Over the last few weeks I’ve had more than one negative encounter with a man who left New York to come to Alberta to be a missionary. Something was hinky about this guy. I was suspicious of him because; who would leave the tri-state area to come to a city like Edmonton to be a missionary in the inner city? No one, and I mean no one leaves the United States to come to Edmonton to learn about inner city ministry. Our city is not at the forefront of urban ministry. We are not leaders in this area, we are not even close to being followers.
My first conversation with the missionary involved the hot topic of women’s role in society and the church. The missionary quoted Paul and when I told him I do not adhere to Paul’s teaching that women be silent, he challenged me by asking, “Don’t you believe the bible?” I explained to him that, yes, I believe the bible, but I don’t believe people who misinterpret the bible and/or use various verses to discriminate or hurt others. He then challenged me about authority in the church. He asked me if I followed the authority of my male pastors. I had to stop, and think clearly, and then set him straight.
I had to draw the line with the missionary because we were both serving in a shelter together. This is a shelter where he is in a semi-leadership position. He has daily encounters with male clients who grew up in violent homes where men asserted their domestic authority over the women and children. These are men who have learned to continue the cycle of domestic and social violence.
These are not Christian men who understand what it means to lead a loving and healthy home. These are men in the midst of struggling with addictions, criminal acts, and violence. Some of these men have records for sexual assault and other acts of violence against women. Some of these men are under house arrest, others are on parole. He is a missionary who is working with a population of men who had to suffer abuse at the hands of Christian run schools which we refer to in Canada as Indian Residential Schools.
I told him and his peers that in order to help bring the most effective healing to the people at this particular shelter and addictions recovery program, they as Christian leaders needed to listen and learn the truth about Indian Residential Schools and listen to first had accounts by those whose lives were torn apart by Christian run school systems that were designed to force our Native Canadian population into becoming Christians. The system did not bring them closer to Christ, instead, it brought them closer to poverty, death, abuse, and lifelong trauma. It taught an entire people group that being under Christian male authority was abusive and racist.
Don’t just preach Jesus, practice Jesus!
Using scripture within the wrong environment or in the wrong context can do serious damage. We can’t take missionary work or outreach ministry lightly; we are dealing with people’s lives. If you believe that scripture says women are to be subordinate to men, that is fine, but it’s important that you keep that practice within your own home. If you and your wife agree to such an arrangement, then that is fine for you and your spouse only, but that arrangement is never to be applied to women outside of your home.
I don’t want to engage in the heated argument about the role of women in society, my only goal in writing this blog post was to encourage Christians to be more aware of how they use scripture and with who they are using it with. Let us not be followers of Christ who damage others with scriptural verses that were originally intended to bring us closer to God and community.
Are there any verses that you quote often? Do you sometimes use these verses out of context or incorrectly apply them to various situations?
Think about the verses you quote most often. Ask God’s Holy Spirit to help you keep his words pure by not using them incorrectly.
Fun Learning Challenge:
When time or interest permits, try to do some further study on quotes from scripture that you frequently use. See what the context and background of that verse, chapter or book is about. This is one of the best ways to help prevent us from unintentionally taking verses out of context or incorrectly applying them.