By Christine Hoover
Over coffee and blossoming friendship, Susan and I shared our stories, our fears, and the victories we’ve experienced in Christ. Just before I had to leave, I remembered that a specific decision was weighing on her and asked about it: “Have you made a decision about your kids and school?”
She nodded, indicating that they had decided to make a change. I could tell she felt a little uncomfortable, nervous even, and I knew why. Our kids go to school together. We were alike, and her decision was about to make us different. Would I receive that as an indictment about my own choice?
Susan is a woman of deep faith, and I knew that she had sought the Lord’s direction through prayer for many months. “That’s wonderful,” I said, “I am so happy for you that God has made it clear!”
There was a time, however, when I struggled when others in our church made choices different than my own. I worried that I was not spiritual enough or that others were judging me or that perhaps I was actually missing what God was saying to me. I wrestled in prayer, rehashing over and over with God what He had already laid out clear.
This discomfort with differences and resulting division is, unfortunately, not unusual among women in the church. And our greatest struggles and misunderstandings are typically concerned with open-handed issues, such as education choices, working/non-working choices, financial choices, and parenting practices. As a result, we self-divide, huddling into groups that share our convictions and can best relate to us. We create further division when we evaluate and judge others based upon our convictions.
This is dangerous for the church and not at all biblical. In my own season of struggle over these issues, I discovered an incredibly helpful framework in Romans 14 for how to relate to all women in the church regarding secondary issues.
The basic framework is based on three main truths:
How do we then apply this framework as we relate to other women in the church? Paul, also in Romans 14, gives us practical commands:
As I began to personally meditate on the truths of Romans 14, focusing on following God’s leading in my own family by faith, and seeking to edify and understand the women around me, I experienced the freedom and joy of living as unto God rather than being concerned with what everyone else was doing. He released me from self-condemnation.
This same freedom is available to women in our churches as we cross false boundaries, champion one another’s faith, and focus on what is truly at the heart of the kingdom of God. This is how love abounds.
Christine Hoover is the author of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. She has contributed to the Desiring God blog, The Gospel Coalition, In(courage), and Christianity Today, and blogs for ministry wives at www.GraceCoversMe.com. Christine and her husband Kyle, a church planting pastor, have three boys.
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