Bible: Body of Christ, bodies of women

December 31 — Ephesians 4:1-16

Dec 18, 2017 by

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“You’re either with our bodies or against our bodies,” Amber Tamblyn wrote recently in The New York Times, responding to the flood of revelations of sexual misconduct, from Louis C.K. to Charlie Rose to Matt Lauer and on and on. Those are famous names. You know other, less famous names.

Meghan Florian

Florian

From #MeToo to #ChurchToo to our text from Ephesians, how do we speak of unity within the body of Christ? How can anyone claim to be with the body of Christ if he is against the bodies of women?

In Eph. 4:2, Paul calls for patience — and oh, how patient women have been, encouraged to maintain unity, to keep the peace. But there is no peace when the body has been repeatedly broken and denied.

Paul says, “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Some of us grew up too soon, too quickly, victims of the trickery and scheming of powerful men when we were young, while many still live with such deceit on a daily basis.

With each new revelation, each powerful man whose actions are brought to light, many men seem surprised. I am not. Women have long been wise to these realities — a wisdom shared in whispers now turned to shouts.

“Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped.” If “speaking the truth in love” promotes the body’s growth, saying “me, too” is a work of love, as women name the persistent ways men have torn the ligaments of the church, even as women continue to be abused, shamed into silence, threatened and afraid.

“Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” It is a grace that so many are speaking out, a grace so many victims/survivors give us, bringing these truths to light. For so many of us, speech still feels impossible. So I give thanks for the women who are able — emotionally, spiritually, financially and otherwise — to speak.

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” — some to call out the abusers among us, some to fire them, some to hire women and build a different world.

Unity is elusive. We read that Christ ascended, but Paul reminds us that he also descended, and it’s the descent that I understand most lately, in a world where some of us are never really safe, never really free.

I listen as “well-meaning” men defend abusers or lament the way their careers are falling apart, and here I find a clear message from Ephesians: grow up. Get a clue. You are no longer a child; you should no longer be deceived by the deceivers.

If you desire unity, believe women, who have so much to lose by speaking and yet speak anyway. Build unity by building up women, who have been kept down and bulldozed over time and again.

When abusive men are torn down, their legacies tarnished, say good riddance, for their legacies are their own. They built them this way.

I “beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” I beg you to understand that “humility and gentleness” mean believing women, valuing women, trusting women, relinquishing your authority and embracing theirs.

Meghan Florian, of Durham, N.C., teaches writing at William Peace University. She is a member of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship.


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