The whole church had gathered and had only begun to listen to the newest letter being read to them. These verses were read: “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God…” and there were two women had distinctly different reactions.
Lydia (not that Lydia, another one) looked at her outfit and realized that she was dressed to the nines, everything was wrong with what she was wearing – her elaborate braids had gold woven in and her colorful clothes were easily the most expensive in the room. This rule wasn’t even a minute old and she was breaking it. It didn’t take her long to get the point, she started to think about how she could sell some of her finest clothing and use the money to help provide for some old friends who had fallen on hard times.
Rhoda (not that Rhoda, another one) looked at her outfit and realized that she didn’t have to change a thing. Her simple robe was tattered and plain … she looked like a pauper, which wasn’t far from the truth as she was Lydia’s slave-girl. This rule didn’t apply to her. She didn’t have to change anything, sacrifice anything in God’s name. She looked at Lydia who was probably already thinking about how she could donate some of her wealth or old clothes by now, doing a good deed and dressing more modestly … two birds, one stone, as it were. But what could she, a slave, do? Especially with her limited resources?
Of course, we all know today that when the Bible speaks to modesty, it was apparently talking about ‘covering up’ … that is, not showing too much skin and being temptresses causing our brothers to stumble. Back then they probably meant the same thing – just in different words.
One thing about Complementarianism is that there’s a specific situation where it applies – husbands and wives; outside of that context, it’s pretty much not applicable to anyone else – the 50-ish% of the world that isn’t married. Some of the worst sermons to endure were the husband and wife ones where singles would be encouraged to ‘listen in … because you’ll probably marry and you might need to know this some day’. I can’t think of a single sermon where marrieds were encouraged to take notes because … ‘whether you’re widows/widowers or your relationship ends in separation or divorce, you marrieds might need to know how to live a biblical single-hood lifestyle that honors God one day.’ In today’s Christian church, marriage is everything, single-hood is not.
Because of the emphasis on marriage and parenthood, having achieved neither milestone can feel like exclusion. Perhaps it’s just me … but I can’t tell you which married couples were my friends or considered me their friend. Single men often say they feel like bait in a barrel of fish, single women often say they feel that married women are suspicious of them around their husbands, nobody really wins. Nobody really trust each other. Because a three letter word stands in the way of normal, healthy friendships. Because it’s contagious, the thing to do is to separate the marrieds from the singles. Marrieds have priority, they’re the furthest along the path, the closest to God. The singles just aren’t there yet.
So much of what’s taught is n/a … not applicable. There’s really no advice on what to do in the meantime but to hurry up and get married and hurry up and have babies … because apparently God can’t stand where we’re at right here and now. Perhaps I should take comfort in that complementarianism is n/a right now – not applicable, is no answer, and not available to me. But maybe it’s not just me that it utterly fails, tends to exclude, and is useless for … perhaps there are marrieds out there that have been harmed by it as well – for its broken promises and really bad advice.
But do you want to know something that isn’t n/a? Love itself … ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ Love – true love – doesn’t matter if you’re married or not, it doesn’t care if you’re a parent or not, it doesn’t keep track if you’re a rousing success or a miserable failure and treat you any differently than anyone else. Love just is and it is enough for me.