Monday, 6 August 2012

Why there are no Christian men

Like most fairytales, once upon a time it was clear that humanity could be divided into men and women. In lots of ways, we can still divide ourselves this way. If the income statistics are anything to go by, we clearly do. I've never seen the income information for transgenders but I'm sure it follows just as clear a division.

This post isn't about LGBT issues, though. This post is about the idea that there are no Christian men. It's a bit conceptual, but come with me on this one.

In the pre-Christian Greco-Roman world the roles and identities of women and men were different to each other. The salacious example often quoted is in marital fidelity. Women were expected to remain faithful to their husbands but men were free to take lovers, male or female. I think that in many ways the broader expectations society places on women and men hasn't actually changed much (e.g., domestic roles, income scales, recreational interests, entertainment topics).

Into this world comes Paul's letter to the Galatians, with one of the most revolutionary assertions in the whole new testament.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
"There is no longer male and female," is the consequence of following Christ. Paul instructs his audience that the societal expectations of gender are irrelevant to Christians because they have been cancelled by belonging to Christ. For the people of the time this is an extraordinary claim. The roles and identities that they'd grown up with had to be abandoned. The pressure from society and non-believers had been overcome by Christ. As believers, they were no longer entitled to the privileges of gender, nor were they trapped by it.

Today, if there is something that we Christians are still to catch up with, it's Galatians. Every time we fly a national flag in a church, we deny that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek. Every time we host a Christian business breakfast or networking opportunity, we deny that in Christ there is neither slave or free. And every time we hold a men's or women's activity, we deny that in Christ there is no male and female. Those things belong to the old creation, to the way of this world.

Paul's message should be heard again today. "There is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." For those who live in Christ, there is no theological category of "male" or "female" there is only "in Christ." If our theology is to mean anything, then it must be lived and acted upon. The sharp divisions we make in our congregations need to be brought under submission to Christ. Will we have the courage to live in the new creation that Christ has brought? Will we actually be able to be a community in which the non-Christian categories of male and female aren't applied?

If we can do it, we will find that there are no Christian men and no Christian women. We will find that we are simply Christians. We have to put our minds and our energies on being a community that has overcome the very structure of this world.



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