Saturday, February 26, 2005

Equality and Equal Standing

Here is my first installment on church memories, which influenced me for good and calling me to live out Jesus’ commands.

During the Christmas Eve service back in December I noticed that all the acolytes were female. Tears welled up as I remembered the times I, too, served as an acolyte back in the 1970s. My oldest sister was the first female acolyte at my church. I followed in her footsteps several years later along with my middle sister. (For those unfamiliar with the liturgical worship service, acolytes assist the priest as they prepare the sacraments for Holy Communion. Acolytes also light the sanctuary candles, carry the financial offerings from the people to the priest, and present the crucifix during the processional.)

Anyway, as I watched those young ladies during the Christmas Eve service I was gratified to see females continuing to perform this service at the Lord's Table. I am grateful to have been raised in a church that allowed women to serve right beside men. From a relatively young age I saw the verse written by Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” lived out in practice. Galations 3:26-29

I married a man with courage and insight to question cultural teachings passed down through the generations regarding out-of-balance gender roles. I’m grateful for this. His intellect and adept logic keep me on my toes, yet he listens to me and learns from me as I do from him…equality and equal standing.

My mother and father also influenced my thinking regarding gender equality (probably more than they realize) though they would not describe themselves as feminists. Dad and I often discussed politics, economics, and religion. He encouraged me to pursue a career of my choice and erected no barriers based on my gender.

My mom taught me that Jesus was the first women’s liberator. Her comment now makes sense in retrospect as this was in the 70s during the modern feminist movement. Jesus’ respect of women was radical during the first century. He loved his women followers just as he did his male followers. He welcomed women into his midst, called them to follow him, touched them, conversed with them, healed them, ate with them, visited their homes, and received gifts from them. He also trusted a woman to be a reliable witness of his resurrection during a time when women were considered unreliable witnesses and easily deceived.

Doesn’t it seem that Jesus restored women’s dignity? He telegraphed a value statement, i.e. communicated value to them by his actions. He invited them to be at “his table” by eating with them, speaking to them, listening to them.

Respecting the value of both men and women and abolishing barriers that prevent each from fulfilling their life's mission seems a worthy cause and a foundational principle worth choosing.