Tag Archives: women

An Unlikely Kingdom Role Model

Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

In Jesus’ day, if you had asked people, “Who do you look to for spiritual leadership?  Who are your spiritual role models?”, people would have likely named prominent, religious “experts” like the Pharisees or perhaps the Scribes.  These men were the cultural influencers and thought leaders.  They were the ancient equivalent of New York Times best-selling authors; prominent and popular religious celebrities that were believed to be the authorities that sincere, devout believers should seek to follow and emulate.

Jesus rewrites the script dramatically.

“Guys, come over here.  Did you see that poor, widowed woman?  She just gave more to God than everyone else, because although her amount was small compared to everyone else’s, they were giving out of their wealth.  She, from a place of poverty, gave her whole life.”

Notice that Jesus not only rejects the religious leaders/experts as spiritual role models (he actually condemns their leadership and “expertise” in Mark 12:38-40), he points to someone who by every conventional metric has the least to offer in terms of spiritual authority, influence and expertise: A poor, widowed woman.

Jesus wants the disciples to learn from a woman...who is poor…and widowed?  Why?  How?  In the context of the first-century this woman is second-class, impoverished, and lacking any meaningful social capital or cultural influence.

What kind of kingdom is Jesus inviting us into, that a poor, widowed woman is a role model for faithful discipleship?!

There’s an important lesson here.  Those that the world dismisses as irrelevant, unworthy, insufficient, damaged, and useless are often the very people through whom God’s kingdom breaks into this world.

This is precisely the reason Paul encourages the early church in Rome to “be willing to associate with people of low position” (Romans 12:16).  And its a truth that is reinforced by Paul in his first letter to the early church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 1:26–29
26
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

The kingdom that Jesus is building is built through “lost causes” and “nobodies.”  That’s an essential part of the gospel (i.e. good news).  We are all lost causes spiritually speaking.  We can’t rescue or save ourselves from the power of sin.  But Jesus comes to deal with our sin issue by dying for us, in our place.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Jesus is resurrected and enthroned as King and Lord over all things, so that those who turn their lives over to him can be saved into a new kind of life.  A life God begins using within His mission to mend the world and overcome evil.

Weak, insignificant nobodies–in the hands of Jesus–become strong, significant somebodies.  No expertise required.

Is there better news than that?

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A Cautionary Tale: Tony Jones’ Demand for a Schism

On November 22nd Emergent Christianity leader Tony Jones boldly declared that it’s time for a schism within the Protestant church.  If you don’t know who Tony Jones is, he’s a prominent figure within the Emergent Christian tribe.  He’s very smart and thoughtful and always provides an interesting perspective to the mix.  Don’t know what a “schism” is?  It’s when you willfully and intentionally break off (i.e. divorce) from a group on the grounds that you hold beliefs that are so radically opposed to each other that fellowship is simply not possible.

In his post he wrote the following:

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not.

**deep breath***

Ok, I need to be honest and say that the following thoughts are neither carefully thought out or overly prepared/edited.  I don’t have time to carefully address everything I’d like to within Tony’s post (or the Emergent church more broadly speaking).  So I’m going to throw down some visceral reactions and hope they are helpful as a word (or two) of caution.

Big Picture: I get that Tony Jones is passionate about the issue of women and church leadership.  It’s a very important issue.  It’s so important, I can’t imagine anyone (regardless of where they fall on the egalitarian/complementarian spectrum) being dispassionate about it.  However, it’s genuinely sad to see someone’s passion override common sense and basic Christian charity towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Here are some scattered thoughts and reactions:

1.  I’ve done my homework on the egalitarian/complementarian debate, and while I hold to strong egalitarian convictions, issuing a clarion call for schism (i.e. an intentional act of division) from churches and other Christians who don’t not hold the same conviction is shamefully short-sighted, self-serving, and ungracious.  Doubly so when you throw around terms like “misogyny” and “subjugation” which are words that do nothing but build upon a caricature of the complementarian position.

2.  If you’re going to call for a schism from a large section of the church, you better know what and who you’re dividing from.

“Having grown up in a church that ordained women, allowed women to lead, and had women preachers, it is honestly shocking to me to continue to run into so-called “complementarians.” I don’t meet them in real life — I just see them in the blogosphere, on Facebook and Twitter. And friends of mine like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey assure me that they exist.”

Let’s divide from a group of people who I have little to no contact with relationally, simply because their views strike me as “obviously” dumb and anchored in hate and ignorance.  Talk about an unwise and totally uncharitable posture towards other Christians who hold differing convictions to you.

3. Be very wary of anyone who upholds a core value of Jesus, only to immediately sidestep its radical and difficult implication.

“I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously…But…”  

Many people reading  Tony’s post would have been justified in closing the tab on their browser after that second sentence.  Especially after the rest of the post shows no willingness to work towards unity with complementarians.

4.  Think (deeply) before you declare.

“I don’t know what a schism looks like in the 21st century.”

Don’t call for a schism when you haven’t thought through what–exactly–you’re inviting people into.  If you don’t have a handle on the shape a schism would/should take, then don’t call for one, because you evidently haven’t thought through any systemic ramifications.  That’s immature and reactionary, not mature and visionary.  Throughout Tony’s post I was haunted by the wisdom of Richard Rohr: ” It’s so much easier to be over and against something than to be in love with something.”

5.  When you disagree with the convictions of another Christian, don’t resort to caricatures of their position that demean, dismiss, or ridicule.  Tony Jones’s post is laced with language (e.g. “subjugation,” “mysogony,” “archaic”) that is designed to frame the entire complementarian camp as anti-women and hate-fueled.  It’s profoundly disappointing to see a thoughtful leader like Tony Jones resort to that kind of tactic.  Then again, if he would have actually listened to the best arguments from complementarians (and maybe spent more time in dialogue with them–see point #2!), he’d realize most complementarians are neither anti-woman nor driven by hate.

**deep breathe**

Let me reiterate: I do not agree with the biblical convictions complementarians reach.  I am, like Tony Jones, passionate about my convictions.  However, I do believe that I can hold to my convictions passionately while extending respect and grace to those Christians–male and female–who hold to the complementarian position due to their desire to love and honour God.  I don’t think that is too much to expect from other Christian leaders.  It’s certain what I would have expected from Tony Jones.

For more thoughtful and robust reactions to Tony’s call for schism (and his subsequent back track), check out the following:

“Are your really calling for schism Tony Jones?” by Billy Kangas

“Tony Jones’ curious call for schism” by David Hayward

“This schism was cancelled” by John Mark Reynolds

 

 

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