I hadn’t been a Christian very long before I began working at a church. And when I got the job, I felt very out-of-place. I was rubbing shoulder with pastors and people who I thought knew everything about the bible and had it all figured out. Which made me feel like I shouldn’t be there. In time I started to realize that they were just as human as I was, and in time I grew more comfortable.
But I also knew there was a lot I needed to learn. So I began a mentor relationship with the two different people. One was our female children’s pastor and that happened in a pretty formal setting. We would read books together and discuss them. We would meet regularly together and pray and it was very intentional training. I look back very fondly at that time in my life.
And the second person was our male lead pastor. That was in a very informal and protected setting. Given the fact that he is a male. But he still mentored me. We never went out for dinner or read books together. That would have been very inappropriate. But while he prepped his sermons during the week he would talk through his points with me as a sounding board. And we would discuss theological concepts and sometimes debate each other on doctrine and philosophy of ministry. Often leaving those discussion’s irritated with each other. It was very much a brother/sister relationship.
Both relationships were absolutely shaping in my spiritual walk. And both mentors taught me so much! And yet the way we operated as sisters needed to be different then the way we operated as sister/brother.
And this is what todays post is all about. Le me begin with sisters.
Now bear with me because we’ve already gone over some of this. And we’re going to look at a text that we’ve already looked at before which is Titus 2:3-5. But that’s ok, lets go over it some more.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves too much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
I wrote about it mostly in regards to women training women in our motherhood. But it says so much more also.
Titus is a letter written by Paul to the people of Crete which is an island off the Mediterranean. He and Titus had shared Christianity with the people of Crete when they visited the Island and then Titus stayed behind to organize the new converts to the faith and essentially set up church there. And these people, the Cretans, at the time of Paul’s writing were in a very poor moral state. They were giving in to dishonesty, gluttony and laziness.
And in this text in particular the slanderous talk and gossip was apparently common for women. Which is no surprise to me, as this is a common temptation among women in general.
So there is an importance being placed on the tongue. For women to tame their tongue. Which refers to slander and irreverent talk, gossip and perhaps even swearing. And in the context of this Scripture it’s the older women who ought to model this tongue taming and teach this to the younger women. And sometimes that can happen organically. And sometimes we need to find a mentor as young women for special times of training. But either way there needs to be a willingness to do this. To teach and to grow.
We need to be willing as women to share our lives, our hearts and our doctrine with each other for further growth in God’s Word.
But let me tell you something. When you open yourself up to be mentored by another person. You open yourself to learn great things and also to be faced with where you fall short.
One of the areas it says we need to be trained is in our self-control and our purity. And those areas are touchy subjects. I mean, what would be your response if an older women, lovingly in Christ, challenged you on what you watch on TV? What if she said, “You know I see how that favorite movie, or TV show is working against your desire for purity, so maybe you shouldn’t watch it anymore.”
Are we open to that kind of practical correction?
Or what if she said, “Hey watch your language, you’re letting yourself curse too often and it’s unbecoming.” Would we be open to receiving rebuke?
In love, of course, I’m not saying we need to start calling each other out at random. I’m talking about doing this within the bounds of love, friendship and trust.
Often we think of mentorship as just nothing but beautiful early church practice of organic older women loving younger women and everyone living in harmony. And it is beautiful but not always harmonious. It requires us to rub up against each other and also requires us to challenge each other sometimes.
Proverbs 12:18 says,
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Are we willing to hear wise words from women who love us? Because if we do, it will bring healing. It is ultimately for our good. We just have to be humble enough to hear it.
How many of us are seeking out Christian friendships whether it be in a mentoring capacity or in a casual sisterly capacity, in order to build up another and be built into by another? Do we view friendship in this way?
Proverbs 13:20 says,
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
We know the old adage, you are the company you keep. Which is exactly what this proverb is saying. When we surround ourselves with wise people, there is a good chance that wisdom will be passed to us. But we have to desire it first.
And as women we should desire true Godly friendship with each other. So that we can encourage each other in our race of faith and help each other when it gets really hard. Because it will get hard.
As I wrote before, just trying to be all these things – self-controlled, pure, kind and submissive to our husbands, even when life is going great is just not easy to do on our own. In fact, I dare say we likely just won’t do it, if it’s just us trying in our own singular strength. And it’s especially difficult in the middle of trials.
But when we have each other the journey is far easier. We can share our experiences and our short-comings and our wins and our loses with one another. And in the process gain wisdom for the journey.
Over the summer I was invited to join a book club that one of the women from my church decided to start all on her own. There was a book that really helped her in her motherhood journey and so she wanted to read it with other women and talk about it. And I love that! We got to meet and share and encourage each other in a formal, yet informal way and it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. And all it took was one women wanting to share.
We need each other.
We also need our brothers in Christ.
But in a different way. Friendship between men and women in the church should be characterized by love and purity.
Ephesians 5:1-6 is a text that gives us an example of how to live for the sake of others. Ephesians is written by Paul yet again, and this letter was passed around from church to church within the region. And he is stressing in this section how when we live sacrificially, like Christ, it’s like a fragrant offering to God and a benefit to others. It says this…
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
And it goes on to tell us what not to do, if you want to be imitators of God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
This Scripture is not talking about male and female friendships. But it is talking about how all people should conduct themselves. So let’s look at it in regards to how we interact with men.
Our current culture loves to impose and encourage men and women to only ever see each other as sexual options. No matter the scenario, men and woman cannot be represented as anything other than potential sexual partners. This is the culture we live in.
And so it is up to the Christian to re-train our minds to think differently about this.
Now if you’re single, this gets complicated because in some ways this is true for you. In that when you meet a man, he could be your future husband. However these verses still apply. Being sexually immoral, whether it be in how you view men or what you’re allowing within dating relationships, is not proper for someone who professes to love Christ.
And this also goes for us married folk. How we view men and what we allow within the friendship of another man can fall within the sexually immoral category.
Then there’s how we speak. In this Ephesians text it is warning us again that what we say matters. What kind of joking do we allow in our conversations? Are we quick to tell or laugh at crude or filthy jokes? Does this help us in our purity and how we view men? I think it’s easy to throw men under the bus on this one and assume that’s only what guys do. But that’s not always true. We can get dirty when we want to. And so these verses should be very clarifying on the appropriateness of this.
One thing we cannot do as women is believe this lie. “I could never cheat on my husband, boyfriend or future husband.” “Nope, not me”.
A long while back when I was working at the church I spoke about before. We were in a staff meeting and at the time there was some news in the media about a very prominent and popular American pastor who had been caught cheating on his wife. And in this meeting everyone was talking about it very glibly. Saying things like, “oh well, he had bad theology, so no wonder”, or “he deserves the harsh criticism he’s facing” and “how dare he do that.”
Then one of the pastors stopped everyone and looked at us all intently and said, “No one is immune to this. Watch what you say, because it could happen to any of us.”
And I will never forget that stern warning. I believe it’s what Paul is trying to do here. Do not put yourself above the possibility of a moment of weakness, because that all it takes. One moment.
One click on the computer. One tap on the phone. One private conversation. One small fantasy that no one needs to know about.
Because before you know it, you’re in it deep. Our hearts get attached that easy. And none of us are immune to it.
But if we view men as brothers, our perspective changes. One of the best ways for men to kick a porn addiction is for them to start viewing those women on the screen as their sister or daughter. And all of a sudden, it’s not so enticing.
Men are our brothers, and so we should remember that. Our relationship with them should be driven by love and care for their spiritual walk and their standing with the Lord.
However let’s also not make the mistake in thinking that it’s impossible for men and women to be friends within the church. That’s just another lie!
I like what Jen Wilkin has to say about this. She says…
What bothers me most about the question, “Can men and women be friends?” is that even if I answer it in the affirmative, I have not done justice to the issue. Yes, they can be friends, but more than that, they must be friends. Appropriate forms of friendship—those in which we see each other as people rather than potential sex partners—must exist between men and women, especially in the church. How else can we truly refer to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Jesus extended deep, personal friendship to both men and women. We are not him, so following his example requires wisdom and discernment about our own propensity to sin as well as that of others. But his example is worth following.
Jesus was friends with men and women. So we should be friends with men and women. We need Christian brothers to encourage us and strengthen us on the journey and we need to encourage and strengthen them on their journey as well. Let’s just do it wisely.
What I love about the church is that, by Christ dying on the cross, giving us new life and establishing the body of Christ, He then puts us all in the same room and then says “ok now that’s your family”. And so every kind of random person from every kind of walk of life, with different pasts and struggles get to rub shoulders, care for one another and often step on each other’s feet all because of Christ. We have nothing else in common but Him.
Because of Him we become family.
As humans what we naturally do is gravitate towards what we know. We tend to mingle with the folks who are in same life stage as us, usually the same wage bracket as us, or the same hobbies as us, or the same race as us. We like people who act and look like ourselves because it makes us feel comfortable.
But in Christ none of those distinctions matter. We all come together in the name of something far bigger than us and love each other because Christ first loved us.
I remember back when my husband and I first got married. We were new to the faith and decided to join a life group. We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. And when we showed up to that little apartment that first night, I found myself being challenged way out of my comfort zone.
These people were nothing like me. It was like a rainbow of diversity in regards to personality, stage of life and economic bracket. There were easy to get along with people and challenging to get along with people there. But we were there. And we had the most important person in common. And as time went on we became family.
And when one of the members of our group died in a car accident, every single one of the members of that group dropped everything we were doing to come out to the hospital and be there together for his wife of one year when she woke up from the accident.
And we cried and mourned and spent the day with her as she wrapped her mind around what just happened.
But we were there, because she’s our sister and he was our brother. And we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Jesus sums all this up perfectly in John 15:12-17…
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Did you deserve to be chosen by God? You may be a lovely person. But none of us are loved by God because were just so lovable. He loves us because He is a good and merciful God. Which means we have to love the unlovable too. Every family has that one awkward family member that no one knows what to do with. And you better believe it’s the same way in the church.
Jesus doesn’t say here, love the people who are just like you and easy to love, He’s saying, “hey if I can choose you and call you friend, you better be able to love each other!”
And so I want to encourage us ladies as friends and sisters, to love each other. I encourage us to share life together. Formally in a mentorship way as well as informally as friends who care about each other and confront each other when necessary. And I encourage us to look at our Christian brothers with love and purity.
Because we so desperately need one another in this unpredictable journey of life.