To learn all that a horse could teach, was a world of knowledge, but only a beginning. .. .Look into a horse's eye and you instantly know if you can trust him."~Mary O'Hara
I am still taking a break from the women series because finals are approaching fast, and I just can't seem to find the time to put together worthy studies on the upcoming crucial scriptures. So, I thought I'd share a little bit about the Ladies' Retreat I went on last weekend.
The theme of the retreat was horses. We stayed at a farm and learned spiritual lessens via horses. The wonderful ladies that work at the farm lead some truly creative activities and challenges to teach us about ourselves, how we view God, and how we view each other. We were split into groups with the objective of leading a horse through an obstacle course without touching the horse. The obstacles were created by 4 small groups, each one representing various problems that keep Christians from maturing spiritually. Afterwards, as one large group, we participated in a "group therapy" type session to discuss what we learned.
The first night, we watched two short videos of horse trainers to parallel our relationship to God. The first trainer used a bit and bridle and spurs to coerce the horse to do the rider's will. But the second trainer built such a remarkable relationship of trust with the horse, that she did not need to use any methods of coercion. The horse WANTS to submit to her. I do not know a lot about horses, but even I could see that what this rider accomplished with her horse was amazing. So, if you do know about horses, I suspect you will find this video meaningful. This girl rides BAREBACK and the horse still obeys. It's simply beautiful.
"There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse."~Robert Smith Surtees
That video really spoke to my heart.
But the most revealing activity was when a vast array of wooden tools were laid out in the middle of our circle. We were asked to pick the tool(s) that represents who we are or what we do in the body of Christ. There were hammers, screw drivers, nails, spackle knives, measuring tape, glue guns, nuts and bolts, saws, wrenches, pliers, electrical outlets, drills, and so forth. I immediately grabbed:
I chose these tools because I am an inherent "cut and paste-er." In order to become passionate or convinced about a belief or idea, I have to dissect it, analyze, question it, and approach it from every feasible angle. I don't do well with spoon-feeding or assumed beliefs. After I cut it all up, I can paste back together the valuable jewels of truth. Scissors and a glue gun are the symbolic tools for the identities I take on or aspire to: a questioner, a seeker, a reconciler, an eclectic wanderer, carrying the flag of diverse unity. I love to sift through the unlikely places, the unusual places, and even the undesirable places and finding God there. I can cut out the wisdom and truth found in these places that point me to Jesus and paste them altogether to create a unique, multidimensional faith.
So which tool are you? And why?
I'm curious how readers of this blog see themselves.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
To learn all that a horse could teach, was a world of knowledge, but only a beginning. .. .Look into a horse's eye and you instantly know if you can trust him."~Mary O'Hara
"The church is a place for answers, not for questions."--Bree Van De Camp, Desperate Housewives.
Yes, it's true. I learned something insightful from the usually shallow-and-smutty-Desperate Housewives. My ears perked up when I heard one of the main characters declare to her family that they should go to church.
Meanwhile Bree is competing for a prestigious position as committee leader and thinks Lynette's improper behavior may have cost her the spot. But when Bree realizes her pastor was refreshed by Lynette's honest questions, she sets out to get Lynette back. But a still hurting Lynette lashes out at Bree, confessing she used to admire Bree's faith. That she thought Bree had a "real relationship with God," and that's how Bree got through the difficult times. But when she got cancer and her family was nearly killed in a tornado, she was puzzled that Bree never shared her faith. It was as if Bree kept the secret that gave her strength all to herself.
Lynette says, "I have survived cancer and a tornado and I don't understand why I survived and so many others didn't." She needs to understand how God fits into all of this.
Bree, stunned, says "Why didn't you ever tell me this?" Lynette shoots back, "Why didn't you ask? Oh that's right, you don't like asking questions."
In the end Bree apologizes. Bree says, "Faith shouldn't be blind. You don't threaten it by asking questions, you make it stronger." The episode ends with them on the porch reading the Bible together.
Throughout the episode, I kept thinking about the growing number of the population that is completely "unchurched." How many people do not know anything about God or Jesus, let alone how church is done. I wonder how the few curious seekers that do wander into churches see our services? Do they feel the way Lynette felt? Do even Christians sometimes feel the way Lynette felt? Like they are trouble-makers or lacking in faith if they ask the hard questions plaguing their hearts and minds? If they don't just sit back and hope one day their answers will come?
Are our churches a place for questions? I realize that in larger churches, it would be quite impractical to have the congregation asking their questions during those meetings. But I think the nature of Lynette's questions is what really made everyone uncomfortable. I've been part of several bible studies where similar questions were posed and the mood immediately changed. The tension was thick and people scrambled to dismiss the questions with simple pat answers and cliches before changing the subject. Slap a scripture on it and move on!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
The Quotation Reading
The words found in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 are so problematic that many doubt their authorship even belongs to the Apostle Paul. The external and internal problems of these verses have even led some to believe that these verses were added MUCH later by a scribe, since if these seemingly contradicting verses are removed, the text reads much more smoothly. Here are the issues: these verses seem to contradict, not only the rest of the bible, but Paul himself, in multiple places, and in the very same letter (1 Corinthians 11:5, 12:4-11)! The style employed in these verses is utterly foreign to Paul's writing style . The appeal to the "Law" to justify silencing women frankly does not exist anywhere in the Old Testament. No where in the Old Testament does any law or command require that women "subject themselves" by being "silent" in an assembly or while in public.
Walter C. Kaiser, author of Correcting Caricatures: The Biblical Teaching on Women notes:
"The problem simply put is this: nowhere in the whole Old Testament does it teach or even imply what is claimed here. Now law in the entire old testament, much less the Torah, can be cited to teach that a women 'must be in submission' and 'remain silent' and if she wants to know or ask about anything, she 'should ask [her own] husband at home.' Women spoke freely in both testaments."
When Paul actually does cite the Law or scripture to support his points, he immediately follows it by quoting the law he is referring to, as he does in 1 Corinthians 9:8-9, 14:21, 1:19, 1:31, 2:9, 3:19, 10:7, 15:45. For more in depth analysis of Paul's consistent writing style and the "mystery law," see the very thorough article by Dennis J. Preato at God's Word To Women.
A growing number of scholars insist that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is not the words of Paul at all, but that Paul is quoting the letter written to him from the church at Corinth and then promptly rebuking this degrading, legalistic notion in verses 36-38. Besides the fact that these verses contradict everything Paul has instructed the Corinthians up until this point AND there is NO SUCH LAW in the Torah or the entire Old Testament that requires women to be silent, there are other clues in the original manuscripts that support the quotation reading.
We must remember that ancient Greek did not have punctuation marks, so there is no such symbol that we can equate with how our quotation marks surround a quoted sentence. However, in many of the earliest manuscripts, there appears this greek symbol: η with a grave accent at the beginning of verse 36 to signal to the reader that the above statement is quoted.
Paul already informs the reader that he begins addressing "the things you wrote" back in chapter 7, verse 1. After Paul gives very thorough instructions on how to maintain order during worship gatherings, this bizarre verse appears and contradicts everything he has just instructed, followed by a peculiar, sharp rebuke in verses 36-38.
But if one reads verses 34-35 as a quote from the Corinthians and verses 36-38 as Paul's response, suddenly the meaning becomes crystal clear and totally conducive to the rest of Paul's letter: all members of the body participating in worship assemblies in peace and order. So Paul repeats this appeal from Corinth for the purpose of rebuking it, not to command a universal ruling that silences women in church.
It's imperative to note that while there IS NO law in the OT that silences women, rabbinical "law" strictly forbade women to vocally participate in religious assemblies. Women were seen as obscene, deceitful, immoral, untrustworthy seductresses, whose only purpose was to make babies and serve men. Paul NEVER appeals to rabbinical law to establish universal mandates. Jesus spent most of his ministry openly defying and challenging such legalistic "laws" and "traditions" of the rabbinical Judaism. The early church experienced its fair share of Judaizers (Jews who converted to Christianity, but still believed it necessary to observe the purity codes and rabbinical laws/traditions). Judaizers insisted that converted Gentiles be circumcised, abandon eating idol-offered meat, observe Jewish Sabbaths, etc. Paul refutes all of these assertions made by Judaizers clinging to rabbinical tradition. Such is the case here; Paul quotes Judaizers in Corinth to reveal the hypocrisy in such a statement and then flatly contradicts it, even mocks it. Ironically, these verses used to silence women are actually part of Paul's defense of a woman's right to participate as full member of the body.
Bible Scholar Dennis J. Preato concurs that the "mystery law" cited here is from the irrelevant rabbinical laws:
These verses are best understood as a slogan or rabbinic saying based on the Jewish "oral law," not the written word of God. Therefore, these verses cannot be used to prohibit women from pulpit ministry within the church.Below is the entire passage from verses 26-40. Remember that the the word brethren (Greek word: adelphoi) is gender plural or gender inclusive, including both men and women. Read verses 34-35 as a quoted statement. This blew my mind the first time I did this.
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.
But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
THE WOMEN ARE TO KEEP SILENT IN THE CHURCHES; FOR THEY ARE NOT PERMITTED TO SPEAK, BUT ARE TO SUBJECT THEMSELVES, JUST AS THE LAW ALSO SAYS. IF THEY DESIRE TO LEARN ANYTHING, LET THEM ASK THEIR OWN HUSBANDS AT HOME; FOR IT IS IMPROPER FOR A WOMAN TO SPEAK IN THE CHURCH.
Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
The King James Version translates verse 36 as: "What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?"
The phrase "Did the word of God come to you only.." is believed to be a reference to Jesus' first appearance to the women at the tomb, the first entrusted with the good news of His resurrection and the first commissioned to tell the male apostles about it! Basically, Paul's point is that the word of God has come to all believers, so how dare they deprive the church body by silencing half its members.
J. Lee Grady points out:
"This strange response makes no sense if we believe that Paul penned verses 34 and 35. But if he is contradicting the statements made by the Judiazers at Corinth, then we can understand the definat tone of verse 36."
Deciphering quotations seems to be a tricky task for bible translators. For instance, 1 Corinthians 6:12, 6:13 and 10:23 are marked as quotations in the NCV, NIV, NLT, and NRSV; but they are not shown with quotation marks in the ASV, KJV, NASB, and NKJV. These kind of discrepancies occur because of the lack of punctuation signals available in ancient Greek.
However, all the available evidence seems to point to these verses and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 being quotations that Paul is rebuking.
Theologian Kenneth S. Kantzer wrote:
"In 1 Corinthians 14, we are caught in an intricate interplay between quotations from a missing letter form the Corinthians and Paul's solutions to the problems the letter had raised. The verse is clearly not repeating a law of Scripture and cannot be taken as a universal command for women to be silent in church. That interpretation would flatly contradict what the apostle had just said three chapters earlier."
I believe this reading is the strongest and most logical choice for interpreting 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I apologize for the lengthiness of this post, but it's difficult to present the sound-bite version of a biblical interpretation most people are unfamiliar with and do it justice! When there are only 2 obscure and highly controversial verses in the entire new testament that seem to bar women from ministry and church participation, we must dig into the scriptures and examine all available evidence to clarify their true meanings.
"For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church."--Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:33-36.
The Original Language Reading
The original language reading of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 leads to one of three options:
1. Paul is addressing all of the women (in that church or in every church) and forbidding them from interrupting the service with unnecesarry questions, rude chatter, or airing private family matters to shame their husbands, not from vocally participating in an orderly fashion.
2. Paul is addressing UNBELIEVING wives attending christian assemblies with their converted husbands, commanding that they are not to speak during the assembly, until they make a commitment to the faith.
3. Paul is addressing all women everywhere and commanding them to be in silence, no speaking at all during church gatherings.
One of the most important factors to understand when dealing with the original language of the bible, Greek in this instance, is that Greek (Paul is writing in the dialect of koine) has NO SPACES between words and NO PUNCTUATION MARKS. So CONTEXT is relied on very heavily to determine meaning and arrangement.
Most English translations contribute to all the confusion surrounding this passage by dropping the phrase "as in all the churches of the saints," down to the beginning part of verse 34's sentence: "the women are to keep silent..." However, "as in all the churches of the saints" is really the last part of verse 33. So, it should read: "God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints," meaning that God wants peace and not confusion in ALL the churches. The New American Standard Version, praised for its very literal translation of the bible, rightly corrects this error that is found in most other translations.
Here are the key words from this passage and the transliterated Greek words they are translated from:
Silent = sigao
Speak = laleo
The = hoi/hai (feminine form used in these verses)
In = En
Church/churches = ekklesia
Women = gune
Disgraceful/shameful = aischros
Laleo (to speak) is used in its present infinitive form, therefore some argue it should be translated as "continually speaking up," which would support the idea that Paul is silencing women who interrupt the assembly, forbidding a type of speech, not all women from speaking in the midst of the congregation. Paul is correcting chaos, not forbidding women from speaking in the assembly in an orderly fashion.
Greek only as ONE word, gune, for women/woman and wife/wives, so the context has to determine when the word means which. In this particular instance, wives seems to make more sense, since the solution to answering their questions is having them ask their own husbands. If Paul meant all women, would he not appeal to fathers, brothers, and husbands to solve the problem of women's questions? Nonetheless the word CAN mean either. So there is no definite proof either way whether Paul is addressing unbelieving wives, or women in general.
The Greek word "hai" translated in these verses as "the" can also be translated as "those." The very same word is translated as "those" in Matthew 8:33, 9:12, 12:3 (NKJ).
Likewise, the Greek word "en" translated in these verses as "in" can also be translated as "among." The very same word is translated as among in Matthew 2:6, 4:23, 16:8, and 20:26.
While ekklesia is the word that means church, it literally means "the called out ones" or "true believers," more aptly the gathering of called out ones/true believers, both men and women. It does not refer to a building. It should be noted that when a person came to faith in the early church, they were immediately baptized to be recognized as members of the ekklesia. So could these to-be-silent women not have made a public commitment of faith yet, thus were not yet permitted to participate in the gatherings as part of the body and instead only learn in silence until they became members? It's something to consider.
Taking alternate meanings of the key words into consideration, verses 33-35 could read:
For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace, as in all the congregations of the saints. Those women (or wives) are to keep silent among the called out ones (or true believers); for they are not permitted to speak (continually speak up), but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home. For it is disgraceful for a (the) woman (or wife) to speak (continually speak up) among the called out ones (or true believers: both men and women).
Some argue that the last line is addressing one unbelieving woman in particular that keeps disrupting the ekklesia. It is argued that the church at Corinth wrote Paul about the situation of a pagan woman continually interrupting with false prophecies and incoherent, babbling utterances, as was custom among the surrounding pagan cults. Since the subject of "someone" saying "Jesus be cursed" is mentioned earlier in the letter (1 Corinthians 12:3), it is not that far fetched to conclude that their were indeed unbelievers attending the church at Corinth, and if they were unbelieving wives, it can be easily seen why Paul would command their silence.
Others argue that these verses are just a matter of manners, telling women (who have never before been able to learn the things of God) to be attentive to those speaking, and not to talk amongst themselves, interrupt with constant questioning, yelling across the room to their husbands to clarify for them what is going on.
The fact remains, that outside of the phrase "as in all the churches of the saints" being dropped down to appear as the first part of verse 34, this really isn't concretely a case of mistranslation, but of key words retaining a variety of meanings. Hardcore complementarians can just as easily argue for the "traditional" reading that exists in most modern versions and not technically be wrong. They may have to backpedal and qualify a lot of other verses to avoid contradictions, but the original words themselves, could render either reading.
Even if one subscribes to the alternate readings, it does not account for Paul's uncharacteristic reference to the mystery "Law," (further explanation in next post). And if Paul is telling women/wives that it is disgraceful to "interrupt" the service with their speech as opposed to all women publicly speaking, then why is this limited only to women? Isn't in disgraceful for men to interrupt services as well? Also this alternate reading does little to explain the sharp, puzzling statements that follow in verses 36-38. We haven't touched on these verses yet, but will explore them in the next post.
For a more indepth look at the original language AND entire context of 1 Corinthians see "Let the Women Keep Silent in the Churches" by Dianne McDonnell.
If one fuses the original language options with the cultural and historical factors, it makes a strong case for this verse NOT being an all-time, universal command to silence all women from publicly speaking during church gatherings. However, I do not believe it to be the strongest option.
So, the next post will explore The Quotation Theory. This is my personal understanding of this bizarre passage.
"As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." --Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
Others believe wives were airing their dirty laundry during services, revealing all their personal problems with their husbands. It does seem strange that the first part of the verse is translated as "women" remaining silent and then the latter solution is that they should ask their own husbands. What about women who were unmarried? So this inappropriate "sharing" could be the case.
Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church."--Paul, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
"What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray,"--Jesus, Matthew 18:12-13
This is me and Aravis, at a much skinnier time in both our lives. :)
When we got there, I lifted her out of the car and as I carried her up to the vet's office, she panicked, flipped out of arms, and took off with her leash still attached! She ran directly into oncoming traffic. A truck almost hit her, but swerved at the last second. She ran across the street, through a parking lot, down a long, STEEP, ravine and disappeared into the field of high grass. Only more busy roads surrounded the field. She was gone.
Those of you who know me already know at this point that I was devastated. We have ten dogs (two inside dogs and eight outside dogs) and we love them like people. My husband and I often say that dogs are God's best creation. I drove around in circles for hours calling her name, crying, hitting my steering wheel, and dropping a few expletives. I did not spot her once. I went home defeated, convinced I'd never find her again alive. My worst fear was finding her hit on the side of the road.
I woke up this morning to VIOLENT thunder and lightening. All I could think about was my poor, scared, wounded dog trying to fend for herself out there with no way to come home. As soon as the storm let up, I started driving around again. My voice was hoarse from calling her name.
As I was driving, I started to get really angry. These kind of things tend to happen to me A LOT, so much so that I've started to expect the worst in these kind of situations. After hours of searching, I was "talking" to God, okay, yelling at God, recounting all the worry, anxiety, desperation, and fervor of the past twenty-four hours, expressing how the thought of giving up or finding her dead was almost unbearable. The prayer was laced with a "it's not fair," attitude. In the middle of my rant, within in the deepest part of me, I felt God say, "Imagine how I've searched for you." Ouch. I nearly drove off the road. I pulled over and just wept over my steering wheel. How many times have I wandered off? I realized that I am a lot like my dog. She really loves us, but is ruled by fear. She's always cowering until she's sure she's not in trouble. She kind of expects the worst. Sound familiar? I started thinking about the mind-blowing notion of God searching for me and still searching for all of me. Just then, I heard a faint yelp. I got out of my car and yelled for Aravis. I did this for a half hour before finally giving up. I got back in my car and started to turn around. Just before driving off, I saw her standing in the middle of a field about a quarter of a mile away. I jumped out of my car and called her to come. She stood there looking at me for a moment. I couldn't believe it! I thanked God over and over again out loud. But then Aravis ran off again and I imeediately switched to dropping the F-bomb in frustration. Thanking God in one breath, dropping the F-bomb in the other....OY.
Anyway, I had to run after her through a FLOODED field. I got mud up to my knees and she was no where in sight... again. I finally heard some rustling in the thicket and she poked her head out. I called her in my nicest voice, since I knew she wanted to come to me, but was also scared (another familiar spiritual problem). It didn't matter. No matter how nice sounding my voice was, she wouldn't come close enough. Finally, I decided to lay prostrate on the ground, in the mud (Dog people know that this is a way to communicate a non-threatening demeanor). So I laid there for a few moments and she cautiously circled around me, and finally collapsed on top of me, digging her head into me, shaking and wimpering.
As I sat there hugging my wet, muddy, wounded, fearful, nutbag of a dog, I realized how happy I was to have found her. I wasn't angry with her, I felt compassion for her. I didn't care that I was covered in mud from head to toe or how filthy she was, I just wanted to take care of her. And I wondered if this is how God feels when we finally surrender and come close enough to Him to be found? I wondered how often God is searching for me and I don't even know it? I wondered how often God is reaching out to me and I'm too wrapped up in my own baggage and fear to realize it? There are parts of myself that still cower and run from God's extended embrace because of fear. But today the reality of how far God goes to find us, how far He was willing to wade through the muck and mire of human filthiness, just came to life. The parable of the lost sheep came alive through my own parable of my lost dog.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
There are very few jobs that actually require a penis or vagina. All other jobs should be open to everybody. ~Florynce Kennedy
Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself. ~Robert Ingersoll
Today is my deadline for a number of school assignments, as well as edited articles for the newspaper. So, I have had ZERO time to spruce up the more in depth posts. Since the posts coming up (especially the ones on Paul's letters) are the crux of this debate, I want to make sure those posts do the egalitarian argument justice. After today, my schedule loosens up, so I can start cranking them out.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
"And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolk, nor of his friends."-- 1 Kings 16:11
Nothing like a good old fashion sermon on men "who pisseth against the wall." This dude can preach because he is a man, and by his own definition, to be a real man means pissing against the wall. So, that's the difference between men and women! No wonder we can't teach scripture, it's all so clear now! :)
Did you guys know that urinals were divinely sanctioned? Who woulda thunk?
Really, could a woman do much worse than that dude?
Ok, this video is posted for strictly humorous purposes, and because I haven't had a lot of time to work on more "meaty" posts. But I just want to make it clear that I DO NOT believe this bizarro-idea of "man-ness" is the crux of the complementarian argument or represents most complementarians in the least. In fact, I am hoping that this winner is the only one who thinks likes that. :)
But his mindset begs the question: Are our beliefs on "what makes a man a real man" distorted? Are our ideas of ideal masculinity shaped by scripture or by something like old western flicks, where men are gun-slinging, macho cowboys who pee in the wind and never shed a tear? Since the start of this series, the idea of gender roles and how they relate to or define our masculinity/femininity has consistently come up. So, I would like to know:
Which roles do you consider to be solely feminine and and solely masculine?
Which qualities do you consider to be solely female and solely male?
Or do you believe that most qualities are overlapping, but the ratio present within each sex should be distinct?
The reason I ask, is because I could not really pinpoint for myself inherent qualities (outside of the biological realm) that are solely male/female. I am sincerely curious of what the consensus is out there on this topic.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well and asks her to give him a drink. She is stunned, informing him that she is a Samaritan woman and He is a Jew, so how could He ask her for a drink. Jesus then teaches her the lesson of living water, tells her about her five husbands, and finally reveals to her that a time is coming when people will be able to worship God in spirit and truth, only through the power of God's spirit. (That's quite a heavy conversation, one He had not even shared with the 12). When she proclaims that she knows there is a day when a Messiah will come, Jesus says, "I am He." Again, this is more information than even the disciples are aware of at this point. She runs back to town and tells many of the men (plural, so probably men and women) about Jesus, confessing that He knew everything about her.
“The conversation with the woman at the well is the longest recorded discussion Jesus had with anyone—and she, a Gentile woman. Further, the lesson Jesus gave her about living water was just as profound as the lesson he gave Nicodemus—and the woman had a better response. Unlike Nicodemus, she was willing to be associated with Jesus. She told her neighbors about Jesus, and many of them believed in Jesus 'because of the woman’s testimony.'”
So, Jesus schools them about the unlikely partnerships and co-working in The Great Upside Down Kingdom of God....
"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he [original translation: "one"] who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." So in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."
Jesus, The Ultimate Seed Sower, plants His Word into the woman's heart, who in turn plants His Word in the hearts of others. This must have been a trying and puzzling lesson for the disciples, who previously wouldn't even have made eye contact with a Samaritan, let alone work along side them, partnering up in the cause of God, to invite "half-breeds" to become followers of Jesus.
Isn't the story of the woman at the well a reflection of what evangelism is really about? Churches that forbid or discourage women from preaching the gospel in the presence of men miss the entire point and essence of true evangelism. Preaching the Good News of Jesus should not be a means to gain or exercise authority/control over people. To portray it as such (since that IS the reason sited to bar women from becoming public evangelists), perverts the spirit in which evangelism should be acted out. Evangelism is about pointing people to JESUS. It's about teaching people what the gospel is, what Jesus said and did, and to invite others to began their own faith journey. How sectors of the church can restrict women from preaching the good news of the gospel in the presence of men is just tragic to me. The Samaritan woman's sense of urgency, as she runs back to town to tell anyone who will listen about the Messiah, says it all. Where's that urgency today? Are we too busy squabbling over which gender can say and do what in the presence of which people and in which forums? Titles and positions of preacher, teacher, pastor, evangelist and so forth, should not be viewed as ways to get authority, but as an avenue to live out the authority and calling of the gospel for those gifted and equipped in each area.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Most Christians admit that Jesus welcomed both men and women as his disciples. However, many do not realize what a radical move this was in Jesus' day. Disciples are not mere students, who just acquire knowledge for the sake of private learning, but are more like apprentices, in that disciples are expected to learn "the skills" of the teacher/rabbi and then when the time comes, they are to go and do the same. To have women disciples was a purposefully revolutionary and liberating signal, especially since during this time, women were not considered worthy enough to learn anything of importance, let alone the things of God.
So, it is within this hostile context that Jesus embraces women as his disciples, not just to learn, but to learn along side men and to eventually preach and teach others. DURING, the famous Sermon on The Mount, while explaining the "upside-down" kingdom of God, He tells the crowd (made up of both men and women) that whoever keeps His Commands and teaches them to others will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."--Jesus, Matt. 5:19
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."--Jesus, Matt. 28:18-20
In the next few posts, we will examine Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan Woman at the well, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and some others. Then at long last, we will delve into Paul's letters, which are primarily sited to bar women from all levels of ministry.
There are three short, obscure stories within the Old Testament that give me hope for women being empowered to reclaim their full spiritual inheritance in The Kingdom of God. So certain people don't have an aneurysm, I am not claiming that this hope is the definitive meaning of these scriptures or that they necessarily "prove" anything. They are just tiny glimmers of comfort that God has used in my own journey because I personally struggle with much of the old testament.
J. Lee Grady expounds on this passage:
"In that moment, God contradicted centuries of prejudice and wrong-headed tradition. He made it clear that in His kingdom, women are not afterthoughts or domestic appendages...When God looks at redeemed mankind through the blood of Jesus Christ, He does not limit women from full participation in His kingdom."
So, God gives Zelophehad's daughters their inheritance, demonstrating His tender concerns for their well being and their due as human beings. God commands that Israel's legal code be changed as a result of Zelophehad's daughters, legislating that daughters were to receive the full inheritance, if the father had no sons. Not exactly what we would consider today to be full equality, but for a time when women weren't considered worthy to own anything, this was a miraculously liberating development. Their courage benefited many other women, who would have been "disowned" and left with nothing. If Moses is a picture of Christ, then him bringing these women's case before the Lord becomes all the more meaningful.
In Joshua 15:18-19, we meet Achsah, the daughter of Caleb. When Caleb acquires a lush portion of land in Judah, his daughter asks him for part of land. Again, in a time when women were traditionally not permitted to own anything, let alone property, this is shockingly bold. Caleb gives her the land of Negev. Achsah then asks for more: "Give me a blessing since you have given me the land of Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gives her the "upper and lower springs." His daughter receives a triple portion, above and beyond what she asks for. She receives her own land, and two sets of springs. Having access to fresh water was considered a great luxury in ancient times. The story of Caleb and Achsah paints a beautiful picture of a father's love for his daughter, a love that empowers her.
And my favorite instance is found in Job 42: 12-15.
The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.