know us by our love.jpg

I’m a feminist, sure. But first, last, always, I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. My first allegiance isn’t to feminism. My first allegiance is to Jesus and his Kingdom.

Following Jesus changes my feminism, not the other way around.

I choose to be a feminist in the way that I believe Jesus would be a feminist. 

The ways of the Kingdom of God stand in direct contrast to the ways of the world and our culture. (Sadly, our churches can sometimes resemble our culture instead of Jesus – witness our fascination with militarism, entertainment cults of celebrity, power, materialism, and patriarchal culture and so on.)

When I decided to become a disciple of Jesus, it meant that I wanted to live into my right-now life the way that I believed Jesus would do it. That has led me to many changes in my politics and activism and opinions, how I live out my faith, my marriage and my mothering, my engagement with the Church and community, and all points between.

Because I follow Jesus, I want to see God’s redemptive movement for women arch towards justice.

And God’s Kingdom tastes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. My life should still bear the fruit of the Spirit out.

I don’t get a free pass on discipleship because I’m a woman or a feminist or for any other reason. I still have to work out my salvation with fear and trembling.

When I chose to follow Jesus, it meant I chose to apprentice myself to his way of life and living in the world.

If we want to live counter-culturally as disciples, we have to live our lives and seek mercy and do justice counter-culturally as well. It’s tempting to want to employ the same tactics and arguments or methods that have been used on us or others but that is a temptation we must resist.  I don’t believe that silencing and shaming and other tactics of the world will really bring about God’s redemptive movement for women. We are to be gentle as doves and cunning as serpents.

God is light, there is no darkness to him, so when we participate in the life of Christ now, we are marked as the bringers of light. The Apostle John wrote, “Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 

And a follower of Jesus is marked by joy. A follower of Jesus forgives seventy times seven. A follower of Jesus seeks to serve others. A follower of Jesus turns the other cheek. (I could go on.) There are hundreds of ways that Jesus subverts our world’s systems and that can be hard to embrace: we want a seat at the table and a share of the power.

Maybe it’s because we don’t really trust that the living water and broken bread will be enough for us.

Maybe it’s because we don’t trust God’s faithfulness.

Maybe it’s because we’re afraid or angry or hurt or wounded or broken.

Maybe it’s because we are still learning how to turn our swords into ploughshares.

To the world, it’s foolish to choose peace instead of war. It’s foolish to forgive. It’s foolish to be kind. It’s foolish to hope. It’s foolish to offer grace and conversation. It’s foolish to care for your weaker brothers or sisters, let alone change your own behaviour to accommodate them. It’s foolish to live without legalism and “clear boundaries” that apply to everyone.

Foolish things will confound the “wise” of our world.

And when a feminist chooses to eschew the tactics of the world that are often used against women – silencing, shaming, name-calling, belittling, ganging up, violence, and so on – we are being foolish in the ways of a disciple. We are living prophetically into the Kingdom of God. How would Jesus be a feminist? How would Jesus do justice and seek mercy and walk humbly on behalf of his global daughters?

We can prophecy a better world with our very words and actions.

The Spirit transforms our hearts and minds and then our lives: regardless of our past, regardless of our context, regardless of our privilege or lack thereof. If we are disciples, we are participating in the life of Jesus now. And the way in which we engage in our lives matters. (The way in which we engage our enemies matters even more perhaps.)

This is how we will be known: by our love.

I want my work and witness as a Jesus Feminist to be marked by who I build up, not who I tear down. I want us to be known as the ones who speak life, not death; the ones who empower and affirm and speak truth. I want us to be the ones who boldly deconstruct and then, with grace and intention and inclusion, reconstruct upon the Cornerstone. You will know us by our love.

I turn more and more towards the aging Beloved Disciple’s words these days when I’m working for justice for women: if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect 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… 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.  If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” (excerpts from 1 John 4)

 

As Release Week for my book begins, I decided to repost this from my archives. As responses, reviews, ratings, praise, and criticism begins to unfold from all corners, it feels timely for me…. here’s to loving one another.

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  • Still love this one so much. Hope this book launch week is wrapped in and pulsing with that love that drives out fear.

  • Kimberley Baker

    Blessings on you Sarah. Will be praying for you this week especially (and can’t wait to read your book)!

  • Susan May

    “We can prophecy a better world with our very words and actions”. Love this. Love all of it. Thanks

  • Daniel McDonald

    Thank you for this blog. I’ve always been a complimentarian all my Christian life, but I so very much look forward to reading “Jesus Feminist”. It has been ordered and will soon be in my hands. Wherever I end up after reading your work, I am pretty sure from others I have read that I will have been enriched by reading your work. May God continue t richly bless your life and ministry.

  • Rachel McKinley

    Thank you for posting this! I look forward to reading your book!

  • Vic Christian

    All – please remember that many faiths exhibit love. Only the true faith of Jesus Christ exhibits love and truth. Did not Christ say that if we love Him we will obey His commandments. Are not His commandments anything He asks us to do either directly or through His chosen writers of His Word? Is the term “feminist” at least partially due to pride and apposed to parts of His Word?

    • Lizzi Klassen

      No, there is no pride or opposition to his commandments here, The term “feminist” simply indicates that that person believes women are people equal with men.
      Jesus himself was a feminist. The Gospels, when taken in comparison with other, non-Jesus-following writings of the same time, talk about women in very different ways from their contemporaries – they talk about them with much more respect and compassion, as Jesus himself does.
      One example: the woman caught in adultery, whom the Pharisees bring to Jesus to try to trip him up. By all the laws of the Torah, she OUGHT to have been stoned to death. She had no way out of that one. And yet Jesus has compassion on her, believing that she IS a real person, not an object to be owned, used, and thrown away – and forgives her. In that time, that would have been hugely controversial. Women were not treated as people then. But Jesus believes they are.
      So, long story short, I fully believe feminism lines up with Jesus’ teachings and commandments.

      • Vic Christian

        Note that Jesus Christ never stated that women are either the same as men or have the same role, either in the family or in the church. My readings of most “Jesus Feminist” authors finds them more like “Christian mystics” and desiring to take the role that God has planned for men.

        • Lizzi Klassen

          Nowhere did I say that women and men are identical, and nowhere did I say that women and men have identical functions, although I myself do ascribe to the concept of egalitarianism rather than complementarianism.

          What I DID say is that women ARE PEOPLE equally as much as men are. This is something that is not taken as truth in the world today, and this is what feminism is trying to correct, and this also is, I believe, what Jesus thinks of women.

          • Vic Christian

            Please give me one example of this in the Church in the United States.

          • Vic Christian

            I am sorry Lizzi – I responded without thinking clearly (as is not that uncommon for me). First, I was responding regarding the author of the article, not only you. Second – in the American church, where are women not treated as people or treated different from what Jesus or the scriptures advocates? Thank-you!

          • Lizzi Klassen

            I did not respond at first, because I felt you were making a whole pile of assumptions, and I would have responded out of frustration. I’m still frustrated, but I’ve had some time to think about my answer.

            The short answer is, I cannot really answer your question. There are a few reasons why.

            First of all, I’m not American. I cannot, with any confidence, say that the church in the US is doing X about women, or indeed about anything. If I did, that would be doing you, me, and the church a great disservice: you, because any such answer would be a total assumption on my part, and therefore not an accurate answer; me, because it then makes me look a fool for making such assumptions; and the church, because painting every church in the United States with the same brush would be highly inappropriate. An example for the last point would be that churches in the Southern US would have slightly different attitudes (about many things, not just women) than churches in the Northwest, simply due to regional paradigms. Alternatively, charismatic churches (I would expect) have different attitudes towards women in leadership than, say, the Catholic church, where women are never priests or bishops, etc. So painting them all with the brush of, “They all do X,” is completely useless and inaccurate.

            Secondly, I feel that (correct me if I’m wrong) you’re coming at this from a complementarian angle. I would consider myself thoroughly egalitarian. What I mean by this is that I believe women should lead in a church and preach in a church and pastor in a church if that’s where their gifts lie – and I don’t mean that they should be shuffled off by the rest of the church leadership into a corner to lead only the “women’s ministry” (unless that’s what they’re called to, of course), I mean that if they are called to be pastors and leaders of the church then they should bloody well pastor and lead the church. If they are called to something else, they should do that. And I believe that mine is a thoroughly Biblical attitude.
            I believe that women being told, “you cannot,” or “you must not,” or “you should not” IS different from what Jesus AND the Scriptures advocate. I could be wrong, but as far as I’m aware, most church leadership right now across the world is male. I would suspect that for a fair amount of churches that means that a woman somewhere was told, “you cannot.” The trouble is, it’s not a spoken phrase, it’s more subtle than that. It’s a word here, a look there, and a general attitude of disapproval. If they grow up in such a church, they observe that all the leaders are men, and despite what they may learn about the world, and the liberation of women in the world, the leaders will always be men. And that is the “cannot”.
            But I feel that, as I said, you’re coming at this from the opposite direction, and so you might take umbrage with what I say, and I’m simply not able to sit down and debate this – I don’t have the time or the emotional energy to put towards it.

        • KDunc

          So what was Jesus doing when Mary took on the “male” role of being an intellectual in Luke 10:38-42 when he said Mary had chosen the better part and it is not to be taken from her. How can you not see that that is Jesus stating Mary (a woman) has chosen to be an intellectual and learner instead of defined by the culture’s standards of what a woman should be doing and telling her that it’s hers and it’s not to be taken from her. How else could you possibly explain such a pivotal interaction? Jesus went against the status quo for women so many times.

      • Jenx Net

        I believe the context of the woman in adultery is taken out of context. First, i would like to say this, God does view men and woman equal. Jesus died and rose again for all Mankind who accepts him. However, men and women have different roles! “Casting the
        first stone” refers to killing the woman.

        http://www.gospelway.com/topics/teaching/woman_in_adultery.php

        The teaching of the law is found in Lev. 20:10; Deut 22:22f.
        Note that these passages teach that both the adulterer and the
        adulteress should be put to death. If the woman was taken in the
        very act, then the man should have been caught too. Where was he?
        If the Jews were really so concerned about following Moses’ law
        as they pretended to be, they would have brought the man too.
        What they really wanted to do was to trap Jesus.

        Wherein was the trap? Probably their idea was based on their
        belief that Jesus came to be an earthly king. If so, He should judge
        such matters as this. If He judged to kill her, they could accuse
        Him to the Romans of having usurped their authority, since no one
        could be put to death without their authority (18:31). If he said
        not to kill her then they could accuse Him of breaking Moses’ law.

        They continued to press Him for an answer, so He said that
        whoever among them was sinless should be the first to throw a
        stone at her.

        This turned the tables on them in more than one way. First, it
        gave them the duty to kill her, if it was to be done. This
        approach agreed with the Law of Moses, which they claimed to be
        following, for it said the witnesses must be the first ones to
        initiate the execution of the guilty (Deut. 17:6,7; cf. Deut. 13:9).
        They would have to execute her if it was to be done. In that case,
        they would be the ones to have to give answer to the Romans for
        having usurped their authority.

        Second, this was an appeal to their own consciences. In the
        presence of all the people, He was forcing them to claim, if they
        stoned her, that they themselves were innocent of guilt. They had
        come to Him with hypocritical intentions, not to uphold the law,
        but to trap Him. His approach called attention to the evil they
        were committing in the very act of bringing the woman to Jesus.

        Note that this does not say, as some claim, that we should
        never criticize the sins of others, and if we do we are
        hypocrites claiming we ourselves never sin. “Casting the
        first stone” refers to killing the woman, not just rebuking
        her sin. It is a gross perversion to teach that people are “casting
        stones” in the sense of John 8 when they simply rebuke people for sin! Jesus’ disciples often pointed out people’s errors,
        but the subject under discussion here is killing the woman for
        adultery. It has nothing to do with whether or not sin should be
        rebuked.

        Third, after Jesus’ statement, the accusers left. When Jesus
        then said that He did not “condemn” the woman in v11,
        He uses the word “condemn” as in v10 – to pass a death
        sentence and determine to stone her to death. Jesus was saying
        that her accusers had not been willing to do that, so neither
        would Jesus condemn her to be stoned. According to the law, her
        accusers had to be the ones to cast the first stone. The law
        required a person to be put to death only if there were two or
        more witnesses to condemn them. They could not be condemned when
        there were no witnesses nor even if there was just one witness (see
        Deut. 19:15; 17:6). When the accusers left, Jesus could not stone
        her according to the law.

        Nevertheless, He knew she had sinned and needed to repent, so
        He still told her to sin no more. Note that, in saying this,
        Jesus was rebuking her sin in the very way people tell us we should not do
        today! He told her she was guilty of sin and needed to stop sinning. If we
        should not rebuke people
        for sin, why did Jesus say this? This is all we say to anyone
        when we tell them to repent. We are telling them they have sinned
        and need to stop it.

        In regards to male and female roles . . . God values people for their service, not their authority.

        This does not deny the existence of valid authority. Jesus used Himself
        as the example, and He possessed authority (Matt. 28:18; 7:29). The
        point is that possession of authority does not inherently make one
        great. People without authority can be just as great as those who have
        it. We are great to the extent that we serve, regardless of whether or
        not we possess authority. Since women can serve as usefully as men, it
        follows that women can be just as important as men.

        http://www.gospelway.com/religiousgroups/davinci-women.php

  • Megan Westra

    love, love, love!

  • Natalie Simmons

    I’ve been thinking along these exact lines and the refrain of 1 Cor 13 has been popping into my mind rephrased like this: my feminism is (should be) patient, my feminism is (should be) kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. My feminism (should) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

  • Douglas Humphries

    Excellent.

  • Oh Sarah, I love this so much. My feminism grew out of my faith; I became a feminist while attending a conservative Christian college (since then it has taken lots of interesting turns!). For me, being a feminist is another way of being like Jesus.

    • Vic Christian

      Just a sincere question – how does being a feminist differ from being a Christ following woman?

  • Leslie Gustafson

    Amen!! Thank you 🙂

  • Amanda O’Brien McKelvie

    I really appreciate this blog post. I believe that women and men are equal, and that Jesus (and Paul etc) went against cultural norms in how they treated women. I believe in justice for women all over the world. I am someone who takes the Scriptures on men and women in the New Testament pretty literally and look forward to seeing how you engage with those Scriptures in the book. I guess I fall more into the “compimentarian” way of thinking, and I have never felt oppressed, or felt that men at my church do not value me or that they think that i am less than them. Quite the opposite. I really do feel the way the NT presents it is quite beautiful and is not meant to oppress, but set free – but just like anything, if it is not done in the context of love, it won’t work. I have always felt that egalitarianism (sorry I know you are trying to get away from these terms) lets our culture colour the way we read the Scriptures, rather than letting the Scriptures colour how we see the world. BUT, I have not actually looked into this enough. I do plan to read Jesus Feminist, and look forward to being challenged by it. Even if at the end I disagree with some of it, we are still sisters because first and foremost, we are disciples of Christ.

  • tara

    you say “I still have to work out my salvation” – this is heresy!!!!!

    • Amanda O’Brien McKelvie

      “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”. – Philippians 2:12-13

      We do have to work out our salvation, and that is not the same as working to gain our salvation. THAT would be heresy. We have to work it out, but the mystery of it all is that it is GOD who is working in us.

  • Sarah, I love how your words are dripping, drenched in Biblical references with only a single glancing proof-text reference at the end. As in Jesus’ day, we are expected to “know” Scripture well enough that just a few words are sufficient to draw us into the text and the context in which your words are immersed. When Jesus states the Great Commandment, he draws from two different books of Torah. Your words extract from the Gospels, Paul’s letters, and the letters from the aging Son of Thunder and speak with authority. I hear Truth (who is a Person). I feel the Spirit and hear Her breath whispering through your lips (OK, literally your keyboard, but you get my point). Love. Love.

    Dear Son of Thunder, messenger to the church of Ephesus, I know your deeds and your toil and that you cannot tolerate evil, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and you found them to be false. Good job! You have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

    And I deeply believe that the above Revelation of Jesus to The Beloved Disciple led him to pen his letters and his good news which has now found new life through your prophetic voice.

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