I recently finished the book Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey. I was not familiar with the author, but the subject is one I have been reading up on more and more over the last few years. I have always believed in the fullness of women in ministry, but it has been a view that many in the church do not seem to agree with. When reading the Bible, and noting the many, many women mentioned, I am often baffled by the church’s frequent stance that women cannot teach and preach.
So, for me, this book was like a breath of fresh air. There was a lot covered that I already knew, but there were many new revelations as well, and plenty of food for thought. Some of my favorite excerpts are below:
Life in Christ is not meant to mirror like in a Greco-Roman culture. An ancient Middle Eastern culture is not our standard. We are not meant to adopt the world of Luther’s Reformation or the culture of the eighteenth century Great Awakening or even the 1950’s America as our standard for righteousness. The culture, past or present, isn’t the point: Jesus and his Kingdom come, his will done, right now – that is the point.
Yes! I loved this point about how we are not of the world, which means we are not technically constrained by culture norms. Slavery was once a culture norm, but we have recognized that it is an evil, and in the fullness of Christ and the gospel, we cannot tolerate that evil. In the same way, we should not hold the patriarchal standards of ancient Palestinian culture up as “gospel.” Here is the is the gospel in a nut shell: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the messiah and the savior. When we believe in Him and follow his ways, we are saved and reaching for our own potential as full, redeemed, human beings…living in the grace and fullness of God.
Sarah makes another beautiful point along these lines:
Throughout scripture, we see this redemptive movement of the Spirit in operation. Jesus often practiced the redemptive movement himself in the gospels, showing how the Spirit moved the people of God (and therefore, eventually even humanity) further along toward His full intention. Jesus would teach or quote a portion of the law and then move us forward from our current place toward God’s original intent. For instance, instead of the familiar and accepted law of ‘an eye for an eye,’ Jesus moved the arc of redemption forward with, ‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ God is both here with us, and moving us onward to fullness.
I love this. We should realize that God is being patient with us as we get to a place of better understanding. Look how far humanity has come? If Eden was perfection, and Adam and Eve equals who literally walked with God (or metaphorically if you please), then everything should be moving us back to that point, to bringing God’s kingdom to fullness ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that women will not be relegated to women’s ministries and potlucks in heaven…just saying.
Finally, I really embraced a word from Genesis 1 and the creation story. Eve is described as “ezer kenegdo.” Often this is translated as “helpmeet” and has been (IMO) woefully misapplied/translated. Here is a better look at this phrase:
In the Old Testament, the word ezer appears twenty-one times in three different contexts: the creation of woman, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s helper for military purposes (in this context, ezer appears sixteen times). God isn’t a helpmeet in the watered-down milquetoast way we’ve been taught or understood that word within out churches, is he? No, our God is more than that, he’s a strong helper, a warrior. By naming his daughters after this aspect of his character, God did not name women as secondary helpmeet assistants. No, friend – women were created and called out as warriors.
I had no idea, NO IDEA, that the word used for woman had such a context, and for me, that changes everything. I am eager to read a book called, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Visions for Women, now that I have finished this one. I wonder how much more the church could be doing if we unleashed the full potential of women, half of the church, to follow the call of God’s will. If the warriors, the strong helpers were not held back, what would be impossible for us to do? I think bringing heaven to earth would be more of a possibility. I am excited, I will tell you that much…more excited than I have been in my faith in years.
I give this book four stars. It did drag a little bit toward the end and wandered in some places, but I truly loved it and highly recommend it as a “must read” for all of my sisters AND brothers in Christ. Let’s start working toward recognizing the completeness of God’s creation and intention. Amen.