“For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14).
It was the week of my final interview for ordination. I had turned in my paper on pastoral theology, passed one round of interviews at the conference level, and was headed into my interviews on the national level. I was taking a class that same week with fellow ministers, male and female, in various stages of the ordination process. It just so happened that those of us in the final stage in the class were women.
I’ll never forget the moment the entire class surrounded us, laid hands on us, and prayed for our interviews. One prayer has never left my head or my heart.
A brother thanked God for breaking down the wall of hostility that once divided us, through Jesus’ work on the cross. This fellow minister quoted a verse in Ephesians that focuses on the unity God brought Jews and Gentiles, applying it to the men and women in that very room. It remains one of the most powerful prayers I have ever heard because he was praying into an often-unacknowledged kingdom reality. The wall of hostility that once divided men and women is no longer there.
What a powerful moment that was—to sit under the weight of our brothers’ hands as they blessed us, prayed for us, sent us out, and boldly acknowledged that we are no longer divided! Together, we declared the truth made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Men and women, we are one in Christ.
I realize how rare that moment is for many sisters pursuing ministry. How odd to see the hands of their brothers beckoning them inside the circle of leadership instead of pushing them out. How tragically unfathomable for their brothers to empower and bless their callings!
I am blessed to be a part of a denomination that believes in and lives into our new reality in Christ. This new reality includes a new way of living with one another. Meaning, we no longer choose to live divided. We acknowledge our freedom in Christ.
Often, our churches and world do not reflect this new reality. We are still stuck in the old paradigms, bound by invisible cords that have already been broken. It’s as though someone unlocked the jail door for us, but we have yet to seize liberation.
That new reality of freedom is in conflict with the old reality of bondage. But that is temporary. It will only last until our full redemption, when all things are made new. Power imbalances continue to exist between men and women, and responsibility is still unequally distributed. Yet, a day is coming when all things, including gender relationships, will be made new.
In the meantime, however, how do we live out kingdom reality while the old order is still alive and well?
Here are some practical ways to demonstrate the kingdom truth that the wall between men and women has been broken down.
1. “Open Doors” for Women
Men in the church: notice a woman with a particular gift or interest in leading, teaching, preaching, etc. Encourage her to pursue it and, if you have the capability, open a door for her to begin.
2. Take Teachable Moments
When conversations turn toward the old paradigm (our current political situation brings many opportunities for combatting racist and sexist remarks), humbly and lovingly share a kingdom-minded perspective. Explain how you see things, refute a misperception, ask good questions, and give examples of how things could be different.
3. Use Your Gifts Without Embarrassment
I often struggle with how much I should “put it out there” that I am a pastor, especially with groups of people that I know don’t approve. I challenge myself to humbly yet confidently state my profession and graciously live into what God has called me to do.
4. Find Ways to Serve Together
Male pastors, I challenge you to co-preach, co-teach a class, or co-lead pre-marital counseling with a woman. Do whatever you can to ensure that both men and women are up front on Sunday mornings. Always insist that both men and women be represented on church leadership teams.
There are many ways to live into this new reality. Today, simply remember that the wall of hostility between us has been broken down. The wall that once divided men and women no longer exists. In Christ, we are free.