Saturday, June 1, 2013

Older Women Teach the Younger - A Gospel Approach

Last year I wrote about discipleship and mentoring and I've been thinking about it again recently. In that post I came clean with the horrible way I had instructed one young woman at my church. I can only pray that she did not turn and run from the church because of my legalistic and discouraging counsel. There are a multitude of voices vying for our attention, and I am speaking mainly about the voices inside the church - sadly, it's not pretty. Their voices place demands and expectations on women that we were never meant to bear. They put us in boxes and neatly draw boundaries. All the while (we) prisoners remain just that - safely behind bars. Freedom is elusive and often it is hard to remember the "joy of our salvation."

This happens in a thousand different ways every day. In the church, you might be expected to dress a certain way, attend specific functions for women, send your children to the Christian school, make sure they are involved in youth and assure that your children can sit through an entire service without disruption. You may be looked down on because you're not involved in missions. In your Christian bubble, you may have been made to feel guilty if you use social media or if you don't use it in the "right" way. How about if you drink? Do you hide the fact that a glass of wine or two is part of your evening? Add to that all of the relational issues in our families and among friends. What is appropriate, acceptable or egregious? What standards have you failed to meet? Setting expectations and placing demands on others is a treacherous path because honestly, we can't keep our own standards or meet our own expectations. The dilemma is clear -  in the face of our own failings, how do we instruct others as we are called to by God?

Older Women Teach

The Bible clearly says older women teach the younger women.

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women" Titus 2:3-4a

The question is, teach what?

"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." Titus 2:4b-5

I recently read a women's ministry take on these verses. They exhorted women saying "Older women in the Body of Christ are to have exemplary behavior themselves and they are to model the characteristics of a godly, mature believer...And if we don't do this, then 'the Word of God will be reviled.' We will give a lousy testimony to the world. We won't show the world what the gospel is like if we don't live it out in the context of these relationships." Did you just cringe? I did. The problem is I don't have exemplary behavior. If others are looking to me for their example, we are all in trouble! Further, if the Word of God and it's trustworthiness and value is resting on my shoulders, it will fail. Saying that the gospel is all about behavior is an unadulterated lie. That is emphatically not what the gospel is about. The thinking that says our well behaved lives prove the gospel is wrong thinking. Our lives prove one thing - our desperate need for Jesus in the face of our mess and his rescuing work on behalf of sinners like us.

The question remains; knowing the truth about God, the truth about me, and the truth about what Christ has done - what do I teach younger women? If my behavior (in reality) is not exemplary and if I don't want to come off as some stale bumbling hypocritical church lady, what exactly do I tell them? And how do I reconcile Titus 2:3-5? What exactly have I accumulated in the way of wisdom? Quite frankly, when I look at what I have gathered over the years it's basically a pile of mistakes, wrong choices, huge parenting gaffes and a marriage separation. I have gone places I shouldn't have gone, done things I shouldn't have done and said things I shouldn't have said. And yet, I'm called to teach younger women. So, here it is -

If I have anything to teach the younger generation it is this - I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior. 

The Grace of God Appeared...So That

In answer to the question of what to teach, I believe the answer lies in these subsequent verses from Titus:

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." Titus 2:11-14

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people." Titus 3:4-8

God has graciously given us instructive passages in scripture (imperatives). But, in His amazing grace He has grounded them in Good News (indicatives). The only fuel for living this Christian life is the good news of the gospel which assures me that in Christ "it is finished." His love for me has saved me, redeemed me from lawlessness and purified me through the forgiveness of sin so that I now live in light of his mercy and grace. I am free to serve, to work, to love. Rightly motivated by an undeserved Love, I am free to give everything.

Only One Exemplary Life

I can teach younger women what is good, beginning with the gospel good news. In Christ, we have been redeemed. That is the only truth able to change our hearts and transform our lives. My life is not exemplary so do not look at me. Look to the One who lived the only true exemplary life - Jesus, Perfect in power, in love and purity.

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