What do I believe?

What do I believe?

I started this blog because I needed a place to work through my questions and search for the grace of God in the piles of answers and opinions. As you’ve probably noticed, finding my place in God’s family and in God’s plan as a woman has featured heavily in my search.

I feel like I have been waiting until I have all the answers and the jigsaw falls into place to define what I believe. I thought one day it might all click into place and I would have eloquent answers, better than what the best theologians and writers have come up with. I would defend my beliefs and persuade my listeners. They wouldn’t doubt that I was right. I wouldn’t doubt that I was right.

To state the obvious, that’s not going to happen. I will disagree with people and they will disagree with me. Sometimes they will be people I care about and respect. But we will still disagree and we will still be united in Christ and we will still press on with living out the Gospel in our messy lives.

So what do I believe?

I believe in a priesthood of all believers. I believe we are the new people of God, chosen out of the world (see 1 Peter 2). I don’t know what this means for free will and predestination and all those other things we Christians like to argument about. But I believe that God is good and he knows best.

In this new priesthood, where we are called to be like Jesus, the true high priest (see Hebrews 7) I believe we are called to be one. I believe we are to serve God with our gifts, united in Christ. I don’t think it is a coincidence that in 1 Corinthians 12  Paul talks about spiritual gifts and division and unity side by side. I think that deciding who is in and who is out and who has spiritual gifts and who gets to use those spiritual gifts has been one of the biggest causes of division in the church. One that I thought was addressed and decided at the cross, and again at the Reformation – we are all in! We are all part of the family of God and we are all, male, female, Jew, Gentile, slave and free, loved by God and made one in Jesus (Galatians 3:28). The divisions caused by sin were destroyed at the cross. The command to be God’s witnesses to the world (Acts 1:8) wasn’t just for some of God’s family. It was for us all. This is what I believe. Grace was poured out at the cross, undiscriminating, just as Jesus was undiscriminating in his life in who he loved and spent time with. To limit and restrict roles and jobs and tasks in the massive undertaking of taking God’s good news to the world doesn’t make any sense in light of what the Bible tells me.

I have done a whole series on this blog about Half the Church – the book by Carolyn Custis James that explores the exact damage done when half the church is left out or holds back and how the mission of God to reach the world with his good news suffers. I won’t go into it again here, but I firmly believe that women have been given gifts and time and energy to serve God with, and at the end we will have to give an account for what we did with those things. The kingdom of God is frankly far too busy and has far too much to do to continue arguing about who gets to do what. We’re all in. All on mission for Jesus, all giving it our all – if that means a woman leading or preaching or teaching, so be it. As long as Jesus is proclaimed.

So what do I believe?

I believe Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is the head of me. That Jesus would ask me to submit to anyone other than him as my head doesn’t make sense to me or sit right with me. It sends me back to before the Reformation, when I would have had to go through a man, a priest, to speak to God. Of course the idea of Headship in marriage or in church leadership isn’t that extreme in most churches (though to be clear, it very much is that way in some churches – churches my friends go to).

I’ve heard the arguments for Headship and leadership in marriage. I’ve heard all the interpretations of Ephesians 5, that while wives submit, husbands are giving themselves up for her as Christ did for the church. But none of them convince me. Nothing has convinced me that Sarah Bessey wasn’t right when she answered, when asked who the Spiritual Head of her home was, that it was Jesus, only ever Jesus.

So what do I believe?

I believe in grace, Transforming, restorative grace. I cling to this grace as the only thing I know for sure. Jesus loves this world he made, he came and he died for all of it – all of us – and he died, his hands stretched out in surrender. The story didn’t end though, and he didn’t stay dead. He was more powerful than death, and his goodness and love and mercy was more than death could hold. He rose and he stretched out his hands again, this time offering life abundant, eternal and overflowing.

Grace transforms. It takes hard, legalistic hearts and makes them soft. It turns outsiders into insiders, exclusivity into welcoming embraces and hate into love. Self centredness into other centredness. Despair into joy. Shame and guilt into freedom and delight. It turns sinners into children of God.

It turns us – selfish humans clinging onto our rights and just demands into followers of Jesus who are willing to give up, to sacrifice our rights and demands if it means someone might hear about Jesus, if it means fighting for those without a voice.

So what do I believe?

I read a lot of historical fiction set around the time of the Reformation, which, considering the interesting mix of opinions I hold, makes me glad we don’t burn heretics anymore. I doubt that I will be called to give my life defending my beliefs.

But then why do I feel I have to hide away my opinions, keep quiet and not rock the boat?

I suspect many people I know would see these beliefs as a mix of heresy and ill-thought-out wishes for how reality could be. I change my mind on what I believe so often – one day retreating into the comfort of the known-ness of childhood beliefs and the next venturing forth into new, progressive territories – that I’ve been reluctant to write down for certain my opinions and feelings and gut instincts.

I guess part of it is that I don’t have the energy to constantly defend myself. Maybe I’m afraid that if I say, out loud, what I believe, I will have to have reasonable arguments to justify it. Maybe I am afraid that in the face of well put together arguments and confident arguers, I will concede these beliefs. Maybe I’m just a coward and it’s easier this way.

So what do I believe?

More than anything in the world, I believe God is good, grace is powerful and he has it all in his hands. I could be right or wrong on all these things, but ultimately it won’t matter. My right opinions won’t save me and my wrong opinions won’t condemn me. Jesus has saved me. Grace has saved me. Thank goodness for that.

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