The other day, as I watched the movie Pleasantville, the ending just jumped out at me:
David’s Mom: (Having just been crying.) When your father was here, I used to think, “This was it. This is the way it was always going to be. I had the right house. I had the right car. I had the right life.”
David: There is no right house. There is no right car.
David’s Mom: God, my face must be a mess.
David: It looks great.
David’s Mom: Honey, it’s really sweet of you, but I’m sure it does not look “great.”
David: Sure it does. Come here. (Grabs a a tissue and proceeds to wipe the tears from his mother’s eyes.)
David’s Mom: I’m 40 years old. I mean, it’s not supposed to be like this.
David: It’s not supposed to be anything. Hold still.
David’s Mom: How’d you get so smart all of a sudden?
David: [long slow smile] I had a good day.
It seems the church has made much of the ‘supposed to be sort of Biblical life’ if you’ve spent any time at a church in recent years, you might have heard how important it was for men to step up and lead their families and the church as the Bible says that they’re supposed to, or how vital it was for women to submit to their husbands and help them as the Bible says that they’re supposed to. You might have heard an emphasis on how men are supposed to be the breadwinners and how women are supposed to be stay-at-home moms, they get bonus points if they’re home-schooling stay-at-home moms. It’s almost as if there is some some sort of script that these pastors are reading off of, and some sort of script for how men talk among themselves and how women talk among themselves, and more importantly, how men and women talk together. John Piper, for one, says that women shouldn’t talk in direct or authoritative language when speaking with men.
The problem with scripts though, is the problem of being off-script. It’s what happens in the real world, where scripts very often fail to produce the needed guidance. Christian evangelism is a great example of the use of scripts, in any given conversation questions are often designed to produce a specific answer, like from “Way of the Master”:
“What would you call me if I tell lies?”
“What would you call me if I stole things?”
There’s usually a back-up set of questions one can use to see to it that you get the answer your script needs so that you can carry on the conversation and get people saved. You say your lines, they say theirs, souls get saved and you get to pat yourself on the back for being the one to get them saved.
Likewise, the teaching that we ought to be Biblical puts us on a specific script, how we ought to relate to one another, how we ought to talk to one another, how we ought to deal with outsiders. All by the book, that is, the script. And every Sunday we get updates as to the best way to live out that Script.
But is life really supposed to be Biblical? Is Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood the truth of the gospel? Is marriage and family the fullest expression of the gospel message? I don’t know. I was talking the other day, wondering about the role of the Holy Spirit, but I was told that the Holy Spirit was too subjective and that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority. We’re a church that ignores 1/3 of God so that we can use God’s Word to pattern our lives after the remaining 2/3s of God.
Yet now more than ever, young men and young women are putting off marriage and having children, singles now outnumber married couples. The churches seem to be getting emptier and emptier every year – countless people are ‘off-script’ living ‘unbiblical’ lives … they have abandoned the lives they’re ‘supposed’ to be living.
I don’t think that Jesus’ message was: “For I have come that you might have Biblical marriages, marriages to the full, with male headship and female submission, and authority and obedience so that your marriage will be holy and pleasing to God, a living sacrifice.” Jesus said nothing on gender, or the nature of masculinity or femininity. He never promised that everyone who followed him would have happy marriages, well-behaved children, white-picket fences in front of their all-American houses, no debt, new cars, or that sort of thing.
Paul preferred singleness, but he knew that it wasn’t for everybody. He knew that not everybody was meant for that particular role or supposed to read off of that particular script. In recent years, so many people have stopped living because they’re not married and they can’t continue to read off of the script. So many are waiting for the next person who is supposed to say their line to show up and actually say that line. I don’t think this is the kind of Christianity that we were meant to live. It’s time to put to rest the idea that we’re supposed to live biblically, it’s time to break from the script as we’re following the wrong story. It’s Jesus that saves, not marriage, not gender roles, not biblical ‘supposed to’ kind of lives. Let’s stop forcing people to play by our script and learn to play it by ear.