A couple months ago I wrote a blog entitled The Masculinization of the Church in which I wrestled with the language used by evangelicals who object to the “feminization” of the church and want to make it more masculine. Since that time, I read a blog by Wendy Alsup entitled Who First Feminized the Church? in which she furthered the discussion in an extremely helpful and Scriptural way. I want to begin by excerpting some of my favorite parts of her blog, and end with why her insights are so important for Christians:
“The very first person to speak of the church in feminine terms was God Himself through His inspired Word. Throughout the Old Testament, Scripture uses feminine imagery for God’s people (such as the entire book of Hosea). In the New Testament, it is starkly clear and unavoidable in Ephesians 5. Like it or not, you and I, male and female, are part of the corporate BRIDE of Christ. And there is a reason God speaks of it that way. God wants us to understand something of our relationship with Him through this terminology.”
She later adds,
“If conservative evangelicals want to refocus ministry efforts toward men who have often been overlooked, we need another rallying cry than one against the “feminization of the church.” Scripture feminizes the church! You can’t hold tightly to the Word of God in one hand and decry the way Scripture talks of the Body from the other. I’ve heard the idea that if you get the man into church, you get his wife and family as well. That is true. But if you get the man into church while downplaying and even mocking how Scripture speaks of his corporate identity in the Bride of Christ, what happens to his wife and family in the church as a result is not necessarily a good thing.”
The reason I so heartily affirm Wendy’s words here is that she brings the real issue to light. This is not about women whining at men for giving us a bad name. It’s about adhering to the very words of Scripture. It’s about being faithful to the character of the church as given to us by God, and reflecting it in our words and in our lives.
We must always remember the power of our words. God used words to create the world and change the course of history. Our words have a similar power, so we cannot afford to be sloppy or lazy in how we use them. We should speak of each divine image bearer, male and female, with the dignity that each deserves, not as an insult.
Evangelicals have fought tooth and nail to defend the masculine language Scripture uses about God, and I wonder what it would mean to hold as tightly to the language about the church. What does it mean that the church is the Bride of Christ? What does it mean for men to be the Bride of Christ. I am not suggesting that men must start acting like women, but the language of Scripture urges us to take this attribute seriously. It also challenges us to be more prudent in voicing our complaints about the church. Emotionalism and sweater vests do not a feminine church make. If we wrongly define the terms of the problem, we are sure to offer the wrong solution.
Let us therefore use our words as God does, carefully, wisely, and Scripturally. And let us remember the power that our words have to build up or tear down, because the ultimate victim of our misused words is Christ’s Bride.