“No one jostles for the position of servant.”
I heard Gayle Erwin say that (or something to that effect) and it stuck with me.
I read a number of blogs on the role of women, some of them arguing for the rights of women to receive titles and be recognized as church leaders, some of them worrying about the eternal repercussions of not defining gender roles properly. The push-back comments to these blogs, amusingly, are usually written by men. Some of them write about the roles of women in the home and in the church as if Adam received the specific command to pick the fruit and Eve’s job was to peel it, slice it, stir constantly over a low heat, and turn it into a nice compote, then clean up the dishes while her partner (did they ever sign a marriage license?) stared at the clouds and thought of names for animals.
There’s a whole bunch of history tied up in which scriptures either side of the debate choose to emphasize or downplay, but I won’t talk about that here, at least not now, because, frankly, I think they are distractions. It’s like the time the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus with questions about marriage in the next life (which they didn’t actually believe in. How serious can a question like that be?) His response was basically, “You really don’t get it do you?”
Sometimes I wonder, when we debate these kinds of things endlessly without getting an answer, if it’s because Jesus is still saying, “You really don’t get it, do you?”
Perhaps he is saying, “If you want accolades and public approval and recognition as a leader (male or female) you are missing the point. Don’t squabble over who gets to sit at the head of the table. It’s embarrassing when you get bumped off the seat of honour because I’m giving it to someone you never even noticed enter the room.”
This video shocked me. Many of you may know about Carol Kaye and who she is and what she accomplished. I didn’t. Since her name was often not even included in the credits, most people never knew that so many of the most famous bass guitar solos on hundreds of best-selling pop songs and TV and movie themes were played by an ordinary-looking woman who carried her guitar in and out of the studios right past the crowds waiting to worship “the big names.” She didn’t need the recognition to do what she did. She just loved music. And she created iconic music year after year. Check it out. If you’re older than iTunes I’m sure you’ve heard many of these.
Many of the women who followed Christ with their whole hearts (in his lifetime or shortly after his resurrection) didn’t wait for a board to give them a title at an ordination ceremony. They just did what they could. Jesus revealed his true identity for the first time to a Samaritan woman, and she, who had been rejected by five husbands but accepted by the Lord, became the first missionary.
Joanna and Susanna and Mary of Magdala used their means to finance Jesus and his disciples. Some, like Phoebe, carried valuable messages. Some, like Priscilla, taught men like Apollos who would go on to have a higher profile. Some, like Lydia, had the resources to allow a church to be based in their homes.
Some women stayed with Jesus through the worst of his suffering. Some prayed in the Upper Room believing for something they could not possibly imagine. Other women, like Dorcas, took care of the poor. One Mary was given the privilege of witnessing the greatest event in history and bringing her eye-witness report to the men, even though women then were not permitted to be legal witnesses.
Never forget that it was another very famous Mary (the one who burst out in a prophetic utterance that is still set to music by great composers), who physically carried the message of salvation, the Word of God incarnate, and not the man Joseph. Joseph’s job was to protect her. There are many others mentioned who served God, some in roles with titles, but most just quietly going about being who they were called to be and doing the works they were created to do, like Carol Kaye just did what she did, because she was good at it.*
Carol says this in the video: A note doesn’t have sex to it. You either play it good or don’t play it good. Some people can’t handle that.
Jesus had this to say to people who were discussing who was the most deserving amongst them: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22 – the story of his last night with them -and last conversations are always important.)
If you need a title and official recognition of a position with built-in authority and a ready-made group of followers before you can be who God intended you to be, no matter what your gender, you are not ready to lead.
Maybe that’s why Jesus liked women so much and entrusted them with some of the most important tasks in bringing the good news of the Kingdom. Women in those times didn’t have titles to fall in love with. They just loved Him. And He honoured them.
*The photo? A beautiful girl doing what she does well. Running and leaping.