women in ministry

No matter where you go to church or for how long, there is one issue that will continually come up.  Everyone has a strong opinion one-way or the other.  Before I flush this idea out, I’d encourage you to read and pray on this verse.

Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from?”

The word help here can be best defined as, “the assistance that one of strength offers.”  In this passage, God is our help.  When you think about God this way it is incredibly comforting to know that God will help us in times of need and that he offers tremendous strength.  This is not the only the only place where this same word, helper is used in scripture.  In Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  The same word that is used to describe God’s help to us is the same way that it is used in the relationship that women have to men.  This offers tremendous dignity to women in scripture.

There are really well meaning people in the church who think of women as subordinate to men.  To be fair there is a lot of precedence for this position.  John Calvin wrote, “The woman deserves her origin from the man, she is therefore inferior in rank.”  St. Augustine concluded that women do not possess the image of God because of their inferiorranking.  The early church fathers position has become the predominant position through out history.  Although, I am bold enough to disagree with Calvin and Augustine on these points.   Many people say women are subordinate because of the passage in Genesis, but if that were true then wouldn’t God be subordinate because of the passage in Psalms?  I believe that the picture painted in scripture is one of dignity and equality to men

I would argue that the Bible is actually one of the most feminists and liberating of the sacred texts pertaining to the issues of women.  In Romans 16, Paul says to greet Junias among others, “who are outstanding among the apostles’.”  In the same chapter Paul calls Phoebe a deacon of the church.  This is giving tremendous leadership to women!

One of the most damning verses to my argument says this: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”  (1 Timothy  2:11-12) We take this verse to be a rule in scripture, however if this were a rule in scripture then there would be a contradiction in scripture because Priscilla and Aquila, were responsible for instructing Apollos in the way of Jesus more fully. (Acts 18: 18,26)  So then we need to look at this Timothy passage in a way that does the most justice to this passage.  We must examine the cultural context surrounding women who taught verses women who Paul instructed not to teach.  Some of it was simply cultural.  All authority to make decisions presided in a man; therefore women had no cultural authority.  Some times it was to stop the spread of bad doctrine

Where Timothy was a pastor there were many people spreading false doctrine to the easiest targets they could find. Usually uneducated women stayed at home in the daytime and were most vulnerable to bad doctrine. This is very well documented and it cannot go without notice that in a society where women were denied an education, Paul said something amazing here.  He said, “let them learn,” as opposed to the society in which they lived.  Paul calling women to learn was huge!

I think Paul knew that the church is over 50% female and that half of the church needs to be released for ministry.  So here is my question for the men reading this blog?  Would you allow yourself to learn the word of God from women?  Would you encourage, train and release women for ministry in your setting?

For the ladies reading this entry, will you support the sisters who genuinely feel called by God into ministry?  Would you go to a church where the senior pastor was female?  Would you step out and lead if you feel called?

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enemy love

The absolute hardest and most rewarding thing that you will ever do is decided to love your enemies.  There are so many people throughout time who have made the revolutionary decision to show love to people who only hate them in return.

One of the General Superintendents of the Wesleyan Church, JoAnne Lyon tells a story of a trip to Sierra Leone, Africa.  She talks about a man whose arm was cut off at the elbow durring one of the revolutions there.  (Death squads would terrorize villages and cut off limbs just to show their dominance in the area)  She tells of meeting this man and the time the man came face to face with his attacker.  Years after his arm was cut off he simply hugged him and said, “I forgive you.”  Because of the love shown they are now friends.

Loving your enemies is powerful, It’s healing, and in the eyes of the world its stupid.  Politically, loving your enemies won’t sell.  Defense contractors provide too many jobs to let love win as a political position.  Also, we are a people who need revenge to feel like justice has been served.  Somehow justice has been perverted to mean revenge.

It seems so simple and yet so difficult. I don’t think any politician will ever get elected on a platform of loving the Talaban or sending baskets of flowers to Al Queda.  On the other hand, how effective has war been in bringing about change?  It seems to me like it just brings more war.

Love can be defined a billion different ways, but for the sake of this post, I am simply going to say that love is wanting good things to happen to others.  Think of the people you might wish harm upon.  Is it helpful?  Was it productive?  Do you feel better now?

Probably not.

I am naive enough to think there is a third way that is possible in this world.  A way that doesn’t include war but builds mutual trust.  A way that involves lobbing love overseas versus lobbing bombs.   And I’m not a hippie.

I think that people can show their governments what is possible when love becomes our primary concern.  We can look at the civil rights movement in the United States and see that this third way has been put into practice in an effective way.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a policy of active non-violent resistance to racist laws.  They boycotted busses, they risked death, they were thrown in prison and they were beaten to a pulp.  MLK’s response, “We will wear them out with our ability to suffer.”  They were clearly engaged in a different kind of battle with different kinds of tactics.  Their enemies very slowly turned to friends.

Jesus encouraged people to take the soldiers pack the extra mile.  I read a commentator who said that Jesus knew that if they would only get to know each other then they might not want to fight each other.   The idea of walking the pack an extra mile is to surprise the soldier with love and start a conversation.

All through the Bible there are examples of enemy love.  Elijah heals the widow’s son, Elisha healed Naaman the leper, God sends Jonah to warn Ninivah and Jesus just says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I wonder if this is some sort of divine example.  As a people who have been ruined by sin are we the enemies of God?  Does God love us anyway?  Does God now call us friends?  Maybe God wants us to love our enemies because it is exactly what he is doing with us.

Some might remain enemies.  Some notice the act of love, begin a conversation and realize that they don’t really want a fight.  They realize that a friendship really is the best way to go.

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