#LentTogether: Men and Women in Community

#LentTogether: Men and Women in Community

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Taken from “Life Together in Christ” by Ruth Haley Barton for the #LentTogether Blog Series

“Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”

Luke 24:22-23

At the risk of stating the obvious, these verses indicate that women and men together made up the community of Jesus. This might not seem like a big deal to us, but in the Jewish culture of that day, the way men and women were together in community around Jesus was fairly radical. In the synagogues at that time men and women were separated by a curtain; women and girls were not taught the Torah, and they served quietly in the background as the menfolk discussed and argued about spiritual matters. Women were not allowed to speak or ask questions in public gatherings, let alone teach or proclaim anything important.

The fact that Jesus appeared first to women at the tomb, interacting with them intimately and substantively about the resurrection, was quite out of the ordinary. He then charged them with announcing the good news to the rest of the disciples, complete with instructions for their next steps! That Jesus gave the women instructions for the male disciples was even more unusual—so much so that some scholars have suggested this remarkable and very specific detail serves as historical evidence for the resurrection. No one trying to fabricate a believable resurrection story would have included such a culturally unbelievable detail!

Jesus’ presence on the earth brought about many different kinds of needed change in our world, and one of the most significant was a transformation in relationships between men and women. Fresh from God, he was remarkably unencumbered by the cultural norms of the day—norms that had been shaped more by sin patterns in the world than by God’s ideal. Even a cursory look at Scripture (especially the Old Testament) reveals disturbing patterns in male- female relationships that were far from God’s original and best plan—a partnership model in which man and woman together would fully reflect the image of God.

Every time Jesus interacted with women or helped men and women interact with one another, he modeled new relating patterns that began the process of redeeming all of us from the oppressive effects of the curse on male-female relationships. That is why we see Jesus talking to an immoral woman about theology, worship, the state of her relationships and the state of her soul (John 4). It’s why we see him pointing out to a group of religious leaders that a woman caught in adultery was no more guilty than they were (John 8:1-11), and why we see him receiving Mary’s act of worship as much more meaningful than anything that was going on in the synagogues (John 12:1-8). It’s why some of his best friends were women—indicated by his visits in their homes (Luke 10:38-42), the give-and-take in their conversations (John 11:1-44), and the fact that they were last at the cross and first at the tomb (Mark 15:40-47).

All of this is to say that oneness, equality and mutuality across lines of race, socioeconomic status and gender are significant aspects of transforming community. In communities gathered around the transforming presence of Jesus, women and men of different races, ethnic groupings and income levels experience—perhaps for the first time—equal opportunities and invitations to serve, lead and participate in the life of the community. Everywhere you look you see men and women with their sleeves rolled up serving side by side, in their clerical robes preaching and leading worship side by side, or in the board room discerning side by side. Since men and women together fully reflect the image of God, how could it be any other way in the community that he has formed through the person and work of Christ?

What have you observed about relationships between women and men in the body of Christ? Have you witnessed and experienced the kind of equality and mutuality described here? How do you respond to the vision of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ described here? Comment below with your personal reflections!

Taken from Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright (c) 2014 by Ruth Haley Barton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

About the Author

Ruth Haley BartonRuth Haley Barton is founding president/CEO of the Transforming Center. A seasoned retreat leader and spiritual director, she has ministered to the soul care needs of pastors and leaders for over twenty years. She is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life, including Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Sacred Rhythms, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Pursuing God’s Will Together, and the upcoming Invitation to Retreat.

Connect with Ruth by reading her blog or listening to her podcast, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. You can also follow the Transforming Center on Twitter: @TransformingCnt.

Recommended Reading

Life Together in ChristHave you joined a church or small group in hopes of experiencing real life change, only to be disappointed? Community may be one of the most over-promised, under-delivered aspects of the Christian life today. In Life Together in Christ Ruth Haley Barton helps us get personal and practical about experiencing transformation together. This interactive guide allows us to grow through and by the experience of transforming community.

“A new book by Ruth Haley Barton never disappoints and this one is no exception. This book will help you walk with others on the way of Christ. It has the potential to change individuals and communities.” —David G. Benner, author of The Gift of Being Yourself