Faye, a female Christian in the year 2013 greet the Apostle Paul, thanking him for his time and begin to conclude this series of letters.
Honestly Apostle Paul some of our 21st century’s churches could use a letter from you to straighten us out. For the only person who knows where Paul, the man with his bias and religious background that was so grounded in the Law came through in his letters to the churches and Titus and Timothy is you. You and Jesus.
My questions, my search, my dilemma and my thoughts have been real soul searching issues, I have not taken this journey lightly in any way. For as I studied your letters and the books whose authors quoted sources as old or older than parts of the Scriptures themselves, I have a couple images on my mind that serve to steady my legs and sit my feet on firm ground. The Holy Spirit has shown me the error of my plan, the one flaw that has been presence in my whole life of dealing with this issue – I’ve left out Jesus!
There have been countless times I’ve pondered the question of women in ministry, the roles they could and should take on and the roles they shouldn’t I’ve witnessed the steadfastness of women whose service to their churches kept their church’s doors open because there were no men to step forward. I’ve witnessed congregations where the women and men are still worshipping together but divided by gender. Sunday morning, at least for the mainstream congregations, I’ve long believed should be a time the spiritual health of families is improved by the family attending church together, sitting together, learning together, and serving together.
The cultural conditions of the time you wrote your correspondence to churches have to be considered also. But, the main consideration, the One upon whom all our lives are threaded into the tapestry of mankind’s history with God is Jesus. And in light of that revelation I see…
…the woman caught in adultery that John tells us about in John 8:2-11 who is drug from her bed to have her sin publically exposed. I can see her hanging her head in shame, fearful of the judgment she knows is coming, feeling the anger of the men who have accused her of adultery, who have witnessed her sin and who have chosen to make her an example and not the man who was sinning with her. A man who probably cooperated with those who set up the plan to force Jesus to condemn her. This woman is guilty and she knows it. Despite being set up, for what are the chances that two or more witnesses would happen upon a man and woman committing adultery, she is guilty of what she has been accused of. Of course, so is the man who she was with and the same Law that condemns her condemns him but he is not being used as a pawn to trap Jesus.
And she waits, this guilty woman before the Savior of the world, the promised Messiah, the Son of God to be condemned to die by stoning. When Jesus is silent and the crowd hushing in His silence, she must have dared a look at Him through her tangled hair and her tear filled eyes and see Jesus bend down and write upon the earth. Her astonished ears hear Him tell the angry mob of people around her, rocks in hand to stone her, that the one there without sin in their lives can cast the first stone. And the longest moments of her life pass as she waits for the first blow, the first stone to hit its mark and instead her ears are greeted by the thuds of the stones falling to the ground and her accusers turning and walking away. Finally, again she looks up and this time meets Jesus’ eyes and answers His question, “Woman where are your accusers?” And with shaking voice she answers that they have gone. Then her astonishment overflows as Jesus tells her that He will not condemn her either and to go and leave her life of sin. She stood before Jesus, the Messiah, the One who will one day announce judgment on us all and was shown mercy, incredible mercy and fairness. In a time in society where women were not often shown kindness or consideration by men, Jesus had compassion, He saw the value of this woman to the kingdom of God. He frees her by reminding men that they do have sins in their lives, only no one challenges them, but their secrets are not secret to God and they lack the right to condemn this woman. A message that we all should do far more examinations of our own hearts, souls and motives than be concerned about someone else’s sin.
I see the Samaritan woman at the well, again an adulteress, who is the first person Jesus reveals Himself to as the promised Messiah and with whom Jesus interacts as no Jewish man would dare interact with a Samaritan woman or man! Jesus is at that well for a divine appointment to meet this one woman. And out of this meeting, out of His love, understanding and great mercy a woman is saved from the fires of hell and goes and tells the others who have long shunned her for her lifestyle who and what Jesus is and by her testimony others come and many are given the same Living Water the Samaritan woman is. Jesus shared the truth of Himself in a straight forward and complete way to another woman that the Law would condemn and John tells us in John 4:4-42.
I see Mary, as Luke describes in Luke 10:38-42, looking up at her sister Martha from her seat at Jesus’ feet when Martha points out that her sister is leaving her to do all the work. My eyes see the blush of embarrassment on Mary’s face as her sister points out her lack of womanly attention to the tasks of being a hostess to not only Jesus but the room filled with other men, the other disciples and her own brother Lazarus and probably others. I imagine she is thinking that Martha is spoiling this for her for now surely Jesus will side with Martha and send her to do the tasks of a hostess, to help Martha. Mary isn’t trying to shirk her responsibilities but how often will she have opportunity to sit and learn from the Messiah Himself? She only wants to be there listening and learning. Why any of them should be concerned about their hunger for physical food when their souls can feast on the spiritual banquet before them? They will eat! Will it matter, really, if all the manners and customs of the day are kept? Then I see the look of relief on her face as Jesus answers Martha by saying, “Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”(v41-42)
The picture Luke gives us isn’t of Mary being indulged or pampered as a child or encouraging her as a woman being obsessed with Jesus romantically. In my mind I don’t see Jesus ignoring Mary as she sits there or merely tolerating her presence. Instead I note that He does not send her into the kitchen. I don’t see Him ignoring her questions nor do I see Him addressing her heart issues, though being who He was He surely knew what was in her heart as if by chance but I hear Him allowed her to ask her questions or even address her with a question of His own to help her reveal her own searching. Yet she sat in submission at His feet because of who He was, the Messiah! He is God! Everyone should have sat at His feet.
Finally I see Mary Magdalene and the other women coming to the tomb where Jesus body was supposed to be laying and discovering an empty tomb. I see Mary finding Jesus before her and Him telling her to go and tell His brothers He is alive. A woman is the first to learn of the greatest truth in mankind’s history! (John 20:1-18)
For today this is where I leave you Apostle Paul, you and I both, as well as my readers who are on this journey with me with the images of these women and their unique relationship with Jesus Christ.
Until the conclusion,