asked you to listen, then it is conceivable that they're okay with hearing out your thoughts. Just...check first. Just in case the problem in question touches part of their life that you've never had to deal with, and you might be inadequately prepared to offer an educated opinion.

How to have a conversation that is for someone else's benefit

There's probably like, three, four things to do, tops.

One, keep tabs on what your face is doing. If your person drops something massive on you, try really hard to not flinch. There are few things that will destroy my trust in someone faster than them immediately rejecting my words with their face. Develop a good poker face. Remember that this can help buy you a little time, but that all facades have their limit. Don't rely on the mere facade to get you through the year - you are going to have to provide a genuine response, even if that response is to tell them that this is bigger than you can deal with in the moment.

Two, ask questions that help clarify aspects of the issue. Ask open-ended questions to help build a good idea of the overall picture, and then closed-end questions when you want your friend to make the sorts of decisions that will influence this or that aspect of the issue. Don't ask for information unless you think it's important. Don't hold on to that information. You need it for 24 hours, tops. After that, chuck it in the 'burn' bucket inside your head.

Three, don't be afraid of silence. As we mentioned, sitting with people in silence is hard yakka. There's no grass for us to pull up any more because we're all adults. Or something.

Four, and perhaps most importantly, ask yourself if you have anything to add to the conversation. If you don't think there is, and you act on that, then you're having a conversation that puts the needs of the other over your own comfort and need to fill spaces of awkwardness. Hordes of awks. Fresh from Mordor.

If you do have something to add to the conversation, double check whether it is for your benefit or the other's.

A Better Connection

Having conversations that are for the benefit of someone else is hard. I spend way too much time thinking about the stuff I write on Facey and my million other social media sites and how they're supposed to change how other people think of me. I'm the entertainer. The interactions are about showing off how funny and clever I am.

But that's not what we need. Not in the age of the emotionally isolated.

God gave us two ears and one mouth. I'm trying to learn how to listen more. How to ask and not ask; how to react to hard things in a way that shows I value the people I speak with with. It's a blow to my pride, for sure. I've gotta forgo my carefully manicured image for something simpler - not claiming to know anything, just that you need Jesus' love, just like I do, and he's put me here and now because that's my job. Showing this person love like Jesus, serving this person like Jesus. Right here, right now.

Brooke out.