Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life;” and from this biblical concept feminists must look at life and its fulfillment.
It has been stated that “life is religion” and religion is life.” And if God is sovereign, then His dominion must extend over all of life and cannot be shut up between the walls of a church or the circle of Christians. The world outside has not been abandoned to Satan, nor to fallen man nor to chance.
In this context we remember the mandate of our Lord, in reclaiming the world, (Mt. 28:18) “Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all.” In obedience we do God’s will through the process of sanctification, and this obedience should become as natural as breathing. In this mandate Jesus promises, “All power is given unto me, go ye therefore…” This power is given from the Holy Spirit, and we become new creatures in Him. Having been set free of ourselves, this relinquished life to Him “…is to be empowered with strength in the innerself by His Spirit” (Eph. 3:16). How are our tasks, gifts, and callings directed toward a fulfillment of life as feminists? What are the needs of this world in response to the gifts and charisms and life in Christ?
The Holy Spirit was poured out for ministry; Jesus began after the endument on Him (Luke 4:1). Jesus broke the last barrier of separation that had been imposed on women by tradition. The Holy Spirit baptized women like men and for the exact same purpose as men: they were baptized for service and ministry.
What was predicted in Joel 2 and fulfilled in Acts 2:17-18 is often forgotten nowadays. The church is a living active body, as proclaimed in Acts 1:8-14 where men and women were gathered together. This ministry must be taken into the market place even as Jesus did – “He saw the multitudes and said, “Come unto me, you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” As His followers we too must bring the Words of Life.
Astute Christians have frequently made comments that Christendom is deprived of the gifts of more than half of its membvership because people believe that the Bible teaches dominance of the male. One speaker made a point of comparison that God’s animals understand gifts better than the human species. None of us has seen a flock of female birds walking and groaning, “The males don’t allow us to fly: we may only walk.” No, when we approach a flock of birds picking worms or grain from the ground, they all take off and use the God-given wings as gifts to fly.
In Acts 8:3, the group of deeply commited men and women “turned the world upside down” and in consequence were persecuted and dragged to prison. If women had been doing oly household work, would Saul have emprisoned them too? The unfinished work of the Book of Acts stares us in the face after almost two thousand years. 60% of the world’s languages still need Bible transation, and 300 million people still have not heard the Word of Life.
Why then has the Gospel outreach been so hampered when we remember Jesus words, “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached over the whole world to testify to all nations, and then the end will come.” The opponent to the Trinity and the church has no interest in reclaiming the world from destruction and death. with death. The most successful strategy the opponent could use to obstruct the projection of the Gospel and bring disarray in the fulfillment of evangelization would be to attack God’s image-bearers in sex and race. A priest recently wrote in the Catholic Bulletin “I wept bitterly at this display of patriarchy. I wept with my excluded sisters and wept at my own chose place – ordained, vested and included.”
As Biblical feminists we must prursue the resources of wholeness and become redeemed from the paradigms of domination and subordination. The search for excellence has been made through various disciplines of historical Bible study, traditional criticism, archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and hermeunetics.
Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza writes in her book, In Memory of Her, of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head. Jesus declared “I tell you that wherever the Gospel will be preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will be told in her memory.” If the anonintng had only been of of the feet, it would not be remembered. Since the prophets of the Old Testament anointed the kings, this anointing of Jesus’ head by a woman was understood as a prophetic recognition of Jesus, the Anointed, the Messiah, the Christ! Whereas the disciples did not understand the suffering and Messiahship of Jesus, this woman did. The true followers of Jesus were the women who understood that His ministry was not a kingly glory but diakonia (service).
Let’s follow the Resurrection story from the Gospels. In John 20:1 Mary goes to the tomb and then tells John and Peter that the body is gone. Both hasten to the tome, but Jesus appeared not to them but to Mary after they had gone. The belief of John and Peter is stressed in vs. 9, “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture that He must rise again.” In Luke 24:1 ff two angels remind the women of Jesus’ former teachings (Luke 8:1 ff.) about His death and resurrection. They become the emissaries of the Resurrection doctrine. The response of the males disciples is discouraging: “These reports seemed nonsense to them; they did not believe the women.”
In Mark 16:1 ff. the women are also commissioned as evangelists, channels of God’s message. This Jesus did; “and He chided [the male disciples’] unbelief and hard-heartedness because they did not believe those who had seen Him risen.”
There are, of course, those who feel that the Bible is hopelessly patriarchal, but the Scripture record is for the biblical feminists. Theologies of Hebrew Scriptures have been characterized by feminists as being androcentric, masculinist and patriarchal. There are signs that God has numbered the days of this perspective. It has been found wanting and weighed in the balance of unbelief. By rendering women subordinate, invisible and inferior, it has made normative what Scripture deems an aberration. A non-patriarchal theology begins with fresh reading of the creation and its texts.
History indicates that the desire for dominance over others is the root of almost all moral evil – war, human bondage, murder, theft, etc. The promise was made for a Deliverer, and Christ came to set us free from all bondage and oppression. Are the promises to be priests and kings in passages such as Rev. 1:6 and 5:13 for men only? No, all are called, all are commissioned; and no separate moral principles, commands, rewards or promises are made to men and women. We are all called to servanthood, and God is no respecter of persons.
Women held office in the Old Testament too, even though their importance has been played down. What else must Deborah be before she is accepted when she held office as judge, prophet, and military leader? (Judges 4:4). Hulda was given a very important message at a crucial time in Israel when the Bible was lost (II Kings 22 and II Chronicles 34). The great contemporary prophet was Jeremiah, and Zephaniah too was active. Although there were four hundred prophets in Israel, it was she who proclaimed, “Thus saith the Lord;” and a mighty revival occurred.
What Jesus taught in his time constantly flew in the face of the legalists. In regard to humility, gentelness, servanthood and self-sacrifice – so often expected of women but not of men – we do well to remember His words: “Ye know that the rulers of the heathen lord it over them, and the mighty make them feel the weight of their authority. But it shall not be among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just as the Son of man did not come to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20…25-28).
Jesus honored women; he treated them as persons. Nor did he accept His culture’s definition of women as being primarily procreative. When a woman gave Jesus a compliment, “Blessed be the womb that bore you…,” He responded on the priority of personhood and relationship with God. This answer and priority was addressed at Mary and Martha’s home. To Martha’s anxiety over the kitchen and a meal for Jesus, He could be saying, “Martha, you must know who you are, you must receive before you can give; and wait on the Lord before you can go forth. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it shall not be taken away.”
If we want our lives to be filled with commitment, we must expect to be misunderstood as was Christ. When we are asked to love as He loved, we become love’s prisoner; and love makes tremendous demands when God is its object, expecially a crucified God. We can no longer do as we will; we must do the will of Jesus. With the light of God’s life shining from our eyes, the warmth as individuals burning from our hearts, may we go forward as God’s people. May we meet the challenge of promoting the feminine and masculine image of God as Creator and Redeemer. On an egalitarian basis – when will men and women stand shoulder-to-shoulder, walk hand-in-hand and speak together of God’s mercy, His love and His reconciliation?