Jesus Feminist_Surprise Party 11

But what about our men?

Part of the reason I am so passionate about women’s issues in the world today is because I am also passionate about men. 

I’m the mother of a strong little boy. I’m the wife of a strong man. I’m the daughter of a strong man.

And the men in my life are Jesus feminists.

I cannot fathom my life without my men.

My father shines in my life as a north star, a man whose integrity and godliness can orient me instantly. He is the one who raised me to stand, who raised me to hold fast, who raised me to use my brain and my heart. He is a man of prayer, a warrior and a shepherd. He’s a “guy’s guy” with his competitive nature, his drive to succeed, and his taciturn introversion – and yet he is the most tender-hearted and gentle of souls, the one who can make me laugh, the one who tells me to speak up. His eyes have only ever followed my mother and she moves through his life with freedom and confidence. He calls me with his dreams and visions for me, he lays his hand on my head and commissions me before God and everyone, setting me apart for the work of the ministry with his blessing.

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My husband – every 6’6″ red-blooded American inch of him – has challenged me, refined me, supported me. He has always been more convinced of my calling and my vocation than I could be. At my book release party this past Thursday, he stood up in front of a packed room and reminded me how he bought me that blank journal more than 15 years ago with the inscription to “go write like you were meant to write.” Oh, he’s a guy’s guy, all right – a leader wherever he goes, opinionated and (usually) right.  He’s the one who wrestles with the tinies, who has no qualms when it’s time for discipline, who only checks the Internet for news about college football. And yet, he calls me a preacher, calls me “called” and sends me out on the road with a grin on his face, tinies at his feet, a toddler in his arms, and a reminder that he’s “got this, babe. Now go on.”

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I long for my son to grow up in the nurture and admonition of his father, of his grandfathers, of his uncles. He is surrounded by men who love God, who love women, who seek first the Kingdom of God, men who go boldly to the throne of grace and walk confidently in their callings.

I cannot imagine a better example of manhood for him to embrace: they embody the best of manhood, the best of marriage, the best of fatherhood, the best of discipleship that I could imagine.

They have done this for my entire life without falter, without fail.

Women cannot be the ally our men deserve in the Kingdom of God when we are bowing down in a misguided attempt to lift them up. 

My father has never required for my mother to become less of herself to feel more like himself. He has not silenced me or my sister, he has given us a compelling example to follow and a high standard for manhood.

My husband has never required me to quiet my voice, hide my calling, downplay my gifts. If anything, he has felt most loved, most supported, most joyful when we are both fully alive.

I suppose that men of God aren’t usually so insecure as to require less of a woman in order to be more of a man.

The other night when I spoke at The Junia Project gathering, we had an impromptu Q&A with the audience. Someone wanted to know more about mutuality, more about this “mutual submission” thing in a marriage, and I watched my husband take the microphone and preach with great pride in my heart. I slid into his shadow, listened with my whole heart, nodded at his truth: yes, we take turns leading, we submit to each other. It has been beautiful, he said, the way that we look to Jesus, the way we see each other with the eyes of hope, the way we trust each other, the way we lead together. I couldn’t be more proud, he said. It made me want to do this – whatever this is – with him, both of us together, forever. When he talks about Jesus Feminist, he uses the plural pronoun: it’s our book.

Feminism is not matriarchy. I don’t know any one who would like to replace the system of patriarchy with the system of matriarchy.

Feminism is simply equality. Feminism is not the end of men. Certainly not Jesus feminism.

But what about the men? 

Really, let’s talk about this, shall we? We could, I suppose, talk about the false gospel of manhood that is preached in our churches, the one that makes stereotypes of us all.

Let’s talk about the fact that God made men and women to thrive together, as true allies, as partners, as friends and lovers. Let’s talk about not only our created purpose, but the vision for our redemption set forth in Scripture. Let’s really think about what heaven breaking through in our world would look like for men and women.

Of course, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to servanthood. 

I just don’t think that that calling is restricted to those of us with vaginas. 

Those sacred words are for all of us.

The last shall be first, brothers. The least of these are the greatest, sisters.

Serve one another with love, men and women, practice playing second fiddle to each other.

Are our men not faltering under this same false system from the Fall? Are they not being fed an ungodly image of manhood, one that flies in the face of the Son of Man? Are our men not being encouraged by the world (and sometimes by the Church!) to worship the god of power, the god of sex, the god of violence, the god of fear, enmity, war, and scarcity?

We can prophecy something better with our lives. I’ve seen it, I know it’s real, for the Bible tells me so.

I look at the men around me – not only my father and my husband, certainly not! – and I see men of God who do not fear, who laugh at the idea of holding women back in order to bring men forward. I see men who are peace-makers, men who are providers, men who are caring for their children and their wives, men who are learning, who are leading and following, who are making space and holding witness and speaking out, who are hard working. And these men are able, somehow, to do that while still celebrating and affirming women as people, too.

Do we serve a God of abundance or a God of scarcity? Do we not see that there is room for us all, room for all that we are and all that we are created and called to be, in the Kingdom of God?

In the Kingdom of God, we don’t have to choose between lifting up men or lifting up women, it’s not one or the other: it’s both together, it’s the sacred union, the created purpose as co-image bearers of God.

Men and women, rising up together, in faith and in abundance, in sacred reconciliation, hallelujah, it’s gorgeous to behold.

photos taking by Tina Francis at the Jesus Feminist surprise book release party

In which I am still hopeful because....
In which I have an epoch (+ release party pictures!)
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  • I’m in all agreement with you. Ben & Brian sound similar from their sports love to the empowering love they give to their wives & children. I’m so glad the two of you were in CA together, co-leading at different moments.

  • This is a bit off topic but I’m a bit discouraged tonight. The sermon I heard at church this morning made me feel awkward and uncomfortable, as both a single person and a feminist.

    Pastor preached from Ephesians 5 and reinforced the traditional teaching of the husband being the head and the woman following and this is the way things should be done because marriages are supposed to be a picture of the church.. He prefaced the sermon by saying that single people are complete people (which I appreciated so much because I’ve never heard that from the pulpit before) but at the end of the service he had all the married couples stand up and I was the only one in my pew sitting. I wanted to crawl under it until service was over. I wrote a few things about it on Twitter; at one point I said “This whole “man is the head” has been beaten into my head my whole life and I’m tired of it. There has to be another way. I want to be equal partners with my spouse as we follow Christ together. I’m not interested in following a man “to the ends of the earth.” I would love to hear a pastor teach “mutual submission” in marriage. That’s a teaching on marriage I as a single person would listen to.” I was confused and frustrated, and I had to work hard to convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with me just because I don’t want that type of marriage and the reason for my singleness isn’t because I refuse to settle down and submit.

    So, all of that to say this: Sarah, I am so glad you have supportive Jesus feminist men in your life. I wish I did. I feel like the Christian men I know just don’t get it; they have no idea what it’s like to be a woman in the church and see and hear the things I do. But I’m grateful that men like your dad and husband do exist because that gives me hope.

    • Ooooooh, I feel this one, too.

    • Thanks for being honest, Charlotte – there is so much I have to learn and I’m thankful that I get to listen to wise women like you and Emily.

      • Sarah, you honor me so much by calling me wise and grouping me with someone like Emily. Thank you for your work, your words, and your wisdom (and your book!).

  • Sarah Silvester

    Oh thank you Sarah for articulating this so clearly. That photo of you and Brian is just dreamy, too. I’m so thankful that I’m married to a man who champions me and will do the same for his daughters. xxx

  • Callie Glorioso-Mays

    loved this. thanks so much for sharing. i’m looking forward to reading your book which i think i’m getting for christmas! 🙂

  • You are one of my preachers, dear Sarah. Thank you for these true, challenging words.
    I’ve been hating being single, and this year I’ve enjoyed it, and now I’m hoping regarding a spark of potential, but I’m thankful to be single because I needed to know these things we’re saying deep in my bones. It’s easier to introduce myself this way: in process, but very much a Jesus Feminist, than try to fix it later on.
    Thank you so much. So much.
    xoxo.

    • I think it does matter. I like the idea of coming into our lives whole.

  • pastordt

    Well, glory hallelujah!! Thank you for this – I don’t even have words enough to say thank you. This is the beauty of the gospel, in all its richness and profound gift of personhood, true, whole personhood to every single one of us. Amen. (And Brian rocked it on Friday night – as did you.)

    • Thanks, Diana – we loved even just the small amount of time we had with you.

  • Jill McGilvray

    Yes, Sarah. I too have a man like this and every day I wake up I just can’t believe I got to marry him thirty years ago. We build each other up, we delight in each other’s successes and weep together when we have to. My daughter says the only problem is finding another one like her dad, and we pray that she will. Thank you for your strong but gentle voice. Thank you for finding the words that need to be said. This is certainly about the men too! We all grow when we keep our eyes on Jesus.

    • Beautifully said, Jill. Thirty years! What a gift and example.

  • Kristy Richards

    Can I confess something to you? (I confessed to my husband tonight and asked for his forgiveness) I don’t know if I am a Jesus Feminist or not, but here’s one thing I know…or maybe a couple things. I came into marriage with an expectation of what submission should look like, and what my husband’s role should be as the head of the household. Some of my expectations fit nicely into our natural instincts as husband and wife…but some did not. I have found myself getting irrationally upset at my husband at times or letting something that I am capable of doing go undone because “that’s not my job”. And I can’t help but notice that this feels so very un-Christlike. Is my husband to blame? No. I am. I am guilty for holding out treasures and gifts that I have been graced with from the Lord for the sake of my pride because I know my husband doesn’t hold out on me. Whether he “succeeds” or “fails”, he loves with his all. He gives with his all. I do believe that my husband holds a leadership role in the home, but maybe leadership doesn’t look like the picture that church has painted…tainting the image of submission and authority. My husband serves me, with all of him. He gives himself to me wholly. Isn’t that all that God has called him to do? Yet we add to that, we make it religious, we make it about rules. He must rule the finances. He must have the last word. He must know all of the right answers. How unbelievably unscriptural and foolish. As you so beautifully pointed out, aren’t we all born into sin? This conversation is so messy and uncomfortable. I don’t think the answer necessarily lies in churches pastored by women. At the end of the day, the church gains nothing if the message is, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” I think it’s in both men and women embracing the freedom of His grace in their lives…wherever that might lead them; all the while challenging each other to become more and more like Christ. How else can iron sharpen iron? I thank you for being so bold as to start this discussion.

    “Women cannot be the ally our men deserve in the Kingdom of God when we are bowing down in a misguided attempt to lift them up.” You said it best.

    God bless you.

    • Exactly. I think that is my frustration sometimes – people mistakenly think that if one is advocating for women’s full participation in the Body of Christ, that somehow that means putting men down. Never!

      • Kristy Richards

        Amen. You rock my socks off Sarah Bessey!!! Preach on sister!!

  • Sarah, I just finished your new book and really enjoyed it. I will say that a few times while I was reading I found myself thinking- “So how do us guys fit into this?”

    This post would have been awesome in the book.

    • well, here’s hoping for a second edition someday, then, eh? 😉

  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank-you working through these issues. Not every aspect figured out, but am seeing mutual submission as essential, and seeing that every one in Christ’s body is weakened when someone’s strengths and gifts are sidelined and discouraged.

    • I believe so, yes. Thanks for working through them alongside of me!

  • Matt Rickman

    I find myself constantly going back to something Archbishop Tutu said. He would preach that he was against Apartheid as much for how it affected white Afrikaners as it did his tribe. Both Racism and Sexism are wrong because they infect and imprison both the victims and the victimizers. To see the Kingdom come is to see freedom come to both sides, for real peace the lion must lay down with the lamb.

    • Erin Wilson

      Yes, yes, yes!

    • Oh, my, that is so good. Love that, Matt – thank you!

    • Thursday1

      Wow, this is truly horrible example. Afrikaners are being slowly ethnically cleansed from SA. If you want to read more, the novelist J.M. Coetzee wrote a famous novel about the violence (which won him the Nobel Prize), and promptly stormed off to live in Australia.

      • Matt Rickman

        Anything wrong doings to the Afrikaners is well, wrong. Both Tutu and Mandela were greatly concerned with this happening and did all they could to stop it. South Africa remains a violent and bloody place where new atrocities occur daily. But that only proves Tutu’s point, the scourge of Apartheid has contributed to patterns of violence and retribution that has been harmful to both sides. And it will continue to until both the tribesmen and the Afikaners can learn to forgive each other and agree to end the cycle of violence began 3 centuries ago.

  • Wowsers. This is fab, and prompted me to thank God for the men in my life. Thank you.

  • Erin Wilson

    This made me weep for both the clarity and the beauty of what you’ve written here. Okay, I dropped a few f*bombs too, as I’m known to do when something resonates so loudly.

    There is astounding beauty in truth…

  • Lovely. Well said.

    I think that most functioning marriages include a level of give-and-take that this whole “man in the head of the house” thing didn’t really include room for, no matter what views or beliefs the people in question espouse. My father doesn’t believe women can be preachers/pastors, but he was raised by a farm-wife mother who ran the house and the land and did all the numbers, and he married my mother, a strong-willed woman who has always paid all the bills and they made the big choices together.

    It’s similar to something Rachel said over at her blog semi-recently, that even the most hardcore complementarians in happy marriages have a level of egalitarianism when it’s needful. And it will, eventually, be needful.

    Jason and I always looked at each other as partners – nobody’s pulling all the weight, we both share the load. Neither of us would have accepted it any other way.

  • hannah anderson

    I’ll be the first to admit that I probably differ with you about terminology and certain paradigms, but I’ll happily agree with your vision of the holistic union between men and women. I’ve been fortunate that the men in my life are strong, humble, sacrificial men who have never put me down to make themselves feel better–thankful for them and hope my sons grow to be such men. So, hear, hear!

    • Thanks, Hannah! I tend to think labels aren’t as important as our actions anyway so glad to know we have this in common.

  • HBurns

    Beautiful… beautiful…. beautiful. Your words reinforce everything I know to be true. I am forever grateful for really good men in my life and I know that I am standing held, surrounded, championed by their prayers and voices. They are in my home, the home I grew up in, my church, and all around my life. Blessed – I know!!!

    Thanks again for writing this powerful book with a profound message of hope. xoxo

    • Thanks, Pastor Helen – praise God for men like this. I think that’s part of why we’re passionate about it- we know our men like Pastor John and think, Of course!

  • It is funny…in my marriage I had the twisted view of submission …it was my very patient and loving husband who loved me out of my bondage…who modeled servant hood to me…and who kept wooing me to a partnership not a dictatorship ….it grieves me that I listened to wrong definitions of manhood …therefore I viewed my husband true strength as a weakness. It takes a strong man to love a woman to greater wholeness. He, like your husband is my biggest encourager…and now I am my husband’s as well…one begets the other…it doesn’t diminish it.
    I was looking at your books…..love Wayne Jacobson ….and I am a podcast listener.

    • Love this, Ro – what a testament. (And yes, Wayne Jacobsen has been a big influence on me at certain points in my journey. So appreciate his ministry.)

  • You said vaginas. I love that. And I love this message.

  • It is not a wimpy man who encourages his wife to speak what God gives her. My husband told me just this week: “Not only is it your right to speak {by the Spirit}, but it is your OBLIGATION.” I’ve been on both sides of the coin. On the one, foisting my own control over men by force and knowing that IS wrong. It took me years to trust myself in an area where I’ve failed so miserably before. But God. And a husband who walked hand-in-hand with me as we dug the scriptures about marriage. Not what someone else said our marriage should look like, but what we as a team, partners, felt God was saying to us about our marriage. What we found not only set me free, it set him free as well. This whole thing can make a man feel less than because he feels like he’s never doing enough as a leader. Never measuring up to the ideal leader of the home, because we feel only Jesus could fill those shoes anyhow.

    • It does set men free, too, you’re right! And love how you mentioned the growth to move past “foisting control” to servanthood together. Now that makes my heart sing.

  • Thank you so much for this, Sarah. Your boldness here feels so holy, and I thank God for it. For me, this idea one of the most powerful parts of feminism, because I grew up around men that were enslaved to this idea that women needed to be weak in order for them to be strong. The women in my life, God bless them, held their own in spite of that. I always had strong female figures in my mother and my aunts. But the real redemption and healing I have found within feminism began when I recognized that patriarchy hurts men too. It empowered me to speak life and grace into the lives of my men, to tell them that they are more than power-hungry, sex-crazed, violent animals. It is changing my relationship with my father, and with my husband, and with my brothers and uncles and grandfathers.

    • “It is changing my relationship with my father, and with my husband, and with my brothers and uncles and grandfathers.” This is so so beautiful and true. Thank you, B.

    • I feel like I want to read a book about your comment, Bethany – wow, so much goodness here. Thank you for sharing this.

      • Thanks, friend. And funny you should mention the book thing … stay tuned. It could happen. 😉

  • Nurse Bee

    Wonderful! (Your book is “temporarily out of stock” on Amazon, I guess that would be a good thing! Hopefully, they will get more soon, as it’s on the top of my Christmas list!)

    • Yes! It’s been out for a few days, so hoping it is restocked soon!

  • Oh goodness…this makes a bit of a sobbing mess. Having just brought a little boy into this world this makes me long with all my heart for him to grow up to be this kind of man. I feel so honoured that I get to be his mother, but such a huge responsibility! And that picture of you and Brian? Love!

    I had high hopes of being able to read Jesus Feminist while breastfeeding, but I’m taking a page from your Lactivist humbled story….I’m looking forward to finishing it so much though! I will definitely be raising Seth to be a Jesus Feminist.

    • So happy you have your little man with you, safe and sound, Jenn. bless you both!

  • Bev Murrill

    Fantastic post, Sarah. I love the men in my life and the belief they have in me and my daughters, daughters in law and granddaughters. I’ve reposted to Kyria.

  • Anna Wastell

    Your husband sets a fine example for Nebraska and all Husker men everywhere.

  • Absolutely spot on Sarah, couldn’t agree with you more. And my prayer is that I become the man of God you wish all us men to be…and that I never, ever, think I have achieved it. Great post.

    From all I have read about him on your site down the years, I can tell your husband is awesome. But you can see it in the intimate pictures you share here as well. I hope I can be as good a husband, father and man as I can tell he is.

    • He’s a good one, that’s sure. 🙂 Thanks, James.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    As I read this post – I saw my own husband all over it… the Daddy to our girlie, and such a representation of the Father’s heart to many… and it made me pause and give thanks yet again! Yes! So much yes… THIS is the heart of God for all of His kids! <3

  • Thursday1

    That picture of you and your husband does not look very egalitarian! When you’re 6 ft 6 and literally a bear of a man, you are naturally in a very, shall I use the word, dominant position, and therefore perhaps some condescension helps grease the relationship skids.

    • Well, now that just sounds rather ignorant and petty.

      • Thursday1

        Pictures louder than words, etc. It is what it is.

      • Thursday1

        I will say it again, pictures speak louder than words.

  • JoeS4

    This is a very deep subject, which cannot be adequately addressed in a comment on the internet. So I will have to state simply certain things that I believe to be true, without giving the explanation I’d like.

    First, feminism is not biblical. It presupposes a conflict between the sexes, and divides into “us vs. them”. That you feel the need to prove that you don’t hate all men illustrates the fact that you know your point of view is divisive.

    Second, feminism, as a secular phenomenon, is primarily responsible for the social decay and assault on Christianity in general that has overtaken the Western world. It is self-centered, rebellious, and divisive. It celebrates immorality, demonizes men, advocates the murder of unborn children, and promotes a message of selfishness and pride. These are not the values that Jesus taught.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”

    “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

    If someone is abusing their authority, they should be reproved. But it cannot be denied that the Bible gives men authority, in a limited sense. Rebellion against that authority is rebellion against scripture, which is rebellion against God.

    • I think you need the book, or even more of her blog, because most of what you’re reacting to here has nothing to do with what she’d call Jesus feminism.

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  • Callie Glorioso-Mays

    I loved this post and wanted to let you know that I’m blogging a link to this tomorrow at http://cglorioso.blogspot.com. Also, I just began Jesus Feminist and already it’s blowing me away!!

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