Men and Women in Church/Home

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Men and Women in Church/Home


Peter Hubbard


March 3, 2019


Romans, Romans 12:10


It is such a privilege to worship with you, to come under his Word together. If you’ll turn to Romans 12, we’re going to begin there. We’re going to be in a bunch of different places. If you need an outline, it may help you to follow along, raise your hand. Lord willing next week, we will start The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which is the last book in the Bible, which is a powerful vision of the future that comes through looking at a person. That’s why it’s called The Revelation of Jesus Christ. But for today, we want to try to clear up some gender confusion.

We’re finishing up our series on gender confusion, and I joked at the beginning of this series that for every bit of clarity we can achieve, we will create some more confusion. So it’s not the kind of subject you can cover in six weeks adequately, so we’re going to continue, view this as an ongoing journey. But what I’d like to do today is to go back and review some of what we covered last week because some of the passages we looked at are so culturally controversial and often misunderstood. I want to review that to make sure there is some clarity, and then maybe press a little bit further, and then tie that into the home in the end.

How does what we’re learning about how we relate to one another in church, how does that affect the home? Last week we began with Romans 12:10, which is in the context of genuine love that flows out of the mercies of Christ.

Romans 12:1, “Based on the mercies of Christ, present your bodies as living sacrifices.” And what does that transformation look like? Well, one of the manifestations of that is that your love will no longer be fake. Real love. Romans 12:9. What does real love look like? It abhors what is evil. It clings to what is good. It holds onto what is good.

Then he says in verse 10, it manifests itself in a kind of love that you could describe as brotherly affection. “Love one another with brotherly affection.” Sibling love. We are co-heirs in Christ. We are called as sibling cultivators of this creation. So our brother-sister relationship as men and women is the most basic of engendered relationships within the church.

We are related to one another through Jesus, in our Father. So when a Christian man meets a Christian woman, his first thought is not, she is a subject in any way or an object, but she is a sister.

Same thing for a Christian woman meeting a Christian man. That same dynamic is present. We are most fundamentally brothers and sisters, and this provides a foundation of equality, reciprocity, charity, and purity.

And even when there are large age gaps between us as brothers and sisters, we may shift the way we relate to one another slightly, but we’re still ultimately brothers and sisters. You’ll notice in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul touches on these large age gaps.

“Do not rebuke an older man, but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”

Notice that family dynamic is very strong.

We are fellow image-bearers being made new in Jesus as a family. But last week, we highlighted a couple verses that can make this relationship confusing regarding church gatherings. Let me mention two. 1 Corinthians 14:34 says,

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”

I know some of you are saying, “Is that really in the Bible?” Yeah.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 we also looked at.

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

So both of these passages are very similar in two ways. First of all, well, three ways, they’re both addressed to women, they both called for quietness, or 1 Corinthians 14:34, actually silence. They both refer to submission or submissiveness, that dreaded word, and if we take these verses out of their context, as people often do, and just read them independent of the context that they’re in, they become universal statements of male-female relationships that make it kind of hard for brothers and sisters to relate to one another in a gathering.

If you take them out of the context, you have to conclude that women in the gathered community are not allowed to speak, sing, pray, prophesy, testify, teach, or even ask questions. Last week, I was talking to a man who came from a church in California, and he was referring to a specific time he remembered not long ago where two women, godly mature women were asked to pray in the service at a particular church, and they both said, “No.” They would not pray because to pray would be to lead in prayer, which they said was a violation of those verses. Now while I appreciate their intent to be biblical, is it possible that they’re actually being less than biblical? Before we answer that question, I want to set up an illustration that may help us, hopefully.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote an article a couple of years ago entitled “How Americans Became So Sensitive to Harm.” It was published in The Atlantic. And he was examining in that article a research paper published by psychology professor Nick Haslam entitled, “Concept Creep: Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology [disease].” And in that research, Haslam is arguing that concepts like abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, prejudice have all undergone a certain degree of “Concept Creep.”

What does he mean by “creep”? He’s not talking about that shady guy down the row. He’s not talking about a hip-hop dance, which I will not illustrate for you. It’s a little closer to what is often referred to as “mission creep.” Are you familiar with that at all? If the military is sent overseas to accomplish a specific mission, and they end up being called to do way beyond that, that’s called “mission creep.” Think kudzu. You’re called to do one thing, and the kudzu grows over its borders into many other things.

That’s this idea of creep. And he gives some examples of this “concept creep,” like a mom (true story), mom who temporarily lost custody of her 9- year-old son, was arrested, lost her job because she had allowed her 9-year-old son to play in the park without being with him. Now we can debate whether the son was big enough to be alone, whether that was wise or not, but what Haslam is contending is “Wait a second. Abuse?” Is she being labeled with something the same thing as a parent beating their kid with a pole or starving their kid to death? Has that term been stretched?

Other examples: childbirth, abandonment by spouse, infidelity have all been diagnosed by some as trauma. These are just examples, categories such as benevolent sexism, unconscious racism, and legions of microaggressions have become ubiquitous in our society, and Haslam would be quick to point out, in many ways that trend is good.

Is it good to have a greater awareness of how your unconscious assumptions can affect or hurt a person who is different from you? Of course. That is a good thing.

Is it good for us as a society to increase in sensitivity toward how our actions affect others?

It’s a good thing. But what Haslam argues is there are built-in dangers. Here are four. Unjustified accusations and litigation, which is quite obvious today. What he calls “semantic dilution” and that is dilution in the sense of a weakening of the word. If everyone’s difficult experiences are diagnosed as trauma, then those who are truly traumatized can go unnoticed or unhelped. Third, we pathologize normal experiences. We define as a disease something that is a normal experience that most everybody goes through at some time in life. And fourth, we end up overprotecting and multiplying victims. Overprotecting in the sense of, just like your muscles and bones have to experience stress to grow and develop, if you overprotect someone, you’re in the end not actually helping them develop as a human being.

So in summary, “concept creep” occurs when an important concept becomes inflated, overdiagnosed and deluded, stretched beyond its original borders or design.

If everyone is abused, if everyone is traumatized, if everyone is a racist, then in the end, practically speaking, it’s as if no one is. And then real problems, like racism, like abuse, like trauma are not dealt with appropriately. Now what I’m suggesting through this (that’s just an illustration, we’re not going to develop that), what I’m suggesting is that concept, that idea of “concept creep,” might help us understand what has happened to the borders of  verses like 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12.  If we were to go to church and read those and then come to the assumption that women should be seen and not heard –  Very wise, men, not to amen at that point.

That was brilliant – then we would be, I believe, misinterpreting what those verses are actually getting at. Many just label Paul a misogynist and write it off, or write off the verses as situational or cultural and can be just ignored. And do you see how both kinds of responses can, in the end, cause us to miss a good word God might have for us? So what exactly is Paul saying in these verses and others like them? He is prohibiting women from functioning as teaching elders, pastors overseeing the flock of God.

They’re not to exercise elder authority or teach as pastors. Now, by doing that, you notice where we’re cutting the “concept creep” back to a very focused definition of what he’s trying to say. Now how do we know this? Because he doesn’t specifically spell that out. Let me suggest three reasons. Number one, the context of 1 Corinthians 14. In 1 Corinthians 14, for example, as you read through the whole chapter, repeatedly he talks about all in the church. In passages like 23-26, he says the whole church comes together, and if they all prophesy and all speak in tongues, implying that there is something verbal happening with everybody.

Also, when you broaden the context just slightly, you get to passages like 1 Corinthians 11:5 where he dealt with the head coverings. We talked about that last week. That discussion makes no sense if women are not praying or prophesying in church, which would contradict what he said in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. So the immediate context communicates that. Secondly, the context in 1 Timothy 2 and 3, where Paul forbids women from teaching or having authority and then right after explaining the reason, he goes right into the beginning of chapter 3, giving the qualifications of an elder and the teaching involved in that. Three, the broader context. And by broader context, I’m talking about the New Testament as a whole. And I can only give one example here for the sake of time, but there are many others. And that is, there are one another commands given to both men and women that are impossible to obey if you take a “concept creep” view of those commands in chapter 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. What do I mean? Let me show you one example.

Colossians 3:16. We just read this.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Now how can women specifically be teaching and admonishing and singing if they have to be silent in church? You say, “Well, maybe they can do this in coffee shops, or maybe they can do this just with women.”

Well, it does seem hard if you’re called to be singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, just make sure no men hear you.

Is that what he intends to say?

What we began to build last week and will continue to talk about into the future is, there seems to be a distinction made in Paul’s teaching between big “T” Teaching and little “t” teaching, a kind of elder-pastor-authoritative Teaching that is binding in a very specific way on a congregation, and a kind of teaching and admonishing one another that all of us are called to participate in. I think this is a really important point just for life in general.

I learn a ton from my wife. She is a woman of wisdom. I learn a ton from my daughter. I learn a ton from the women in our church, both casually and collectively when we gather with one another. Even this morning, a woman came up during the singing and just said, “I feel really impressed by the Spirit to share what God has done in my family.”And we had her share that, how God has broken a generational cycle of addiction that goes way back many generations with alcoholics and drug addicts and abusers, generation after generation and how God has severed that, and there is grace flowing. Wouldn’t you want to hear about that?

But if you misinterpret 1 Corinthians 14:34 or 1 Timothy 2:11-12, you could not say yes to her to share that with the church. Reformed theologians call it the difference between general teaching office and special teaching office. A special teaching office would be a call to teach as a pastor or an elder. A general teaching office is overflowing from Matthew 28 when Jesus says to his disciples, “Go. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.” And that call is given to all of us:  to go, make, baptize, teach.

Now, I know that leaves a lot of questions as what is the specific difference between big “T” Teaching and little “t” teaching, and we’ll explore that more in our Q&A on the 17th. But do you follow how understanding “concept creep,” how that misinterpretation can flow into everything and end up paralyzing women in ministry? Feeling like, “Am I allowed to speak? Am I allowed to sing? Am I allowed to pray? What can I do and what can’t I do? When a man or a woman stands up in our times of sharing in a church service or shares what God has done in his or her heart, or in life group, or in a service that falls we believe, the elders believe it falls squarely into Colossians 3:16. It’s letting the word of God dwell in us richly and ministering to one another out of the overflow.

Now, the reason we’ve taken some time to address this last week and this week, even though there are thousands of other things we could talk about, we as elders feel it’s very important for us to be clear on this. Because not being clear may make people from a particularly conservative background, feel comfortable. But in the end, it can produce a ministry paralysis for all of us to where we’re not sure what we can do or say. Let me give you one illustration of this.  A couple years ago, I was meeting with a group in our church, and we were dealing with kind of a tough issue, and we were going around just getting everybody’s opinion on this. And there was a woman sitting there in the group, a very wise, godly woman. I have a lot of confidence in her wisdom in Christ. And every time it would seem like she would have something good to say about the situation we were talking about, she was quiet. So I said to her, I invited her to give input into this, and she still wouldn’t say anything. She explained to me that the reason she didn’t feel comfortable saying anything was because I was an elder. What do you mean by that? Because an elder is in this group discussing this that he does not need what you have to say? And she explained that a lot of her struggle was from her upbringing.

But I’m thinking, “Wait a second. What are we communicating?” What are we, as elders, communicating if we’re assuming that “Oh, we have unlimited wisdom. We don’t need anything from you. You don’t have anything to offer. We have what we need.” And nothing could be further from the truth. The Spirit of God is in all of us as brothers and sisters in Christ. We can all be wrong. Or we might have something to contribute. But we need to hear one another, and we desperately need an environment where people are not paralyzed to share what they believe God is teaching or calling them to communicate from his Word, speaking into various situations. So let me give you two examples that might help us bring some things to clarity.

First of all, women baptizing. Historically in our church, women have not been allowed to baptize, like doing the actual dunking part. We have allowed dads to baptize their children, which is a beautiful thing to watch a dad really assume responsibility in leading his home. Still affirming and promoting that. But one of the other things that has come out throughout the last couple of years as the elders have prayed and studied this in the Scriptures is a greater awareness of our responsibility as elders to oversee the ordinances that Jesus has given us as a church well. That’s one of the reasons you will notice elders teaching baptism classes. That’s one of the reasons you will notice when we had baptism a couple of weeks ago, whether I or another pastor was actually doing the physical baptizing, we were here in the front. We were communicating what baptism is and what it isn’t. And that is really vital because God has called (that’s one of the words for elders is “overseers”), he has called us, and we will give account for how we oversee this particular part of Christ’s family. But having said that, as we wrestled through is it biblically wrong for a single mom who has poured her heart into discipling her daughter to have the privilege of physically baptizing her daughter? Or a mom, or a woman who has invested in a sister in Christ, discipling her? And we believe while elders are responsible to oversee, called by God to do so, that there is no biblical mandate requiring that a particular gender, or some denominations believe that only clergy can baptize. And we respect that. We believe that that is a Romans 14 issue, that Christians can agree to disagree on how we live that out. Second example is that of worship. The elders have a God-given responsibility to oversee worship in our services. Every song we sing, elders have evaluated to make sure we’re not singing heresy.

We are committed, and you’ll notice up here, to have teams of both men and women lead worship as we image him as male and female in worship. But we believe that when a woman shares a verse, exhorts us to believe or praise, or introduces a song, that that activity falls much closer to Colossians 3:16 than it does to 1 Corinthians 14:34 or 1 Timothy 2:11-12. She is exhorting, encouraging, even at times maybe in a loose sense, teaching in a one-another fashion. And I know for some of you, you’re thinking, “It’s about time. You guys are just way behind the biblical times,” because we have people from a variety of backgrounds.

And then for others of you, you’re thinking, “Whoa! I don’t know how my conscience is going to process this biblically, because this is opposite of what I’ve been taught all my life.” Well, let me just say we want to walk through this with you. We’re going to have Q&A, we’ll have many other opportunities to walk through this as a journey rather than just a one-time event. We really want to do what Colossians 3:16 says when it calls us to “let the word of Christ well in [us] richly.” And there is a similar passage. If you’ll look over to Ephesians 5:18, page 978 if you use a Bible from the seats. There’s a similar verse that picks up on this same theme in Ephesians, and it uses some of the same words. The same word for submission that’s used in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11 is used in Hebrews 13:17, regarding submitting to leaders. It’s used here in Ephesians 5 as well. Let me read verses 18-21. Ephesians 5:18. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart; giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

You notice the main command is “don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.” How do you know if you’re filled with the Spirit? Well, you’re addressing (There are four participles there: addressing, singing, thanking, submitting.) Isn’t that’s so interesting? Because many of us think if we really get filled with the Spirit, we’re going to do the opposite of submitting, we’re going to go crazy. And Paul says, you know some of the fruits of being full of the Spirit is the fact that what comes out of your mouth is, you’re admonishing one another, you’re singing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, you’re giving thanks, and then you’re able to submit yourselves “to one another out of reverence for Christ.” So let me make three observations about these verses and the couple that follow as we apply some of what we’ve talked about to the home and then kind of wrap it all together. So, three observations. Number one, submission to one another flows from the filling of the Spirit. The word “submit” isn’t in verse 22. It flows from and is implied from verse 21. So, there’s the filling of the Spirit, you’re submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. “Wives to your own husbands as to the Lord.” That’s, I think, important that submission is not primarily a word for wives; it is a word for Spirit-filled Christians.

Let me just say a word to the men. Men, if you have a hard time doing something that you need to do simply because a woman asked you to do it, you’re not just a misogynist, you’re a mis-Spiritist. That’s our made-up word for today. What’s a misogynist? You hate women, you’re rejecting women, that’s a misogynist, mis gýnis, gýnis is “woman” in Greek. A hater of women is a misogynist. A mis-Spiritist is one who rejects the Spirit. According to Paul, if you’re full of the Spirit, you first and foremost, before we even apply this command to the specific relationships, whether it’s to leaders, or whether it’s in a marriage, or whether it’s to governing authorities, whatever way in our specific areas of life we need to apply it, before we can even do that, we need the filling of the Spirit to enable us to be able in an appropriate way to line up under each other. And that just creates an entirely different atmosphere in a home, in a marriage, in a workplace.

See, if I’m having a problem with verse 22, a wife lining up under her husband, or verse 25, a husband loving his wife, I need to first and foremost go back to verse 18 and seek a filling from the Spirit. Why? Listen to what Keller writes, and he’s talking about marriage, but this is true in any relationship. “To have a marriage [or a friendship or a parent-child relationship] that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of the center, to put the needs of others ahead of your own.”

Stop there for a second. So he is arguing that you need the Spirit to do what you can’t naturally do in life because to live in relationship with people who are different from you is humanly impossible, to do it in a fruitful, joyful, what he calls “singing” way. Think of a dance. Again, I can’t dance, but I would imagine for all you who can, it’s just a beautiful thing.

Think of ice dancers. What they’re doing is, they’re constantly foot in, foot out,

lean forward, lean back. There is a constant give and take that sets up something that is beautiful. They’re opposite, so they’re different. Men and women are different.

They’re opposite, but their movements in many ways are mutual. There’s a reciprocity there.

Now at times, in ice dancing, for example, the guy, generally – maybe that’s going to change in future –

The guy is generally lifting the girl up into the air, spinning her around, whipping her head millimeters from the ice, and that is not easy by the way. I grew up playing hockey my whole life, so I was really good skater. The first time I tried to do that with Karen, it didn’t, it really didn’t go well. It was not as pretty as what’s on TV.

I feel like they practiced that, but that kind of give-and-take movement is, I think what Paul is talking about, this mutual submission as brothers and sisters. He goes on. “The Spirit’s work of making the gospel real to the heart weakens the self-centeredness of the soul.” If you have one dancer who’s saying, “We’re doing this. I don’t care what you’re doing.” That’s not going to be pretty. So it “weakens the self-centeredness in the soul. It is impossible for us to make major headway against self-centeredness and move into a stance of service without some kind of supernatural help.” So we live in such a painful world, full of sin and suffering, and our hearts not only are shaped by that sin and suffering, but they feed into that sin and suffering. And marriage, for example, does not solve the problem of selfishness, it reveals it. And that is why we need Spirit help because, as Keller goes on to say, “When you begin to talk to wounded people, it’s not long before they begin talking about themselves. They’re so engrossed in their own pain and problems that they don’t realize what they look like to others. They’re not sensitive to the needs of others. They don’t pick up the cues of those who are hurting, or, if they do, they only do so in a self-involved way. That is, they do so with the view of helping to ‘rescue’ them in order to feel better about themselves. They get involved with others in an obsessive and controlling way because they are actually meeting their own needs, though they deceive themselves about this. We are always, always the last to see our self-absorption. Our hurts and wounds can make our self-centeredness even more intractable.” That is, unmanageable, difficult to deal with.

So do you understand how much you need the Spirit’s help? What he does, he exposes the false idols, the hopes we have, the unresolved hurts. And this is what I love most about the Spirit’s work. He has a way of taking us down and up in one movement, simultaneously.

There are a lot of voices you can hear in your head and in your world that will take you down to despair, and there are a lot of voices you will hear in your head and in this world that will take you up to delusion and pride. Only the Spirit takes us down in the sense of convicting us of sin, exposing our idols and our false confidences, reminding us who we are in our weakness and our need of him.

He convicts us of sin, and we go through this death, burial, but then he brings us up. “Abba, Father” cries out within us. We are his children. His love for us is, as we began with, an everlasting love. He knows more about us and is not shocked about any of our failures, and so he takes us down and brings us up, and that movement of the gospel is the only work that truly de-centers and stabilizes simultaneously.

So, what does this have to do with marriage? It has everything to do with it, and friendship, and parent-child relationships.

If I’m struggling with my role as a man or a woman in church or home, I need to go back to verse 18 and cry out to the Spirit for filling. And amazingly, the first fruit of the Spirit is what? Love. He begins to bear his fruit as he works in our hearts. Number two, submission in marriage is freely given, born out of love of Jesus, out of the love of Jesus. You’ll notice in verse 22 when it says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.”

Notice it doesn’t here command the husband to make, tell, or require his wife to submit to him. It’s not his job. If I’m having a disagreement with my wife (those have happened), and everything inside of me is wanting to make her agree with me. And the Spirit is saying, “Hubbard, get back in your lane. I’m calling you to verse 25, and you’re stuck in verse 22. Stop it! Get back to verse 25.” What am I called to do as a husband? Thank you. Yeah, I’m called to love. There’s a cool picture. All under the filling of the Spirit, out of reverence for Christ.

I’m walking in love as Christ has loved us and gave himself for us. So, my call is to get back and give of myself in love. As a leader, as the leader of the home, I get to be the first one to repent. I get to be the first one to die to self, the first one to, by God’s grace, model what I pray would be true about my wife and my kids.

But unfortunately, many of us, we jump the lane, and we try to get other people to do what we’re not willing to do. And that never ends well. So, when a husband is giving himself up in love, which is just another way of saying submission on steroids. Christ gave himself up in love. Then a wife lines herself up. And both of those things flow freely in Christ. Number three, submission and love flow from and point to Jesus. Husbands, verse 25, “Love your wives.”

And notice he keeps saying, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present to the church to himself, in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she may be wholly and without blemish.”

I know I’ve used this illustration before, but I find it really helpful. If you go out on Edwards Road on any given day, you can find squirrels that have been run over. Squished squirrels. And if you wanted to explain to someone from New Zealand (because they don’t have squirrels in New Zealand) and we have people from New Zealand in our church. They’re not here today. But if you wanted to explain to them what a squirrel is and you went out to the road and got a shovel and scraped up the squirrel and then picked up the squirrel and said, “See what squirrels are? Squirrels are flat, furry. They don’t really move much. Little bloody-ish. It’s like a furry pancake.” Isn’t that gross? Yeah. It’s gross.

But think about what people do to male-female, marriage. They define those based on the wreckage, our own experience, our own feelings, our own misunderstandings. One of the goals for this series, and I know there are thousands of other things we haven’t talked about, about men and women. But one of the goals is to step back and go, let’s stop defining ourselves as men and women in marriage and family, in the church by the squished, run-over version. Many are all around us. Some of us have even experienced that growing up or are in the middle of it right now. Let’s get our eyes off of that. Let’s get our eyes on Jesus. That’s what we mean by whatever it means to submit, whatever it means to love, it flows from and points to Jesus. Paul is writing to people who have experienced horrible abuse. Many are slaves. Tons of injustice, tons of hurt, difficulty. And he’s saying to them, “I know you don’t know what it looks like to love sacrificially. I know you don’t know what it looks like in a healthy way to line up under another, not in a co-dependent, soul-crushing way, but in healthy way. I know you don’t get that, but you know where we’re going to learn it from?

We’re going to look to Jesus.” We’re going to ask for a fresh filling of his Spirit so we can see things in us that we otherwise would not be able to see, and we can walk in love with one another as we learn what it means to glorify him as co-heirs, brothers and sisters. So as we end this morning, I want to ask you, is this your desire? Lord, I want to know what this is. I want to live this out. Don’t think about the people you want to make do certain things. Think about me as a husband or a wife, a teenager, as a son or a daughter, or a co-worker, a friend. I want to learn what this is. And if you do, I want to encourage you.

Let’s all stand up as we pray. And as we go from here, before you go, if this is your desire, I want you to hold out your hands and just receive this blessing as I pray over you. Father, we are acknowledging we can’t live this way. We will misunderstand what you have said. We will fall far short. We will allow bitterness to seep into our souls. We will define ourselves and others by the wreckage, by the hurt, the abuse. Lord, we need your help. We want to see you, Jesus, the one who gave himself, the one who was abused for our sake, the one who sacrificed himself so that we could know this kind of love. So, Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on us. Empower us to do what we can’t naturally do. Bear fruit in us of love and joy and peace. Give us open ears to listen to one another and listen to your wisdom, and let us walk in love. We pray this for your glory, in Jesus name. Amen.



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