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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ponderings of a Woman

 Proverbs 11:16 "A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches."


Recently I had an amazing conversation with a friend overseas who is seeking to know more about Jesus. We have been working through the book of Luke. In light of Easter, our conversation veered to Jesus' resurrection and the first person Jesus revealed Himself to. I have always been astounded that people who haven't really studied the Bible are quick to say that the Bible and Jesus are anti-women. When you look at Jesus' ministry, He actually elevated women from their lowly position in the culture to their rightful place as equal image bearer of God as men. God created men and women in His image and they each are valuable to Him. Although God created different roles for us, we are all equal in God's eyes. I think we too often get off track because we are so focused on roles and titles, that we are missing the bigger picture. 

In Nik Ripken's book The Insanity of God, he points out something interesting in the Chinese church. The women were focused on their one God given task...to share the gospel of Jesus with everyone around them. Nik said, "The women, in particular, were passionate evangelists. They had spiritual fire in their bones. I sense that they could have witnessed about Jesus for three hours straight without stopping to take a breath. Their passioned their enthusiasm were astonishing." These women had planted churches all over China. Everyone at the conference referred to the women as evangelists and church planters. It was at this point that Nik realized something: "I had assumed that being a leader or pastor of a house church was the most dangerous position. After listening to these women, however, I began to wonder...Fulfilling the role of an evangelist or church planter required witnessing to non-believers. It was a constant danger to interact with people and to decide whterht or not those people could be trusted. These evangelists relied on the leadership of God's Spirit when it came to the matter of trusting people. They were passionate about sharing their faith, but they knew how much risk was involved." They explained to Nik that as leaders are imprisoned, another leader takes that person's place. "We simply do what we have been trained to do; we take God's Word and we share it. When people receive the message, new churches are started. That seems to be the way God grows His church." 

Nik continued in amazement, "These women seemed completely uninterested in titles, positions, and formal structure. They were committed to sharing the story of Jesus; nothing else seems to matter to them...These believers seems to understand that the only thing that mattered was sharing Jesus...these women, in particular, didn't seem to have the time or the inclination to debate responsibilities or titles within the church." 

So here are the thoughts I am pondering. Are we so caught up in our position regarding egalitarianism vs complementarianism that we are not doing our main calling from Jesus? Maybe if we were more consumed with passion over lost souls then our fixation on titles or positions of women, maybe there would be a revival in our country that we've been praying for? There are many things in the Bible that have tension...things where both play a part but to what extent we will never know this side of heaven (election vs. free will; how men and women are equal, yet called to different roles - I always view this in light of The Triune God. Each part of the Trinity is God, and yet they each play a different role. One isn't more important than the other, but they each play an important role. That is how I view men and women in the church. I as a woman am equally loved and valued by God. I also have a role to play in the church as well.)

I think the church in America would be wise in paying attention to the church around the world, especially what was written above about China. If we are focused on our mission of reaching the lost for Jesus, than our title and role should not be important. That is a man-made/egocentric concept. Our focus should be on the fact that we are Child of God, an image bearer, who is commanded by Jesus to share this Good News (Gospel) with everyone...from our local area to the ends of the earth. 

My friend from Chicago, Leah Sernas, wrote this the other day on her Facebook page and I loved reading it. God truly loves women and interacts with them throughout the Bible. I think she writes some beautiful truths below:

For my Philosophy and Theology segment this semester, we had to read through Genesis, Exodus, and Job in the Old Testament and John, Matthew, and Romans in the New Testament. I told Ruben I was particularly intrigued with studying God's interactions with women. It is moving to see God's heart for the unloved women like Hagar and Leah in the OT. Both were not preferred by their husbands, yet God went out of His way to affirm their significance, promising Hagar a heritage for her and her son Ishmael and for Leah, a line of Kings (David and Jesus) through her son Judah. Unlike Rachel, who held onto her dad's household idols, Leah loved God and was buried in the Cave of Machpela in the Promise Land that had not yet come to be. She had the gift of faith and persevered to the end. And God was with her in her rejection and loneliness as the unloved one.

The New Testament reveals another special status for some that was unheard of in ancient times - your identity in Christ as the source of blessing. This is most especially seen in Mary Magdalene and her friendship with Jesus, her Savior. She did not need to be his wife, mother, sister, or even a relative. Hersimple faith in Him is what determines her importance to Him. She is remembered as the one who professes her faith in Christ even before the resurrection of her brother Lazarus. She is praised by Jesus before judgmental men as she douses his feet with her hair and expensive peruse right before His crucifixion. Though women were never considered good enough witnesses in the court system, Jesus chose her over the apostles, His best friend John, and His mother Mary to be the very first witness of Himself in his resurrected body. He spoke to her first. She was and is important to Him.

But why share this when feminism and egalitarianism are rocking the church? Well, I think in conservative circle, we often do default into rallying to the call of being a wife and mother in an attempt to reduce what has often been denigrated in the larger society. But sometimes, we do this so much heath many of our single young adults do think that being a wife and mother are the only roles that hold significant in a faithful Bible believing church. Even lines of friendship are determined this way - that one struggles in making friend without a spouse or children.

But what is the story of Mary Magdalene? That our worth is not to whom we are married nor in the children we bear nor to whom we are related. Family and marriage are blessed callings but there is one still greater - adoption by God the Father through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Friendship with Christ is the greatest identity we can aspire to and that in itself is what we can most treasure and also affirm in others, single, married, and those with or without children.

I am thankful fro the life of Mary Magdalene and the truth God is showing me through her life. This has ramification on so many levels from helping those struggling with same sex attractions or ministering to those who are single or comforting the infertile couple or even being aware of the messages we convey to our children about the ideal life. The life we ought to encourage them to is falling in love with Christ and serving in His church. It also means finding beauty in all the ways God has created this world and not just through familial love. Of course, marriage and children are wonderful gifts; we can give praise to God and encourage our children towards that life. But also, there is much to be praised in friendships outside the family line - those who do not look and act like you yet also love the LORD. There is much to be praised in the beauty of creation and finding solace there. Or in studying how He has formed and works providentially in this world. Marriage and children are not the only sources of happiness that He gives. It is Christ first and then all that He gives your individually and the church you are found in. What matters now in this life is eternal communion with Him, no more, not less. Solus Christus.  


Prayer Requests:

* Pray for Wayne's upcoming MRI on 3/23

* Pray for DJ and wisdom for the doctors

* Pray for my friend Amy and her children as they are walking through the last days with their beloved husband/father.


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