I have been reading ‘Half The Church’ by Carolyn Custis James and loving it. I was planning to write down my thoughts in response when I was done but I am two chapters in and already am overflowing with words – so I am going to do a series of responses instead. These posts may be longer than usual.
The book echoes one of the big questions I have had – Is God’s vision and plan for his daughters big enough to include every women’s story from the beginning to the final chapter? Is there room for me and my experiences and the ways they are different and the same as the experiences of other women globally? I have realized I need answers that hold up under the weight of every women’s reality, and won’t collapse when faced with the real experiences of real women. For I am overflowing with questions.
I need these answers. The world needs these answers and the church desperately needs these answers – for when half the church holds back, whether by our choice or by the choices of others – everyone loses.
The search for answers in this book is very heavily influenced by the book Half the Sky – which looks globally at the suffering of women and how it holds humanity back. Christians are good in a crisis – floods and fires, we are there in compassionate truckloads. But we often have missed the chronic, systemic tragedies that steal far more lives one by one.
The truth is, worldwide, equality still means getting access to things we take for granted here – education, healthcare, legal help and autonomy. We cannot talk about God’s message for women and apply it only to our isolated western world. To do so is culturally blind. God’s message for women, if it is to be true, must be universal – for all women’s lives, regardless of place or circumstance. God’s message is that no life is every beyond the reach of his restorative powers, his everlasting grace.
When new ideas surface, cultural shifts occur or injustice comes to light, Christians tend to retreat to the bunker. But this is not the answer to anything. We must rise to challenge, and test the Bible’s message and see if it holds up under the worst that the 21st Century has to give.
Women are the world’s greatest unused resource. We are not a problem, but our own solution – for when women are educated and empowered, they bring good to communities and economies. The world, that is temporary and fading, is in dire need of women. The church, which is everlasting, is in even more need. Half the church’s gifts are unused. Men are shouldering burdens meant to be shared and the church is unable to fulfill the mission given to us all to complete. We are costing the lives of people needing Jesus when we encourage women to hold back.
The good news is that it is not too late. We can display to the world the radical greatness of Jesus and his gospel, and the difference he makes in relationships between the genders as we serve him together.
For God has named us all as his image bearers. He gave us all the same responsibilities when he entrusted us with creation. When we read the early chapters of Genesis we should see God setting the stage for the story about to play out, casting all humanity in leading roles and showing us his plan for the world. Though we live in a broken ruin of that world God created, his vision for us is still the same. Jesus came to connect us back to God and bring us back into relationship with him.
God has made a relationship with himself the center of his purpose for humanity and for the world. He is our north star, our reference point. We are to study him to become like him, to see the world through his eyes, love what he loves and grieves what he grieves.
Jesus came to put us back on mission as God’s representatives in this world.