This weekend, I watched one of my favorite books of all time, Redeeming Love, brought to life via a movie. I now know why my Christian women friends hated it.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, takes the story of Hosea and Gomer and places it in the 1800s, set behind the hills of the California goldmines.
Angel, a prostitute, is wooed by Michael Hosea, a sweet farmer who believes God has called him to marry her.
After running back and forth for years, she finally accepts that she is loved and comes home for good to her husband.
You’d think that Christian women would eat that story up with a spoon. But when it debuted in the theater and a group of my teacher friends took a girls’ trip to see it, they arrived at school on Monday with less than stellar reviews.
Between the two of us, more than a couple of women in the group are a little on the prudish side, so I wasn’t surprised. The book is racy enough, and I knew with a PG-13 rating, the producers would make the movie just as spicy.
After watching it this weekend, however, I came away thinking it wasn’t the sex scenes they struggled with.
I think many Christian ladies have a hard time admitting that the world has not been a kind or easy place for women because of patriarchy.
I can’t speak for others, but I believe it’s difficult for some Christians to admit that the way patriarchy has played out isn’t the way God planned it. As with most things, humans took the inch of God’s call for a man to lead and ran a mile with it.
For centuries, women have been bearing the brunt of all of society’s ills. And they’ve been bearing it with limited freedoms, resources or voice.
Think about it. All the way back to the story of Adam and Eve, it’s clear that women were going to be carrying around the burden of all that goes wrong for the entirety of human history.
And it makes sense, right? The men have been telling the stories for years. Men wrote the Bible, they fought the wars, they made the laws.
They used the Bible to declare their God-given right to do it…a Bible written by men.
I think it’s obvious to see in crystal-clear passages that God loves, cares for and elevates women.
The truth is there aren’t many passages in the Bible that show that women are elevated by God. Again, why would men of that age write about women in a way that gives them freedom?
But I will tell you where you’ll find passages that elevate women:
Anywhere you find Jesus.
Starting with his very own mother, the life of Jesus paints a clear portrait of the way He saw, loved, valued and elevated women.
But then Jesus died and came back (and lifted His people up once more as always) and ascended to Heaven.
And what happened?
The men, namely Paul, went right back to “leading” women in the “correct” direction.
Throughout history, women have been held back, held down, pushed around and blamed.
Greek gods were led astray by muses and matrons.
Shakespeare’s villains often took orders from some kind of female mastermind (Macbeth, anyone?).
Fairy Tales included wicked stepmothers, evil witches, and bad wives and mothers.
There is even a period of time in real history where men burned women at the stake.
But far worse than fairy tales and plays is the way women have endured sitting through centuries of bashing at the pulpit.
Pastors wouldn’t call it bashing, of course (and also, sweeping generalizations never end well, so this is my disclaimer that I do not mean every pastor in the history of the world). They would call it “preaching God’s Word.”
Did Jesus tell women to keep their head covered…or did Paul?
Did Jesus tell women to be silent and modest…or did Paul?
Did Jesus tell women they couldn’t preach…or did Paul?
Honestly, who are we to follow?
Too often, we think of the Bible as the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, when really, it’s a sacred text that points to Christ.
You may accuse me of making light of God’s Word when I say Paul is wrong. It’s not that I think Paul was wrong–it’s that I think we’re wrong for following a man who lived in the first century.
It reminds me of what I often hear about the enslaved.
When Southerners talk about slavery (which they barely do), it’s always veiled in references of being God’s Providence or part of a grander plan.
And that’s fine. We can call it that; we can believe that God uses sin sinlessly for His Ultimate Glory. (I believe He does.)
But God’s Providence doesn’t make slavery right. Slavery was wrong. Period.
We know this is true because rationally, we are fully aware that we would not want to be owned, so it’s safe to say that owning another human being is wrong. Period.
Taking freedom from another human being for your own benefit is wrong. Period-
EVEN IF IT’S ORDAINED IN THE BIBLE.
And that’s what we struggle with, right?
We’re uncomfortable acknowledging that there are parts of the Bible where we wish God would have spoken clearly.
But was that the purpose? Don’t we serve a God of mystery? His Thoughts and Ways are Higher.
I challenge you to look at the Bible in a new light and to acknowledge that it’s a sacred text, written over centuries, borrowing both oral historical traditions to explain life and also rules, cultures and ceremonies of those who surrounded the Jewish people.
You can accept this and still believe it’s God-breathed. In fact, when you do accept this, the cognitive dissonance, which I refer to as mental gymnastics, that you have to do to make certain parts of the Bible make sense, dissipates, leaving you able to worship and love the Creator of the Universe more openly and freely than ever before.
We don’t like to say we’re wrong. Power, certainty and safety makes us feel good.
The problem is that our power, certainty and safety almost always come at the expense of another’s power, certainty and safety.
The story of Hosea and Gomer should tell us exactly who It is we place our trust in:
The Lord says,Hosea 14
4“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
my love will know no bounds,
for my anger will be gone forever.
5 I will be to Israel
like a refreshing dew from heaven.
Israel will blossom like the lily;
it will send roots deep into the soil
like the cedars in Lebanon.
6 Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
7 My people will again live under my shade.
They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.
In case you’re wondering who “Israel” is, let’s take a look in the very Bible itself:
John 1:29—”The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.“
Romans 3:23-24—”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”
Romans 5:18—”Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”
2 Corinthians 5:14-15—”For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
2 Corinthians 5:19—”[I]n Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
See you soon,