Navigation

Archive | Jesus Feminist

In which I admit that I didn’t like Paul

live openly

I never liked the Apostle Paul very much.

(Apparently you can type a sentence like that and not be struck by lightening. Who knew?)

Like many Christians, I am drawn towards certain personalities or characters within Scripture. My heart has always aligned itself with the Apostle John. My sister has always had a soft spot for Peter. Someone else identifies with David or Mary or Leah perhaps.

But Paul?

I had Some Big Thoughts and Feelings about the Apostle Paul.

He wrote a lot of the Scripture that is used against women’s full equality. To me, he was a misogynist.  He was narrow-minded and bossy. He was snippy. As a feminist, I was suspicious of Paul. I even avoided his words in Scripture.

I mean, sure he wrote a lot of the New Tesatment but instead I camped out in the Gospels, in John’s epistles, in Hebrews, in the Psalms and Proverbs. Kelley taught me how to love Exodus and Isaiah and the Old Testament prophets.  As I grew in the faith, of course I began to read the whole canon of Scripture but I almost had to forget that Paul had written it – it was easier to receive the words, if I forgot that Paul was the one who dictated or scribed them.

Paul, late have I loved you.

Late, perhaps, but not too late.

As I was writing Jesus Feminist though, the strangest transformation took place: I began to love Paul. Really, truly love him, as a brother.

Yes, it was actually precisely because I was writing about life on the other side of the gender debates, advocating for the full equality of women, that  I rediscovered, appreciated, and began to love my brother, Paul.

It started with those clobber verses – you know the ones, 2 Timothy, Titus 2, Ephesians 5, and so on. I had already done my research long before the day came to write, but as a refresher, I dug out the commentaries and books again. Responsible author, I wanted to make sure I had my hermeneutical ducks in a row.

But as I worked my way through the passages of Scripture that I used to hate, I began to see Paul more clearly, to understand Scripture even better. I began to see his wisdom, his subversion, his heart. When I looked at his full ministry – how he praised and esteemed women in leadership in the Church, how he turned household codes within a patriarchal society on their head, how he used feminine metaphors, how he subverted the systems, how he passionately defended equality – the verses that used to clobber me began to embrace me.

The truth broke through. I wasn’t fighting AGAINST Paul – I was fighting WITH him.

I read Paul’s words in Scripture and I began to realise I had not known him. I had been silenced or shut down by people putting words in his mouth or intent in his words that he never intended and I had missed so much. I had to repent.

Now I think that if Paul knew how a few of his words had been twisted, misinterpreted, and misapplied to be used against women, he would be broken hearted. 

After all, this is the apostle who wrote these words:

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us (Romans 8:39 MSG)

I’m not going to walk around on eggshells worrying about what small-minded people might say; I’m going to stride free and easy, knowing what our large-minded Master has already said. (1 Corinthians 10:29)

Love never gives up, Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t struct, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7)

I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively! (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

And on and on and on….Galatians has been my home for months now and I will never be the same. Never.

In fact, that is my new assignment for fundamentalists: read Galatians 5 and 6 every day. That should cure it.

Page after page, word by word, the theology of freedom is settling back into my bones again.

Oddly, I began to love Paul for the very humanness of him: his frustrations, his love, his exhaustion, his passion, his intelligence, his impatience. All of it.

I’m so thankful for his unedited self.

He wasn’t perfect. He was complex, yes, but oh, such diamond-like multi-faceted brilliance. Poet theologian, evangelist and pastor, leader and thorn in the side. A radical contradictory shit-disturber, a truth-teller to power and a tender father heart, a broken and humble servant, all Paul.

His crazy beautiful words about freedom with responsibility, about mutual submission, his trust in Christ and not the law, about loving one another, about our Jesus …. he is my brother, indeed. His story is changing me. I love Jesus better because I’m hearing about him from Paul.

Maybe you either love him or you hate him. Either way, this Jesus feminist loves Paul.

 

Continue Reading · faith, Jesus Feminist, scripture · 51

In which you are a beloved warrior

beloved warrior

Who do you think you are?

It’s the lie that whispers like smoke, breathes down our necks, and dismantles our vision and hope.

How odd that a simple question can sound more like an accusation.

Who do you think you are?

And as women, we often hear this as the answer: insecure. manipulative. can’t be trusted. gossips. bossy. only valuable if beautiful or married or the mother of children. controlling. catty. easily deceived. victim. used. damaged goods. too emotional. not logical. terrible friends. high maintenance. untrustworthy. dangerous. afraid. too fat. too thin. too smart. too ignorant. too strong. too weak. too pretty. too ugly. too feminine. too assertive. just too much and not enough. on and on and on and on….

Who do you think you are?

I think it’s a question that might change our lives, if answered honestly.

My life today looks very different than I expected or intended. And if I’m honest – with you and with myself – it has required and is requiring more courage than I often think I have.

It seems like every time I have entered into a new season or a new calling or a new opportunity, the voice in my head has always been, “Who do you think you are?”

Who do you think you are? to preach? to write a book? to raise these beautiful children? to pray for someone? to love? to lead a home group at church? to speak up? to challenge authority? to teach Scripture? to talk about marriage? to even try to move with God towards justice? to talk about peace making? to try to work with a developing nation towards justice? to push back on the powerful? to tell your story without sanitizing? to advocate for others?

Who do you think you are?

My insecurities – and answers – are likely different than yours but for me, learning to answer that question with the truth has changed everything.

Our lives often preach a very different Gospel than the one we think we believe. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded us that we must begin with our own life-giving lives. Our true being brims over into our true words and deeds.

It’s an important question because to truly be able to love God and love others, to move with God to rescue, restore, and redeem humanity, we have got to know who we are.

Who do you think you are?

I’ve started to answer that question with one imperfect phrase: I am a beloved warrior.

Here’s why:

Right at the beginning, God separated day from night, land from sea, created animals and fish and fowl, and then on this sixth day, he creates humanity. And here, after creating man from the dust of the earth, God says in Genesis 2:18, “it is not good for him to be alone. I’ll make him a helper.”

That word, helper, is a Hebrew word, EZER. The word that accompanies ezer is “kengdo” which is often translated as “suitable”  so that is why translators often list this reference for women as “suitable helpmeet.” Many of us have heard a teaching or two on the word helpmeet, which solely focuses on woman as a man’s wife, mother, or homemaker for this defintion. But that narrow view excludes more than 60 percent of women. How many millions of girls and women are we leaving out? Focus on women as “helper” has led to the belief that God gave primary roles and responsibilities to men and second or supporting roles to women in the Kingdom of God. It has even led to practices that communicate that women are second class citizens at home and sadly sometimes in the church. The fallout from patriarchy chokes us still.

Ezer Kenegdo actually means “man’s perfect match.” It is the help that opposes, two parts of equal weight leaning against each other to stay stable and strong. It means that women were created to be man’s strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes.

In the Old Testament, the word EZER appears 21 times in 3 different contexts: the creation of women, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s helper for military purposes. God isn’t a “helpmeet” in the watered down way we’ve been taught or understood that word in our churches though, right? No, our God is more than that: he’s a strong helper, a warrior, an ever present help in times of trouble, bringing more than simple might or power.

God created the first woman out of Adam’s side, and he named his daughter after an aspect of his own character and nature. By naming his daughters – us! – ezer kenegdo, God did not name women as secondary helpmeet “assistants.” No, women were created and called out right at creation as warriors.

You are a warrior, right alongside our brothers, on God’s mission in the world, an image-bearer. (The other reason why this makes such sense is that it isn’t exclusive to men and women in a marriage relationship: holistically, men and women together in the Kingdom of God are meant to be allies.)

Throughout Scripture, we can see women of valour, women operating in their anointing and created purpose as ezer kenegdos. Warrior is an ethos or attitude, not necessarily a vocation, gathered against the forces of evil and darkness. We are deployed into creation as the perfect ally. And then we have a lineage and legacy of Church mothers, women of God, who were warriors in the situations where God placed them, in ways unique to their temperament and character, callings, gifting, and even choices. Women from Ruth to Rahab, Deborah to Mary Magdalena, Corrie Ten Boom to Evangeline Booth.

As we live in a world desperate for a glimpse of God, desperate for a rescue, crushed by evil and poverty and war and the grind of lonely existence in quiet desperation, we, the Church are part of God’s plan to push back that darkness and make space for his Kingdom. We are commissioned to multiply his image bearers, care for the poor, and minister life and hope and healing in the name of Jesus to the glory of God. We are warriors.

I’m a pacifist so my definition of warrior is a bit more spiritual, perhaps. I see it as an advocate or a peace maker or a shalom prophet, a warrior living into the Kingdom of God, a worshipper, a disciple – courageous and unafraid.

Who do you think you are?

Warrior.

Sometimes the truth of who you really are is a wake-up call, and other times it’s a challenge. Because we’re not after behaviour modification. We don’t want to “try harder” to be warriors. It’s not another addition to the to-do list or an addendum to some weird Proverbs 31 job description: “be a warrior.” No, we’re after transformation.

And so, we are here, where I begin and end always: Jesus. (You know me.)

In 2nd Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes that therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

That old identity from your past or from your culture aren’t actually your identity. Not anymore.

Through the life and ministry of our Jesus, we know what our God is really like. He pulled back the curtain on all the ways we have misunderstood and mischaracterized his very nature. And what did we learn from Jesus: we are loved.

Who do you think you are?

Beloved.

We are worthy of a rescue, worth saving, worth loving. We are the one sheep in the ninety-nine worth leaving everything behind to rescue. We are redeemed. We are whole.

Loved. You are loved. You are loved. You can engage in your life from a place of love because you are.

We believe that we’re only worthy of love if… if we do this or if we do that. That’s what our culture or our broken world tells us, right?

But Jesus does not love us conditionally. In fact, if you look in 1 John 4

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God….God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

Are you weary? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Get away with me, you’ll recover your real life. Those are the words of our Jesus in Matthew 11:28. Walk with me, see how I do it, learn to live freely and lightly. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Abba invites us to the banquet tables, to communion, to community, and to life in the Vine, not to a religious treadmill or a life of conformity to someone else’s best-case scenario for your life until you finally measure up, until you are no longer too much or not enough.

We’ve not been called to the people-pleasing life, to the approval seeking life, to the bow-down-and-give-up life or the sit-down-and-shut-up life. We’ve been called to the peace-making life, the truth-telling life, the she-who-the-Son-sets-free-is-free-indeed life.

We’ve been called to the spirit-filled and God-breathed life, living out the ways of the Kingdom and the life in Christ to every corner of our humanity. We are, what N.T. Wright calls, parables of hope.

We’ve been called to the life of the beloved. We’ve been called to the life of the disciple.

Who do you think you are?

I am a Beloved Warrior.

Your true identity is this: you are a Beloved Warrior. Start there. And then we live out our lives and our callings, the seasons and roles, the challenges and the victories, the healing and the mourning, from a deep well of love and freedom and wholeness – because we are. Creation tells you that you are created, called, chosen, made in the image of God as a warrior. Jesus tells you that you are loved, you are free, you are redeemed, you are beloved. Even – maybe especially – our imperfect, contradictory lives are singing a beautiful prophetic song of invitation: you are so loved.

Who do you think you are? 

And I know now to say and to live out the truth: I am a beloved warrior. 

And in the midst of my life, as it stands, I’m walking out that truth, sometimes moment by moment, choice by choice, sometimes faltering and stumbling but still walking in faith. Old things are passed away. New things have come.

Wherever life may take us, regardless of our choices or our roles or our story, regardless of the seasons of our lives, of our failures and imperfections, let us make living like we are beloved warriors the radical discipline of our lives, filling our minds and our hearts with the truth of Jesus Christ, and the goodness of the freedom he offers to us as his own.

Who do you think you are? I am beloved. And I am a warrior. 

 this post is based on a sermon that I recently preached at our church

(There is such richness in our identity in Christ – too many to name – but I’ve had my life changed by this one in particular.)

Continue Reading · faith, jesus, Jesus Feminist, journey, love, women · 33

In which Jesus Feminist is on sale for $1.99

Happy birthday to me today but the present is for you!

Jesus Feminist is on sale for $1.99!

This picture makes me laugh every time.

This picture makes me laugh every time.

It’s true. As of today, I’m the wise (yeah, right) and grown-up age of 35 years old and coincidentally my publisher has decided to offer the Kindle version of Jesus Feminist for $1.99 on Amazon!

Not sure when that rock-bottom price will disappear so spread the word.

 Updated to add: Also over at Barnes and Noble for $1.99 Nook edition!

 

Continue Reading · Jesus Feminist · 20

In which I think we need to pay attention to our anger

JesusFem_Quote5

I think it’s important to pay attention to what makes you angry. In my experience, our calling is hiding somewhere in what makes us angry.

As Christian women, we sometimes feel afraid of our anger. We’ve been told for so long that nice girls don’t get angry until we swallow our passion whole. (I’m not talking about sinful and self-indulgent anger here, not at all. I think most of us know the difference, even if we will only admit it to the darkest corners of our most honest hearts.)

No, I’m talking about the real soul-centred anger, the one that rises up at injustice, at any violation against the humanity that our God loves and values. I’m talking about the way your heart races when you hear about sex trafficking at the Superbowl, when you hear about gang rape in India, or you see high fashion’s sexualization of violence against women. Maybe it was the moment you learned that impoverished young women in Kenya were enduring back-alley abortions because they didn’t have support to carry their baby to term. Maybe it was for the young woman in your church who is starving herself to meet an unattainable standard of thinness because she was bullied and abused. I’m talking about the small injustices and the big ones, the ones that make your anger rise up, and your pulse quicken, that makes you say, “this isn’t right!”

Read the rest of this post – and enter to win a copy of Jesus Feminist! – over at (in)courage’s book club, Bloom, today.

 

Continue Reading · Guest Post, Jesus Feminist, women · 1