Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winning the Battle of the Sexes

Winning. There is the Charlie Sheen version of that word, in which you win in your own head but lose in reality. To win like Charlie, you delude yourself over your true losses, calling your losses wins and wins for your opponent losses. Then there is the Beyonce half-time Super Bowl show version of winning. There's no delusion there. She won that outright. But WHAT she won is a little less clear. If there is a battle of the sexes (and in many large and small ways there absolutely is), how can women win? The answer first and foremost depends on what you want to win. Are we winning points? Opportunities? Independence? Notoriety? Glory? Winning points makes us feel good. But winning people changes lives.

I wrote about Beyonce last week in a post that got a lot more response than I expected. From that post –
What you had Sunday was a battle of the sexes. I think Beyonce won. But the prizes are slim in that battle, which is why I believe God has called us to a third way which transcends both options. We can put off the 50 Shades submissive, probably the dream of a large portion of the men on Sunday ogling both the cheerleaders and Beyonce. And we can put off the Amazonian dominatrix, who uses sex for power. It's not that our third way offers a different view of either gender or sex. No, it transcends gender and sex. What Christ offers is a different view of POWER.
This issue of power has become key in my own mind for a Christian perspective on the battle of the sexes. Belief in Christ as revealed in the Bible turns the entire battleground upside down. To win the battle in Christ's context, we need a vision first on what we want to win. Then we need a vision of the power that helps us win it.

Peter speaks about such winning, but it is in a controversial passage for women. Nevertheless, I think it offers us a different perspective on winning the battle of the sexes that is helpful. From The Gospel-Centered Woman:
1 Peter 3 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 
I observe several important things about these verses from I Peter 3. First, there is something winning about submission and respect. The Greek word for won, kerdaino, can also mean gain or profit. The context involves a husband who is disobeying the Word. This is a very serious issue. Peter is teaching that in this serious situation, respect is a powerful response that wins over your opponent. Note that he does not say it defeats him. The difference in defeating and winning over is profound. 
Some women may not want to win over their husband. Given enough hurt or anger, they may rather defeat and destroy, leaving a scorched earth in place of their conflict. In that case, this Scripture will only chafe against that desire. But if you love your husband and do not want to see him destroyed even as he walks a disobedient path, then respect is God's powerful weapon for winning him. There is gain and profit to be found in this respect, which is more powerful than words according to this passage.
When we pick up the Battle of the Sexes, take it out of the arena of secular life apart from Christ, and place it instead in the context of Christ and the gospel, the goal posts move and the strategies by which we make those goals radically change. Our old reference points still factually matter. It matters that men have oppressively ruled women in many countries for most of the history of mankind. But that reference point is no longer the anchor for our strategies for winning the battle. The vision Peter sets up in his instructions on responses to the disobedient husband is that the fight WITH this husband is in the end the fight FOR him as well. It isn't a battle between husband and wife with the trophy being control or dominance in the relationship by either one. Peter's vision is not winning a trophy in the battle at the expense of either spouse. Instead, it's more like winning your spouse at the expense of the trophy.

We can talk about global gender issues and the battle of the sexes, but in the places closest to home, when gender issues become personal, a key question to ask ourselves is what exactly do we want to win? The gospel calls us to more than a desire to win a point. It's easy to win a point and lose a person. It calls us to more than a desire to win our independence. It calls us and equips us instead with counterintuitive strategies for winning a person. 

If you perceive yourself in this battle, you must first settle in your heart if you want to win your spouse, not win at the expense of your spouse. If that's the case, where then is your power in this conflict? Empowerment is a current gender buzz word. It has a secular usage that is good and fine. But what about empowerment in the arena of Christ and the gospel?
Empower: To invest with power; to equip or supply with an ability; enable.
What a lovely word! Really, I LOVE that word. And I've come to a strong belief that Christ does this very thing for each of us, male and female. He EMPOWERS us. I feel it poignantly as a female. I am weaker physically than most men. I have weaker earning potential as a mostly stay at home mom. Though I live in a progressive city quite sensitive to gender issues, I still recognize that my input as a woman is not always welcome. But I am powerful! And the source of that power is not my intelligence, earning potential, athletic ability, or sheer force of will. Paul prayed years ago that the Ephesian believers would understand the power at work in them. And reading that prayer and studying through Ephesians opened my eyes to this power in me just as he prayed.
18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
When you go back to Peter's use of the concept of winning with our spouse and read it in context, it too is tucked right in the middle of a long discourse on what it looks like to be IN Christ and to be LIKE Christ. Christ's power toward us who believe—including women who are weaker physically, often with weaker earning potential, living in a world that often oppresses and certainly exploits their weaknesses—empowers us with the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. That is a profound concept. Understanding THAT power in us is the game changer in the Battle of the Sexes that hits closest to home. And THAT is the power that equips us to move from winning points to winning people with counterintuitive, quiet strategies.

3 comments:

  1. Wendy, I have often thought about the Biblical idea of power when it comes to parenting, too. It's a little complex because we as parents need to be comfortable being the parent, the authority, the adult in the relationship with our kids. And we need to our kids to respect and obey authority. And at the same time, this authority we have is a serving humble power.

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  2. Thank you! I've read the book Love and Respect and know that God asks me to respect my husband unconditionally. The book gave good reasons, but some of the stories made it sound like the respect was manipulative. I don't think the author meant that, but I sure like the way you pose it as winning - in the right sense of winning! I like the thought of winning a husband over rather than winning over the husband... the heart is in the right place in its motivation to respect and the right kind of power is behind it!

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