Imagine waking up one day without sensations in your body. You make a cup of hot tea and drink it without noticing the burning to your hands, mouth and throat. You sit through a long meeting forgetting to shift in your chair, because you cannot feel the loss of circulation in your legs or back. Dr. Paul Brand noted the devastation of patients living with leprosy, a crippling disease that robs the body of its capacity to feel pain and therefore protect itself.
A similar phenomenon can occur between groups of people. After interviewing Nazi war criminals, one historian noted that the most pervasive trait of perpetrators was their inability to feel the pain inflicted on fellow human beings — the Jews. History teaches us that failure to recognize and empathize with suffering is dangerous physically and spiritually.
I wonder if something similar has happened in the body of Christ. Part of the body is hurting, but needed change is not being made. The Bible says, “If one member suffers, all members suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). But how do Christians respond to reports of the discrimination, poverty, disease and misogyny that women endure every day around the globe?
Early this year I met with a Christian leader who works with women and children in Africa. He said, “Mimi, many within the church know the suffering caused by AIDS in Africa. Despite this knowledge, hardly anyone is lifting a finger to help!” The desperation in his voice continues to haunt me. As I ponder this dilemma, I notice two things.
First, the oppression of women is systemic, crippling women in one way or another in every nation on the globe. Unfortunately, for centuries the Bible has been used to oppress women, keeping them dependent and vulnerable to abuse and violence. Women’s gifts have been devalued, and their callings discounted. Second, as Christians, we know that sin is at its roots. While we may not be able to rescue every suffering woman, we can work hard to dislodge the sin.
At CBE we provide a biblical basis for the dignity, respect and equal treatment of women in the church and Christian home. We labor to bring biblical resources that raise the value and status of women, distributing them to institutions of higher education, churches and missionaries around the globe. And this year, CBE has initiated an endowment fund that will help bring people from other countries to our conferences, beginning with the conference in 2003: “Celebrating the Priesthood of All Believers: Serving Christ as a Global Community.”
CBE continues to confront abuse through numerous publications, by hosting conferences and workshops, and through our counselors and therapists network. Our biblical resources have been a lifeline and a point of healing for many. For this we are grateful.
Men and women around the world from every walk of life are “lifting a finger” each week in the ministry of CBE. So, perhaps the question is not why hasn’t anyone lifted a finger, but why are so many people in CBE giving so much, when they stand to gain so little? The men and women of our community are devoted to lifting their fingers in prayer, in writing books and articles, in establishing endowment funds, in serving on committees, in building chapters, in volunteering in our office and at conferences, in donating their expertise, and in building churches that honor and empower all people, without respect to gender, race and class.
Within the ministry of CBE, we see the sensation and color slowly return to the body of Christ. More and more people begin to feel the injustice and pain of its members and move to correct the situation. We rejoice that our brothers and sisters are learning to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and to mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Because of their efforts, every day we hear from someone who was near despair, but now has found joy and encouragement in the understanding that “in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”