PFOOSH! There, fizz all over…
I’m trolling for Tuna with 10 lbs. test line, but I can’t help but wonder about this. And for some very personal, and practical, reasons. But I, as many of you, have or am wrestling with this subject. And it’s not even that I have a predefined model that I want to prop up with proof texts. I’m past that point. You have to if you want to get a clearer understanding of the truth with fresh eyes. Forget what you think you know. The red pill, or the blue?
What do Paul’s letters, and Jesus’ amazingly liberal view toward the women of his day, have in common? Can they be reconciled? How can we reconcile some of the scripture with itself? How could Paul’s letters even be part of the recognized cannon after what Jesus did, or was the old Pharisee just running true to his upbringing, still a slave to the traditions of men? Was there a conspiracy against women in the early church that was somehow written into the “new scriptures” to make sure they behaved and kept their “place?”
Bottom line, how did Jesus coming to earth, and doing all that He did redeem our gender roles, as well as our sexuality? Seems like we need to discover this truth, this reality, yesterday.
There are too many instances of Jesus breaking the taboos of his day. Talking to women directly, many, many times. Allowing a woman with an issue of blood to touch him, and then to heal her, and to speak to her about THAT publicly! Defending a woman caught in the act of adultery in the wide open, defying the Law of Moses to it’s proponents because of their own failure to keep it. And his many statements about the sanctity of the marriage bond, striking at the root of the ‘divorce for any cause” game.
Jesus, for all of his perfect keeping of the Law, did not wield it as a light sabre, slicing his hearers in two. He did not come in order to make a more bullet-proof, sharper version of the Law. The Christian 10 Commandments. No, He came to break the chains that held us, the failure that haunted us. To crush the fallen institutions that sprung up from the roots of a Garden cut down long ago, lost in the mists of time. And to create new ones! And to make this Law a living part of our heart, a natural instinct and desire.
Now, if you look in the New Testament, there are enough places where Paul greets women, and names specific women as being fellow servants (diakonos).
But then, paradoxically, there are texts like 1 Timothy 3:1-16 that seem to say otherwise, that Deacons are to be the husband of one wife. A Husband is male, right? Thinking out loud, but could it be it that the wife of a Deacon was herself considered to be a Deaconess, an equal in the work of serving the body?
The Council of Nicea mentions Deaconesses specifically, as a specific order of servant within the church. And there is some debate that what was talked about in 1 Timothy 5:9-12, regarding widows being “enrolled”, actually referring to select widows being fully supported and engaged in the work of the church. Ministering as deacons. Deacons. I don’t think the capital “D” is required, or important.
Chrysostom, the iconic Orthodox Priest, spoke of female deacons in his writings. OK, bad pun.
But the latter seems to make sense to me, after reading through this entire passage. Older women, specifically widows age 60 or greater, cared for out of the benevolence of the church, ministered to the body as servants. As a deaconess. The requirements of a widow “on the list” sound strikingly similar to those of an overseer. And younger widows were not to be accepted, for they may be carried away by their passions, desire to marry, and thereby break their former pledge. So, what pledge did widows on the role make, that required them to exhibit such exemplary behavior, and was such a serious matter?
I think we get so wrapped around titles, hierarchy, and power, that we miss the simplicity of what is being said. The colored text above was added to emphasize the point that certain widows were held to the same high standards as Deacons, and seemed to have taken a serious vow prior to entering their vocation.
So perhaps those who are supported by the Body are servants of the body. How, and to whom, their ministry is directed is an entirely different question. There is certainly a case to be made for women sensitively ministering to the specific needs of women, in ways that men seldom could. Certainly Holiness, dignity, and propriety require a measure of separation in ministry.
God’s economy, the way He manages His household, has not been monolithic, or rigid. Even though we may look back and see it that way.
Deborah served as Judge in Israel. Several books of the Bible were written about women, their courage and bravery, obedience. Jael took down Sisera, and was called “most Blessed of women.” Ruth, Esther, and Susanna, depending upon your tradition.
Curiously enough, the hidden house church in China seems to be disinterested and unconcerned about this entire topic.
This is a fallen world, but it’s being redeemed. One day at a time, one step at a time. One person at a time.
And we must be honest, broken enough, to realize that God will move in ways that we least expect. Or may not fully grasp.
And care should be exercised when handling a Sword. It’s two edged, it cuts both ways.
I believe that Jesus came to redeem the relationship between men and women. That the confusion, apathy, striving and sin caused by the Fall will be reversed, healed. Eliminated.
Men will love and honor their women rightly, leading out of a free and healed heart. And women will respect and honor their men, free from any sense of inferiority or lack of trust in men, or God.
And we will both grow up into the image of God.