At The Feet of Jesus

I sat on the ground disheveled, bruised… petrified. There was so much yelling going on around me and there was a precipice before me. It was as if an explosion occurred with all of the surrounding calamity, and my ears began to ring. My life was on the line. And I couldn’t focus. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stay calm. And as I stayed on the ground, fearing to move, one of the men, the man they dragged me to, bent down next to me. It was there that a divide opened between time and space.

He drew a line in the sand.

I was dragged out of my house while in the act of committing adultery and was set at Jesus’ feet, though I didn’t know who he was at the time… But then again, did I really know myself at the time? In the heat of an argument, Jesus drew a line in the sand, a precipice, that divided me from my accusers. “The one who has never sinned should be the first to stone this girl,” he said. They knew at that moment that they all stood condemned. In a world where I was seen as a whore and they as God’s elect, Jesus put us on the same plane – we were sinners. And there, amidst the chaos and confusion is not just where I saw God, but it was where I met Him.

That was the first time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus always knew the right thing to say. That’s why I was always so enamored by his teachings. One time, he and the disciples came over to my house. As Jesus began to teach, I became so enraptured in his words that I completely forgot what I was doing. They were at my house, and I wasn’t doing what was expected of me as a woman or the host. I wasn’t helping my sister clean or tend to the house. But at that moment, I didn’t want to be the host – I wanted to be a student. I wanted to be a disciple. My sister tried to do everything herself but eventually her frustration spilled out, and she asked Jesus if I could be excused to help her. Jesus’ response was astounding.

He said that I chose the better thing by sitting at his feet.

As a woman, I was expected to tend to my male guests. The last thing I should have been doing was to sit while my sister did all the work. In a culture where I was expected to fit a certain role, Jesus included me with his Twelve. I was part of His own. I was a disciple.

That was the next time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

I was with Jesus even when the rest of the disciples fled. It was John who came to me and Jesus’ mother to tell us that Jesus was taken. It was then that we found out that Jesus was to be executed. I observed in horror as my mentor and my friend was beaten within an inch of his life. They dressed him up and paraded him around like an animal. They were making an example out of him, and there was nothing we could do but watch.

We followed him as he carried his cross through the winding city to the place where he would be made a spectacle. I had to look away when they hammered the nails into his fragile hands. What we thought was the end was soon approaching. Through everything Jesus was never hostile or angry. The religious leaders who were putting him to death were irritably standing next to us. Jesus looked at them with compassion and then looked up to the heavens. “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” They weren’t his villains. They were merely victims of a sinful world – the world he came to save.

It was then that I realized what it truly meant to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus truly lived out what he said were the greatest commandments – he loved God with everything he had, and he loved others like their needs were his. He deserved more than any ruler or king to have others bow at his feet, but instead he washed the feet of those who followed him. At the feet of Jesus is a place where all sins are seen the same. It is where all people are equal regardless of the gender or race they were born with. It is a place of unconditional love and forgiveness.

Do you sit at the feet of Jesus?

 

Truth and The Bible

Sometimes I forget what Bible College has taught me.

Or maybe it’s that I forget that people haven’t been taught the same way.

I don’t mean it in a bad way. There are many good things and, crazily enough, bad things I learned while in school. When I was finished with my first semester of my sophomore year, I was confused as to how I went this long not being equipped with what I learned up to that point. Every new thing I learned was like another tool on a utility belt, and I was the Dark Knight of biblical exegesis, preparing myself for when I would go out into the world and defeat Falsehood with the Truth of the Gospel.

Then something happened.

The bible ended up becoming a textbook to me. It was hard to balance the scales of seeing the pages of my bible as inspired text while learning about textual criticism and the like. I became cynical of speakers and preachers and teachers and commentators. I started to only read the ESV, because it was more literal to the original text, and if ever I saw an ambiguous passage, I knew I could just look it up in the original Greek (or Hebrew… if you’re into that stuff).

The bible is a crazy thing. Some people see it as an inspirational text. Some people use it as a justification for war, sexism, racism, patriotism, and capitalism. And some people see it for what it is – the Word of God. The Bible was given to us to share with us the story of Salvation History and our place within it. It is a guideline for how we are to walk in the Spirit. And to mishandle or misrepresent what the bible says is to potentially misrepresent the God who orchestrated the words in its pages.

Just because it is true doesn’t mean it is biblical:

This is an interesting statement, but what I want to address is “exegesis.” Exegesis means, “to lead out” and has the idea of drawing an interpretation out from Scripture. Many bible college students know that the opposite of this is “eisegesis” – or “putting in” one’s own interpretation to a text.

What this means is that someone could be saying all the right things, but not using the right proofs to do so. A classic example of this (and one MANY of my professors used) would be when Jesus calms the storm. By reading this passage in context, the author isn’t trying to say: “Jesus will calm the storms of your life.” What the author is trying to say is clear at the end of the text: “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”

Now, it is very well true that Jesus will bring peace to those who suffer. He says it in one of the Beatitudes. But to say that this is what Mark is trying to say in this passage takes away what Mark and God intended – that Jesus is divine. Not only does he cast out demons, and not only is he an incredible teacher, but even the weather is subject to him. For who else can control the weather but God himself?

By putting our own interpretation into a text, we run the risk of being able to justify anything with the use of smoke screens and poor context. Almost every text has one interpretation (for possible exceptions look at prophesies or the idea of sensus plenior). What makes a text different is how we apply that single interpretation to our lives.

Just because it isn’t biblical doesn’t mean it isn’t true:

This is something I find myself saying to my roommate a lot. He laughs at me, because we both know it really doesn’t make sense without an explanation. It honestly makes me feel like a heretic sometimes when I say it. But everyone knows that this is true. There are many ideas, and there are many things that are true that aren’t included in the bible. I know abortion is wrong. I believe that a fetus is actually a person, so it would be wrong to terminate a pregnancy. That isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Smoking isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Swearing isn’t anywhere in the bible.

The word “trinity” isn’t even in the bible.

If we believe that God is truth, then it must also be true that all truth is God’s truth… I’m sorry if you had to read that twice to get the full force of what I was trying to say. It’s scary to admit, because this leaves a big open gray area for a lot of things not mentioned in the bible. But God gave us the bible so that we can make godly judgments regarding these other things. The bible has nothing written against slavery, but we all hopefully know that it is wrong to own a person and to treat them like property.

The bible is the greatest guideline we could have on how to live life. It helps us to understand what God has brought humanity through. It shows us examples of the early church, so we know how to restore God’s kingdom to earth and know how to live Spirit led lives as well. The bible isn’t a tool used to bind people. It isn’t an instrument meant to control people. And it isn’t a book full of passages we can fill with our own “revelations.” This is the greatest physical tool we have for living out the Greatest Commandments. Let’s remember that it might not have all the answers, but it helps equip us to discover them for ourselves.

Loveable Leslie and the Valentine’s Day Parable

Loveable Leslie grew up like any other child. She was quite normal and fun. And she had a heart of gold. While most other kids picked best friends, Loveable Leslie just wanted to love everybody. It was part of who she was – loveable. She learned quickly though that love isn’t always returned. Sometimes love is met with hate and bitterness.

It happened one year during Valentines Day. All the children were to bring in bags or boxes that were decorated and then they would go around the room and put a valentine card in all of their boxes. Loveable Leslie made a very special valentine for a boy that she thought was very special – Tough Tony. On it, she wrote with the best of her ability, “Tony, will you be my very special valentine? Love, Leslie. xoxo”

Tony came back the next day with that valentine in his hand. Loveable Leslie was so nervous she could barely stop shaking. Then Tony did the unthinkable. He signaled the rest of the class: “Hey guys,” he said, “look what that Loony Leslie gave me!” Leslie’s face swelled as red as the valentine in Tony’s hand. She quickly shriveled into her seat. But nothing she did made the moment any less worse. Immediately after school, Loveable Leslie ran home and cried for the rest of the night.

Now – most people would find it hard to love or trust any one ever again after a moment like that. Not only did Tony embarrass Leslie, but he also embarrassed her in front of all of their classmates. It would be understandable if Leslie took a long time to trust again, even at such a young age.

But that moment didn’t faze her.

Even though Loveable Leslie wasn’t so loveable to Tony, she continued to love people. She loved her parents, she loved her friends, and she loved her dog. And sometimes people would take advantage of her. Sometimes they would abuse the love and trust she had for them. But she still loved them regardless. And by the time that Loveable Leslie grew old, she had hundreds of people who loved and cared for her. Through her love towards others she really became Loveable Leslie.

Christ truly taught miraculous things through parables. The way that he was able to use everyday circumstances and situations and transform them into vessels and vehicles of spiritual truth shows what an amazing teacher he was. In the parable of the sower, for instance, we know that Christ isn’t merely giving advice regarding agriculture. We all know that the parable of the sower isn’t about a sower at all, but is about the Kingdom of God.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what kingdom principles can we learn from the parable of the sower?

The first is about the seed and the soil. No matter how good the seed is it won’t grow in some soil. The fact that there are different soils already tells us that not everyone will receive the message of the Gospel. There will be some that won’t understand it. There will be others that abuse it. Some will even extort the Gospel for their own selfish gain. But when those who understand the message allow it to take root, they will multiply.

Later, Jesus says that blessed are those who see and understand. This is not only talking about understanding the parable, but is also talking about understanding the message of the Kingdom of God. To those who are receptive and allow the kingdom seed to be rooted in their heart, God will give them more of Himself. He will give them knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. That is why it says later in verse 12, “He who has, more will be given.”

The second thing about the parable of the sower has to do with the sower himself. I like to call him the “foolish farmer.” The farmer is to sow seed regardless of the condition of the soil. The foolish farmer here, much like Loveable Leslie, is acting quite foolishly. Leslie shouldn’t have continued to love people the way she was after being hurt. The farmer, if he knows anything about sowing seed, should know that he is only supposed to plant seed in good soil. But in the parable, Jesus has the sower spread seed all over the place. Any farmer would know that he would be wasting valuable seeds if he were to plant them on rocky soil or amidst thorns. Yet Jesus has the farmer spreading his seed, his livelihood, everywhere, not thinking once of how it might affect his crop.

Here Jesus is teaching a lesson. It is easy to look at some who are lost and not see hope for them ever receiving the Gospel. One might think, “What’s the point,” and ignore this person as a lost cause. “What is the point of wasting time and energy into someone who won’t receive the message anyway?” But here, Jesus is saying that it isn’t the responsibility of the one sharing the Gospel to decide who will and will not receive its message. The sower’s mission and responsibility is to merely plant the seed.

Lastly, the parable teaches that growth only comes through God. Despite the terrible terrain and the farmer’s foolish ways, there was still a magnificent crop that was harvested from the seeds that were sown. This wasn’t due to the soil. It wasn’t due to the farmer. Most of the soil was bad and the farmer was planting seeds like he knew nothing of agriculture. No, the growth of the harvest came by the miraculous power of God.

It isn’t our responsibility to decide who deserves to hear the message of the Gospel. Everyone deserves to hear it. And it isn’t in our power that they receive it. It can only be through the grace of God and the Holy Spirit. We, like Loveable Leslie, just need to keep loving people and sharing with them the Gospel, and by the end of our time in ministry, God will have used us to reach a multitude of people.

We just need to share the Gospel and trust in Him to bring in the harvest.

The Promiscuity of Purity

John and I had a complicated relationship. It’s not that we weren’t friends, or had some adolescent, passive-aggressive hostility against one another. We just had a theoretical friendship. Let me explain. We never really hung out that much, but we would carpool a lot. So I would chip in with gas riding home or when we would hang out with friends. But whenever we got to our destination we would part ways. It was an interesting friendship.

You learn a lot about a person when you are trapped in a moving metal box with them for countless hours. You find out their bad habits, their music interests, and eventually you get to the nitty-gritty secrets that nobody else knows. Maybe we just talked to each other about it because we knew once we got to our location, we would part ways and not feel the vulnerability or regret that comes from spilling out one’s heart… We are guys, so we probably talked about that stuff mostly out of boredom.

The conversation that sticks with me the most with John is one that we had that pertained to a girl he was interested in. I didn’t know her at the time, which is why he wanted my opinion on the matter. He knew I would be free of prejudice. He explained how he had a crush on this girl for years, and how there was now hope for them possibly being a couple in the near future. The wrench in the mix for him though was that she wasn’t a virgin… and he was. It was hard for him to get past the fact that she wasn’t “pure” anymore. John was upset that he “waited” for her, but that she didn’t wait for him. I shared with him something that caught him a bit off guard.

Who are we to say that Christ’s forgiveness isn’t good enough for someone?

I have a continuing love/hate relationship with the Purity Culture in the American Church. While trying to strive towards chastity, the people of God accidently replaced it with misogyny and legalism. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should be abstinent until they are married… but my problem is to put a label on the sin as though those who commit it are now dirty, discarded, and unwanted.

It creates cyclical problems of insecurity with no solution for wholeness.

Maybe it’s an argument of semantics, but “purity” is something that once it’s lost it cannot be regained. I remember hearing pastors and reading authors describe it as drinking dirty water or trying to continually rewrap and unwrap a birthday present. And purity rings, though with good intentions and great outcomes, can easily become a judgmental staple of condescending holier-than-thou-ism in the eyes of those who have a past, or those who have hurdles in the present.

We just need to be careful how we present chastity and abstinence.

Purity culture can also easily drift into sexism and misogyny. Purity rings can easily become like shackles on the young women in our church, while men get out mostly unscathed. If young males “stumble in their purity” it is just that – stumbling. But it is our young women who go through a transformation from pure to impure. I can only imagine the psycho-trauma caused from young women trying to remain “pure.”

But Christ has already brought about a transformation, and we have forgotten about it. We have been justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22). This is a court term saying that we have a status that has transformed our guilty verdict to innocent. It is saying that despite our guilt, we are now free to go, because of Jesus’ obedience to dying on the cross. Being righteous isn’t about perfection – that is sanctification. Being righteous is about being set in right relationship with a holy God.

It is saying, “The slate is clean. You are free to go.”

Don’t let any culture decide through subjectivity what has been clarified objectively through God. Even if it is the Christian Culture, remember that it can be fallible as anything else in this fallen world. Too often the church says everything it is against, and people forget all that it is for.

Be for chastity. Be for love. Be for forgiveness.

Luckily for John, he got over himself, and he and that girl ended up getting hitched. They are a great couple, and a wonderful godly example to all those around them.

The End is Near: A Revelation Revealed.

Recently, I posted a blog where I explained that some clichés are necessitated in learning. This isn’t one of them.

You can almost assume you are watching a B-rated movie when you see a scene featuring a homeless man holding a sign describing how the world is about to end. Whether it is central to the plot or added as a comedic relief, chances are there was something better that the movie could have done… like anything.

I understand that vampires and soon-to-be-zombies aren’t “hip with the youngsters” anymore, but mainstream media has now decided to go down the Post-Apocalyptic route like this is more acceptable and cool. It isn’t. It is like Hollywood forgot how bad the 60’s and 70’s were to the world and wanted to relive it in EVERY way (cue Daft Punk’s new DISCO song, “Get Lucky”).

One thing that I enjoy about being Pentecostal and from the Assemblies of God is its young, but rich, heritage. This year marks 100 years since it’s founding in the early 1900’s. A denomination marked by innovation, gender equality, and once pacifism and environmentalism, the A/G is currently getting recognized as one of the only Christian denominations flourishing in a world now marked by a decline in spirituality.

I think one of the things that I like about Pentecostalism is their grasp of a realized eschatology – and understanding that Jesus is coming soon. It is what drives their hearts. It gives their love for others perseverance as they know that time is short. Jesus is coming… and he will be here any time.

Just as life is a pendulum swing, I think that is true with the greater church’s view of the end. Where the church at large tries to hide behind the phrase that, “no one knows the hour,” Pentecostals equally cry wolf on many occasions. And people who are outside the church looking through its stained-glass windows see the Church as a some beatnik-crazed transient in a B-rated film with a sign reading, “The End is Near.”

The problem is the end IS near. It has been near for the past two thousand years. The church of the first-century realized that, the people of the early Pentecostal Movement realized that, and we need to healthily embrace it. I’m not saying that we need to preach that Jesus is coming every chance we get. But we need to be aware that he IS coming to set the world to rights.

Paul wrote about it all throughout the epistles in the New Testament. Many scholars talk about it as “now/not yet” theology – truths that hold merit now but will not reach their full fulfillment until the eschaton. We are reconciled along with the world, but it won’t be fully understood until Jesus returns. We are saved from the wrath of God, but it won’t be fully seen or understood until we reach the final judgment at the end of days. We are sanctified, but we won’t be like-Christ until we are with Christ.

Don’t run to the end times like a loon-radio-evangelist or a distraught homeless man, but don’t run away from the fact that Jesus is coming back. He is coming to close the inclusio that was introduced in Creation – the bracket of Old Creation and New Creation, when the world will be as it was before the Fall. We will be with God and He will be with us.

The end is near, and we are here now to help usher in the new world of tomorrow.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part Two.

Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

That is how I ended my previous blog post. In that post, I took a view throughout Salvation History and looked at women in the Old and New Testament, and the implications of water baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to show that women deserve more recognition in the church. In this post, I will look into several women that Paul mentions in his letters, and Paul’s household codes.

If we look at how Paul treats women individually, then maybe we can make more sense of some of his more generalized statements that are made to women as a whole within certain areas. If Paul ends up having even a slightly altered view of women, we then have to consider that maybe Paul’s generalized statements were more meant for the specific cultures he was writing to at that specific time in history. This would mean that some of these writings of Paul don’t hold eternal truths within them, but again, give us a glimpse at how the early church was founded by giving us a look into their struggles during the first-century.

Paul and Women in Ministry:

In 1Corinthians Paul gives some instructions to the church on how to maintain orderly worship. Among them, Paul tells women to keep silent in the church (1Cor 14:34). However, Paul says enough things about women within the church that it (along with an extrabiblical understanding of 1st-century culture in Corinth) seems he is not stating this as an eternal truth. Dr. Craig Keener (graduate of my alma mater) states in his work, “Paul, Women, and Wives,” that he thinks that the women of Corinth were uneducated in regards to proper etiquette in Christian worship and did not know when it was appropriate to ask questions. Also, in chapter 11 of the book, Paul assumes that women were prophesying in the local assembly. For him to all of the sudden revoke this right as a whole seems to not make sense in context with the rest of the book.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is another popular example where Paul says that a woman should not teach or be in a place above a man. But again, by looking throughout biblical theology as a whole and also looking at outside sources, such as the Church Fathers (below), makes it seem like Paul was not speaking an eternal truth. These verses should be taken the same way that 1 Corinthians is taken – that Paul was addressing something specific that Timothy had to deal with within the church in Ephesus. Some try to use the word “submit” and relate it to how Paul talks to wives in Colossians and Ephesians, but that was a household code written for wives whereas this was directed to women – they can’t be clumped together as concerning the same cause. In verse 12 the word that is used as “to use authority over” is a hapax legomenon, meaning that this is the only time that this word is used in all the New Testament. To try and understand what this word fully means within the context of Timothy or to Paul would leave the text wanting for more. This text is probably the strongest argument for the complementarian cause, but with the rest of the New Testament to consider, it does shift the burden of proof into the complementarian’s hands.

Since both of these texts which are against women being in ministry remain unclear at best, we now need to look at some of the other things Paul says concerning women in general and also women in ministry. If immediate context seems unclear, one then needs to move to general context, and from there to all the author’s works, until looking at the Testaments, and finally the Bible as a whole. In some of the cases I am about to present, the original manuscripts were altered because male scribes didn’t understand how Paul could say some of these things about women (which I will discuss below). However, if Paul had such a high view of women and assumed them to be in places of prominence in ministry,  then some of these passages which might lack clarity or don’t harmonize with the rest of Pauline thought were merely cultural to the places that Paul was writing to at that time.

The book of Romans is the most important book to look at when discussing the role of women in ministry. In Paul’s conclusion in Romans 16, Paul speaks of nine women specifically among the 26 people that are mentioned. Not only so, but he gives notable praise to seven of these women, which is more than the men! There is a group of four people that Paul gives praise to for working hard, among three of whom are women. Also, among the group Paul gave praise and recognition to, was possibly two married couples who appeared to be doing ministry together – Prisca and Aquila, and Andronicus and Junia. Chrysostom, who is one of the most well attested Church Fathers, says in regards to this section of Romans: “The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way they went traveling with them and also performed all other ministries.”

Phoebe (16:1-2) is mentioned as being a “servant” of the church. The word in the Greek (here: “ousan diakonon”) literally means “servant,” but in Christian circles and to Paul here it obviously meant “deacon” (Phil 1:1; 1Tim 3:8, 12). Some people call Phoebe a, “ deaconess,” to give light to her role, but that term was not popular until the second to third century. She is the first recorded Church deacon in the bible actually! The first deacon ever mentioned is a woman. And though this might mean that she was in a lower position in the church under an elder or overseer, it should be noted that for some reason she was the only one mentioned in Paul’s final words to the church.

Phoebe is also mentioned as a woman who is a “patron.” This could point back to her in the role of deacon or could even mean that she owned or possessed some kind of property and hosted people at her home. Some believe she might have even gave Paul a place to stay during one of his missionary journeys (Acts 18:18). Though some find this hard to believe, there are other women in the bible who are mentioned as having possession of land (Nympha in Colossians 4, who arguably also might have been a pastor or overseer), and again, some scholars claim that women in Rome actually had more rights than women in the Eastern empire (Witherington, Balsdon). Caesar Augustus actually tried to put restrictions on women in Rome during his reign, which could mean that women might have been not following what we think to be the cultural norms of the time. Regardless, Phoebe is seen as both a deacon and a patron and as the person with whom Paul is sending his most attested letter. That says a lot for a woman.

Junia (16:7) is another highly-esteemed woman mentioned in Romans as being noted among the apostles and recognized as being imprisoned for her faith. Though some manuscripts disagree to whether Junia should be read as the obscure masculine name Junias, it is easier to explain why someone would change the text from a woman to a man rather than vice versa. NT Wright says in regards to this: “Don’t be put off by some translations which call her ‘Junias’, as if she were a man. There is no reason for this except the anxiety of some about recognizing that women could be apostles too.” Junia is mentioned along with her potential husband as being “among the apostles.”

Junia was not just well noticed in the eyes of the apostles as though she were outside the apostles, as some read or translate it. As Church Fathers Chrysostom and Origen attest, she was considered to be among the apostles, and not only so, but notable among them! She was an apostle. And being related to Paul, this would make sense because that would mean that she would also be Jewish – as all the Twelve Apostles were.

Paul then says that Junia and her husband actually knew the Lord before Paul – meaning that they were apostles before Paul (Paul calls himself the “last of the apostles” in 1Corinthians 15). For this and other reasons, some scholars, R. Bauckham notably, think that Junia might be the Latin name for Joanna mentioned in Luke 8. Joanna would be the Greek name for the Jewish name Yohanna. This was common in first-century Rome and is why Paul (Greek) goes by Saul (Hebrew) when he is among the Jews after he is saved, but then when he goes on his first missionary journey to the Gentiles he then goes by his Greek name Paul. If Junia is Joanna from Luke 8, this would make sense with how Junia came to the Lord before Paul and how she could be an apostle, and it also means that she would have been part of the group to have actually seen the risen Lord! She and her husband are given higher praise than any other people mentioned in the conclusion of Romans!

“The conclusion then follows that Paul has no problem with women as teachers (Priscilla) or leaders, proclaimers, or missionaries of the Good News. Indeed, it is hardly likely that a woman would be incarcerated in Paul’s world without having made some significant public remark or action. Junia said or did something that led to a judicial action.” – Ben Witherington

Paul and Women at Home:

Paul only references or talks about household codes in Ephesians (5:22-6:9) and Colossians (3:18-4:1). 1Corinthians 7 has a portion on marriage, but this was more generalized, cultural, and not in the form of a “code” like Ephesians and Colossians. Since both of these books are so alike (the two closest books in Pauline literature if not the whole New Testament), I will only focus on one – Colossians.

The first thing to note is that this is a household code specifically talking about husbands and wives – not men and women in general. If Paul was making a distinction that this was for men and women in general, he would have said so. This is specifically a “household” code. Another thing to remember is that Paul wrote with the assumption that these people (Wives/Husbands, Children/Fathers, Slaves/Masters) were living according to an already understood Christian ethic. Something to ask is, “who is the code intended for?” Is it intended for everyone, or did Paul have someone specifically in mind when he included this code in his letter?

Paul was obviously accepting norms and standards that were not arguable in that day, but even with that considered, Paul altered the way people perceived their household code of ethics. Notice that of the three pairs mentioned, the superordinate in all three would be considered one and the same person – the head of the household. The head of the household would not only be the husband, but he would also be father and slave master. With this in mind, it seems like Paul intended to limit the role of the superordinate – giving less restrictions and more rights to women, children, and slaves. This makes sense with the Pauline thought in Colossians, Ephesians, and elsewhere that all people are now equal because they are “in Christ” (Col 3:11; Gal 3:28). Should we today accept these roles as they are and even still allow slaves, or should we keep Paul’s spirit and lessen restrictions as the culture and time allows it?

With further context it makes sense now why women are told to “submit themselves” instead of the husband forcing the wife to submit. The verb (present/middle/imperative) is clearly in the middle voice and, according to James Dunn the words that are used are less harsh in the Greek than when Paul instructs children to “obey” their Fathers in the verses that follow (harsher word and a  present/active/imperative verb). Women were not expected to follow their husbands blindly as the children were more instructed to. And again, note that Paul expected that all of these people mentioned were to act Godly, in the way Paul instructed earlier in the letter. Consider that by husbands and wives each obeying their end of the instruction, the other one prospered: “From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield” (Chrysostom).

A friend told me the other day that he did not want to make a rule to allow women to lead and serve places in ministry because of an “exception” to the rule that seemed to permeate the New Testament – that only men should be in places of leadership. By looking at the New Testament, it seems that women were not an exception at all, but that they were an assumed and integral part of the growing church and had an equally active role within their homes.

It might be that I was saved because of the preaching and ministry of a female pastor. It could be that I like to be controversial. But with all the evidence considered, this is the conclusion I came up with; that women are equal – no separation of rank or submission. The Bible, along with an acute psychological and sociological understanding, has led me to this conclusion. If you are not sure where you stand on this situation or disagree, I challenge you to study it for yourselves and to ask yourselves the questions that people try to ignore. Again, things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

To women,
Those who stand up for what they believe in,
Those through which churches meet and are grounded,
Those who are among the apostles and are seen well-noted,
This is for you.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part One.

Rosa Parks sat unmoved in her seat. A woman known to be so soft-spoken had apparently had enough. One can imagine how so humbly and quietly she would explain to the driver of the bus that she was not going to move from the seat she was in. What those in Montgomery might have called “separate but equal” was only separate. It surely was not equal. And Rosa knew that it was her right to stand up for what she believed in by staying seated where she was. When she was arrested that day, she probably didn’t realize the impact that she would have on her community and throughout the country. From the day of her arrest for over a year after, the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place, and momentum was building in what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement.

The problem with the Jim Crow Laws was that being separate wasn’t really being equal. The laws were taxing on all people in the African American community. Children were forced sometimes to walk to schools further away because the schools closest to them were for whites only. Some were refused jobs and services merely because the color of their skin. And it took the quiet yet unmoved voice of a meek woman in Alabama to stir the hearts of the people to finally say that enough was enough.

Today, in the church, I feel like there is a spirit of the Jim Crow Laws still alive but manifested within another group within society – women. Complementarianism believes that men and women are equal, but that God created them separately, and, with that, they have separate roles. With this they make sense of passages like that in Colossians and Ephesians where wives are told to submit to their husbands, and passages like that in Corinthians and Timothy where women are told not to speak in church, teach, or be in a spiritual position over a man.

But are men and women really equal if we force different roles on them?

How do we decide what these roles are?

Are they birthed within us or oppressed on us by centuries of conditioning?

And what does the Bible really say about the roles of men and women?

There are many passages in the Bible that can be taken as being for complementarianism or for egalitarianism. I will address important women throughout Salvation History before going into Paul’s letters, where things get more controversial. In this post I will specifically look into the Old and New Covenants. I apologize if I leave anything out, but for time’s sake, I can only write so much. I will try not to sound too scholarly or come across as condescending. Feel free to comment if you want to add to anything I address whether it is positive or negative.

The Old Testament:

In Genesis both man and woman are said to reflect the image of God (Gen 1:27-28). And though Eve was the one who ate the apple, Adam is seen as the type or the personification of sin within the world (see Romans 5) – a man once made in glory contrastingly seen as the carrier of sin in the world. This is seen more theological here rather than historical, but truth be told, I think that about most of Genesis. Genesis is written in the form of a myth – meaning that though many of the things said are true in some aspects, they aren’t meant to be literal or historical (especially the Creation story) so to make doctrinal statements on gender roles solely based on this passage would not suffice for either camp.

Rahab and Ruth are both women of importance in the Old Testament for a couple reasons. The fact that they are women mentioned in the Bible for helping bring along Salvation History is of importance, the higher importance being that neither of them were Israelites. The fact that God would use non-Israelite women to tell the story of how He was working within His Covenant people is phenomenal when considering all its implications theologically. Later, these women will even be included in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels.

There are also many other notable women worth mentioning in the Old Testament. There are too many for me to mention them all, but here are a few. Deborah is both a judge and a prophetess, and she delivers the Israelites in a way equal to Gideon and Samson and others (Judges 4). Along with that, the prophesy in Joel 2 considering the outpouring of the Holy Spirit talks about it being imparted on both male and female. Esther is another woman of some notoriety, being used by God as a vessel – playing out further the story of Salvation History. There are more women who are of prominence in the Old Testament, but to say much of many of them would be speculation at best.

The Gospels:

The Gospels, believe it or not, have some pretty interesting things to say about women and their potential role in society. In Matthew chapter 1, like mentioned above, there are several women mentioned in Christ’s genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (though not by name), and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Luke’s gospel is especially full of instances where Jesus treats women (any person marginalized in society actually) differently in terms of the norm of his day. Luke 8 talks about Mary Magdalene traveling with the disciples. This is enhanced even more in Luke 10, when Mary is sitting with the apostles learning at the feet of Jesus. In this specific reference, Martha, her sister, gets rebuked for getting mad at Mary for not doing what was “assumed” of her by hosting and helping Martha serve the guests.

Also, in Luke 24, Mary and other women are attested as being the first women to witness the resurrected Lord. At the time, women’s testimonies were seen to be of low value (they couldn’t even hold testimony in court!). So, the fact that the Gospel writers include women testimonies in their letters is astounding. These are not only mentioned in Luke, but there are references of women in the other resurrection accounts as well.

The only other Gospel account of relatively high prominence is the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this passage, Jesus talks to a woman who is living in adultery. In this pericope, Jesus tells her that worshipers of God won’t be judged by the nationality they were born in or what Temple they worshiped at, but that God is now looking for people who will worship in Spirit and in truth. In all of the Gospels, this is the most plainly Jesus ever speaks of who he is as Christ and Lord. For him to say that to a woman is again crazy to contemplate!

Marks of the New Covenant:

Some people look at what Paul says in 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 to say that women should never speak in church or be in a role of leadership, but Joel’s prophesy that is fulfilled in the New Testament at Pentecost seems to differ. At Pentecost, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was given as a mark of the New Covenant – God’s Spirit now dwelling within each believer. God’s Spirit isn’t just given to men but also to women, and both were expected to exercise those gifts (Acts 2). Acts 21 mentions women who were known for prophesying. Women were seen as an integral part in the early church and were expected to exercise in spiritual gifts, some of which I will specifically note in my next post.

Another mark of the New Covenant was baptism. Baptism at the surface doesn’t seem to be equalizing men and women, but I think that it is a minor theological point that God was putting across at the New Covenant. Let me explain. The people of God in the Old Testament were the Israelites. To be a part of the people of God one had to be born in. The mark to show that one was an Israelite, a follower of God, was specifically circumcision. The mark of circumcision was started in Genesis 15 when Abraham made his covenant with God. God said He would bless the whole world through Abraham. A mild problem with circumcision though was that it was a sign that only the men had within the community.

The sign that a person is now part of the people of God, the church, is baptism. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change of status within believers. And all believers, man and woman, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, were all linked in water baptism and by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The sign was no longer only something that Israelite men could possess, but it was an act that all people could willfully participate in! To be a believer meant to break the tradition of the former practices that separated the people of God from the outside world, and to now embrace the old and “new” traditions which are now to bring all people together in Christ. This is at the heart of the Gospel and almost every other book of the New Testament.

The church today doesn’t have a problem having a woman in an unpaid position. They just don’t call her a pastor but a “pastor’s wife.” But as soon as she is officially recognized and given a salary, the gloves come off. Many within the church also don’t have a problem if a woman works as a children’s pastor (in some churches it is expected!), but they have a problem when a woman is put in a position over men who are her own age. This is inconsistent if one is using 1Corinthians or 1Timothy as a basis for their “complementarian” claim.

Just as Rosa Parks opened the door for the Civil Rights Movement, there are many women who recently have opened the door for women’s rights and women in ministry within the church. Some of the first people to start the Pentecostal Movement in the early 1900’s were women. Aimee Semple McPherson is another woman evangelist who reached prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are also many women missionaries throughout the years who should not be forgotten either.

There are so many women who have not only impacted the church, but they have impacted Salvation History and the history of the world at large. I don’t think that God has a problem with women in ministry; if he doesn’t have a problem then neither should we. And even though this is only half of the argument, I encourage you to study the subject yourself. Dig into the Scriptures. Study them for yourself. There are so many questions that need answered theologically, philosophically, and psychologically. But let’s not be afraid to push the door open. Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.