Mutuality

Vicki Judd is an ordained minister who served on staff at Bethel Church in Chehalis, WA for 22 years. She currently resides in Longview, WA, is working on a degree from AGTS and watching for every God appointed opportunity to serve.

For the last several months, I’ve been thinking about the verse in 1 Peter chapter 3 that describes the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3-4) What brought it to mind was a discussion about the wedding vows my husband and I wrote and recited to each other 38 years ago. Our youngest son is got married in December, and he and his bride honored us by asking if they could adapt our vows and make them their own – which prompted this response from my husband,

“Oh no! They are impossible to keep!”

You see – among other things, I said, “I promise to have a gentle and quiet spirit.” And he said, “I promise to love you as Christ loved the Church; sacrificially and unselfishly, even when you are unresponsive, irritable, critical or sick.” And I said, “I will accept your love and never take it for granted. I will strive to love you in an unselfish way, never demanding, touchy or possessive, but patient, kind and never-failing.”

Yikes! See what he meant? Impossible for me. Impossible for him. Mutually impossible.

And that my friends is the key to mutuality – that recognition that we will fail but that we must keep working together for the sake of our unity. I can’t make my husband love me sacrificially and unselfishly any more than he can make me have a gentle and quiet spirit. We can only do our part. Pastor Tim Keller said, “Sacrificial love awakens sacrificial love.” I think it might also be true that gentleness awakens gentleness.

Mutuality is defined:

  1. Felt by each: done, felt, or expressed by each toward or with regard to the other.
  2. With same feelings: having or involving the same feelings toward each other
  3. Shared by people: shared by or common to two or more people or groups

Recently the word mutuality has risen to prominence to describe the kind of male/female relationships desired in church leadership. It’s a better word in my opinion than egalitarian which connotes democracy and freedom – something we might have to fight and struggle to attain. Mutuality is a warmer, kinder word. I like it. Synonyms for mutuality include, sympathy, empathy, support, and affinity. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

We’ve been pretty busy in recent years beating the drum of egalitarianism. For some of us, it has become our soapbox, our identity and our goal. We’ve been clamoring up to the stained glass ceiling and pushing with all our might to break thru. Sadly, we have at times damaged our own reputation in doing so. We’ve been labeled; feminist, liberal, strident and unbiblical.

What if we stopped? What if we just stopped all the ladder climbing and clamoring for rights and attention and affirmation? What if we just stopped worrying about who said we could, and just used the gifts God gave us wherever we found an opportunity? I’ve had to change my rubric, but I’m discovering that opportunities are everywhere! What if we simply refused to become offended? What if we started acting in the spirit of mutuality instead of demanding it?

We have a long way to go to attain mutuality – a true sharing and respect in the area of male/female leadership in the church. Yet I have hope. I have hope because I know many women who are simply choosing to put their hand to the task and work regardless of who gets the credit. In large ways and small, they are speaking up with confidence and grace. Who knows? Maybe someday by God’s grace mutually impossible will become mutually possible.

For further reading:

Philippians 2:1-16 The Message

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

12-13 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent

and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

14-16 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

by Vicki Judd

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