It’s been awhile now, but the memory still crops up every now and again. Usually when I think about what I wish church looked like; when I am weary of the fight and considering just sitting back, retiring my fervor, and simply signing up for a women’s bible study. Not that there’s anything wrong with women’s bible studies—quite the opposite! There are lots of things very right about them. But because I’ve never really fit in with the women’s ministry crowd, for me, they are a subtle surrender to comfort, and … less.
I remember I was at our church-at-the-time, chatting over “what’s going on with you these days” with a former pastor, our then-pastor, and my husband, the Officer. The Officer had been invited to teach and our pastor was verbally applauding his ability thus, noting his seminary experience as additional reference. I was beaming, genuinely, because I know that the Officer is a gifted teacher; and I love hearing others praise this quality as well.
Our former pastor then turned to me, knowing I, too, was a seminary student, and asked, “What about you, Jen? Are you teaching here?”
The honest answer was no; and I said as much, quickly and emphatically, trying to show that our pastor had not extended such an invitation. I certainly did not want him implicated in allowing a woman to teach. I did not even want the assumption permitted to linger.
The men returned to their small talk; but I couldn’t shake the apprehensive feeling of being found out. You see, I do have a passion for teaching, a desire to share God’s Word. And I do very firmly believe that women are capable of doing so. Not just for the benefit of children and other women; but for the edification of the entire body. And I believe that women are able to pastor as adeptly and appropriately as men. I’m not saying I want the job, I certainly don’t consider myself qualified for it. But I am saying that as a sex, we should be permitted to have it, if we are so called and gifted. Which makes me a feminist in many eyes; a label I will not shun. But for fear of using a word with so much negativity attached to it (at least in evangelical circles), I won’t go so far as to say that Jesus was a feminist, too. Simply because Jesus wasn’t any –ist: not feminist, not humanist, not traditionalist, etc…
Jesus was and is a member of the Godhead. As such, He knew that every single person, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, is fallen and sinful; and therefore in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation. Jesus knew that without Him, none of us can have a relationship with His Father, Almighty God. And so, on behalf of all of us, He was crucified for our sins and rose again, victorious over death once and for all. After which He sent the Holy Spirit, another member of the Godhead, to reside in the heart of every believer: male or female, Jew or Gentile, free or slave. And the Holy Spirit, God’s presence indwelling the believer, gifts and empowers individual believers as He sees fit, not as humanity deems appropriate.
That being said, there are times when I still hesitate to openly share my position on the matter because it goes against so much tradition. And when flouting tradition, one comes to expect a fight. People, myself chief amongst, have emotional connections to their theology. But when one’s theology is challenged, emotions are engaged and we can find ourselves involved in conflict that has the potential to end up being highly divisive and damaging. Truth be told, I see holding this position as a difficult, long drawn-out pursuit not for the faint of heart. A rebellion of sorts, not against God’s Word, but against the status quo; against the way things have always been. Thus, I don’t want to assign allegiance to one who does not chose it; nor is it my place to out someone who quietly supports this truth, but has as yet not given it voice. Because it is exhaustingly hard to battle constantly with tradition. And I certainly don’t want to heave the weight of that struggle on anyone; so I find myself doing what I can to make sure the people around me aren’t associated too closely with my ideas, either through purpose or inadvertent assumptions. I find myself being quiet, holding my tongue, or blithely nodding along when inside my head I’m refuting what’s being said to support the structures of tradition.
Which means that compounding the inherent struggle is the reality that there aren’t a lot of local like-minded groups. Not too many studies or small groups or conferences or webinars hosted by local churches that facilitate this line of thinking. So for someone in a semi-rural area, like me, holding to this truth can get kind of lonely. And for all the support I can find in the twitter- and blogo-sphere, I fully admit that humans were designed as relational creatures; and these media outlets are a meager phantom standing in the stead of genuine, encouraging relationships.
It is in these lonely and weary times that I want to just quit. Let someone else do the fighting for me. It would be easier that way. But then, I always think about what I want my daughter and son to grow up knowing: what it means to follow Jesus, even when it’s hard or lonely or long. And I think of what it must have been like to follow Him when He walked among humanity. His followers had to contend with the Essenes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Gentiles; groups that didn’t often agree. While Christ did much to correct their doctrines during His incarnation, He didn’t come specifically for that purpose. He came to make a way for all who desired fellowship with Almighty God. Even those, mentioned above, who should have known better.
Thus in keeping with my one word for 2013, I have decided to be purposeful in my interactions both online and in real life. First and foremost, I will daily strive to be worthy of the gospel which has saved me. I will seek first to promote the revelatory and sanctifying truth that all who believe in Jesus and follow Him with their whole lives will be saved. From there, because I know better, I will keep fighting for the truth that Jesus came on behalf of all people; that His Spirit indwells all those who believe in Him and receive His sacrificial death as their own; that God Almighty calls and equips and empowers all those whom He wills, be they male or female, free or slave, Jew or Gentile, for the edification of all believers, the expanse of His kingdom, and the glorification of His Holy and Righteous Name.
I will not allow silence to be an assention, a surrender. I will speak for those who cannot, for those who don't yet have the strength or courage, for those who do not yet know. But above all, though I may grow weary, or lonely, or afraid, I will rest in truth of gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to give freedom to the captives and healing to the brokenhearted.