When I’m Weak I’m Strong or Something.
It was a typical Christian Private School making the same poor decisions many such schools make. The teachers were underpaid and obliged to describe their work as ministry. In a real sense it was but what the school meant was that the teachers should have “faith” and accept pay below reasonable market rates.
It’s complicated but if you won’t pay they won’t stay. Some wonderful teachers passed briefly through the school. Those who stayed had other income sources or poor employment prospects. Most had strongly held but poorly grasped religious views.
Despite doing a lot of incredibly dumb things, kids are actually pretty smart. One of the favorite sports was baiting the teachers. The girls baited their teachers with dress code non-compliance. They would concertedly challenge the flash points in the dress code until they could provoke a response. Neckline, sleeve length, hem height, bare bellies, body jewelry, fake tattoos, frayed cuffs were all guaranteed to send the women teachers into a veritable frenzy.
Special assemblies and lessons on modesty were triggered with regularity and when the pressure got too great, line-ups would be used to single out certain offenders as public examples. Rulers were produced to measure hemlines and ACLU- worthy harassment ensued. Being a Christian school harassment was called discipleship. Words are so flexible it’s amazing what we can justify with them!
To count as discipleship the action had to have a base in Scripture. Here’s what they chose: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good to build him up.” Romans 15:1, 2
These words appear to say that strong people need to accommodate others who are not as strong, placing the highest value on building relationships which enable the weaker ones to grow and become strong. Everyone benefits.
Have you ever noticed that everyone who reads this passage interprets it to mean that they are the strong ones? No one ever considers him or her self to be the weak one yet everyone thinks everyone else must change. On that basis, the passage has defective logic and it should be corrected!
Do your best to follow the logic used in misapplying this verse to things like dress codes but be warned, it ain’t easy! When you are thoroughly confused just jump to the last paragraph of this post! Here goes: “Because we are the strong ones, it is obvious that we are also right. The weak ones are wrong (that’s why they are weak) and need correction. So, these verses were written to ensure that the weak know they are weak and need to change” to accommodate the wishes of the strong. (!?!)
So are we weak or are we strong?
The verse says that if we are right and everyone else must accommodate us, that we are in fact the weak. Claiming to be the strong must mean that we are willing to change to accommodate others. Yet if the strongest views are the best ones and everyone must conform to them, then they are by definition held by the weakest people. How can that figure?
So, who is weak and who is strong?
* The teachers have positional power but they don’t have good relationships with the girls. Being older could equip them to find ways to communicate the reason and intent behind a dress code, turning a source of confrontation into a teachable moment. So, they are strong and the girls are weak, right? The girls must be weak because they are the ones having to learn from the strong teachers.
* But wait, the teachers are most like the weak ones. They are the ones offended because their rules are being tested, sacrificing relationships because their view is being challenged and losing sight of their faith. They are the ones setting legalistic standards for others. The naive girls are not disturbed about matters of dress. To them faith is irrelevant to this issue except as an eye opener to show them the shallowness of the unattractive “faith” of their legalistic teachers. Does that make them the strong?
It gets worse when we reach the twist where the teachers (in hushed tomes) tell them that they are in fact the strong ones and the real weak ones are the boys who are constantly falling into sins of extravagant lust because of the ways the girls are dressing. This appeals strongly to some of the girls (who must therefore be the weaker ones) because it enhances their sense of power over the boys. Don’t mention sexting to them! Teenagers!
We are not making much progress here are we? The problem is that the teachers have allowed legalism to creep in preferring rules over relationships to achieve their goal.)
So, who is weak and who is strong?
The weak ones get offended easily and hide behind a barricade of legalism imposed on everyone else in lieu of genuine relationships. That sounds suspiciously like the teachers?
The strong ones realize that faith can never be a matter of outward conformity to a random set of rules. Sound suspiciously like the kids?
The passage in Romans doesn’t fit the context of dress codes. It could be applied to the weak-minded legalists but that puts the teachers, who ought to be strong, in the place of being the weak ones who must be placated. It calls upon the students to be the strong ones who accommodate the weak ones. The whole situation gets turned upside down.
Since we know that rules don’t make relationships, how long will it take us to realize that dress codes don’t make Christians? Heart issues always spring to life in relationships – we can shape that life by the relationships we build.
Posted on September 26, 2011, in Leadership, Self-awareness and tagged Christian school, conformity and faith, discipleship, Dress code, legalism, Maturity, people pleasing, Religion & Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.