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I once heard the phrase “work of heart”, and Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey most certainly is. Sarah…I want to be best friends, okay?? And I’m not the only one – I had to laugh because as I was considering actually writing that in a comment on her blog, I suddenly noticed that at least three other people already had, and just how ridiculous I sounded hit me, and really, all you can do in a moment like that is laugh. Sarah isn’t just an award-winning blogger, or a published author, or a talented writer, or a wife, or a mom, or a Canadian. She’s a beautiful soul, and she’s opened herself up to God and to people, for the sake of raising a flag for mutual freedom in Christ, as his children and fellow heirs.
Jesus Feminist has been called a “clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God”, and it’s an apt description. This book isn’t some bitter woman railing against patriarchy and “the way things are” – Sarah lays out a thoughtful and respectful review of biblical teaching and church practices, and makes an intelligent and hermeneutically sound case for gender equality in the Church.
I won a copy of this book from Sarah on her blog this spring, when her book hit the shelves. I already knew I was a Jesus feminist, and I was ridiculously excited to read Sarah’s book. I just knew that it would affirm what I already believed about gender equality before Christ and in the Church, and I looked forward to reading whatever she had to say. What I didn’t expect was that God would use Sarah’s words to convict my heart, and draw me up short in what had become a zealous and self-righteous campaign to be right, regardless of the cost to others, or to my effectiveness as a witness to freedom and to the Gospel of Christ.
Sarah includes the following quote at the beginning of chapter 3, which details her own story – why any of this matters to her, personally. And it struck me forcibly that I am a disappointed idealist.
“Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” ~ George Carlin
Over the years, I have grown in the faith, and changed, as we all do. But a change I regret is that I allowed the hardness of life to jade me – and part of that jading is my perspective on the accepted role of women in Christian community. Respected, loved, encouraged to faithful service…but prescribed and boxed in, and often times unaware of the cage because of the consistent encouragement to “be free” within the scope of our assigned role. The farther east I move, the more conservative the body of believers – and the more cynical my heart has become.
This is not okay. How can I encourage freedom if my heart is firmly lodged in a place of superiority and judgement? After all, revisiting interpretation is inherently humbling. More convicting still – how can I truly love if I am in that place? I can’t – I cannot love if I act like I think I’m better.
And it also makes me a gigantic hypocrite. Last summer, I had a series of intense conversations with a couple of friends, about gender roles, submission, and modesty. I am a firm believer in the concept of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity” – but I forgot that last part, when my own beliefs were met with what I felt was hostility. In my hurt over what I perceived to be my friends’ unwillingness to even consider another perspective or interpretation of scriptures that have been used in my own life to enslave and betray, I failed to exercise charity – LOVE – and withdrew in a sullen and injured sulk. A sulk that has lasted an entire year.
I don’t want to be a cynic, or unloving, or unforgiving. I don’t want to be a poor friend, or poor witness. I want to love and live like Jesus, and he went to the cross with forgiveness on his lips. If being like Jesus means I need to adjust my attitude, then count me in.
“True justice and equality won’t flow from celebrity or position or platform. Justice flows from the heart of our Abba, and when our hearts are tuned in to his hear, that justice flows through our own right-now-lives […] even if we do not find honor here in this world, we are still part of God’s shalom outpost and seed planting and tending we do to his glory. We can bear with our […] brothers and sisters with grace and love, building them up in love.
“Can you drink the cup of submission? Yes, I realize full well what many of you are thinking: That’s all we’ve ever done. But I would ask of you: Can you now drink the cup as Christ means you to drink it? Not because you must, but because you choose to? Would you be willing to put aside your legitimate rights, if the time to exercise them is not yet right your particular circumstances? […] Will you work for change in a patient and loving manner; rather than sinking into anger or bitterness? Will you commit yourself to work in a Christ-like way, even if you are in un-Christ like situations?” ~ Gretchen Gaebelein Hull
So my activism as a Jesus feminist is marked and distinguished as being on behalf of others first.” (p.185-186)
I have not been a peaceful or loving rabble-rouser for the cause of equality – “now, there is no more male or female” – in Christ Jesus. And for that, I am deeply sorry. It’s time to turn over a new leaf – and if I have hurt you, I hope you will forgive me.
Are You A Jesus Feminist?
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