These days I’m feeling lost between two Christianities. There’s the Christianity where I know that Jesus wants us to treat everyone with respect, put the needs of others before ourselves – and what that looks like is visiting the ill, imprisoned, feeding the hungry, providing clothes, caring for the widows and orphans – which are the down-and-out and under-represented people who are often over-looked or forgotten. There’s this other Christianity where I know that the most important thing is going to church, listening to the teachings, obeying the pastors, elders, and deacons, and easing their burden by making it a delight for them to serve us by living according to our roles – men as men doing the things that men do and women as women doing the things that women do.
On Sunday, we were discussing one of the passages where a woman of the night walks into the dining room of a powerful Pharisee where Jesus is feasting and anoints his feet. The question came up: “Isn’t that trespassing?” To which I pointed out that our concept of public and private space isn’t analogous to the Biblical reality. Communal spaces – living rooms, dining rooms, and courtyards, for instance were more like public spaces. That’s why in Matthew 9, Jesus could have dinner with Matthew and his disciples, many more tax collectors and sinners could sit down to eat with them without raising alarm, and the Pharisees, who could see this going on, could stop and ask the disciples what Jesus was up to. Same thing happens at Levi’s house in Mark 2. Could you imagine such a thing in your dining room? (If you really want to learn something, look up a triclinium – the ancient Israelites of this era ate while lying down on them while balancing on their left arms and reaching for food with their right.) At the end of class, many of the people there were saying that I should be a teacher because I know so much.
Now I know that the first Christianity would have no problem with that – Jesus didn’t specify that only a certain kind of person can fulfill the great commission, be teachers, be helpers, be givers, be visitors – anyone and everyone is expected to do whatever they can in according with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the second Christianity would consider it unbiblical. I really wouldn’t want to be a teacher if it was limited to pushing the play button on the DVD Player or doing it according to the step-by-step instructions in most Bible Studies. But I guess I shouldn’t worry because spiritual instruction and insight can only come from men.
That’s the one thing about these two Christianities that has me most confused. What is it about being a woman that makes my knowledge of lesser quality, my insights worthy of less consideration, or contributions limited to only ‘out of sight’ ministries in one Christianity but not the other? What is it about men being men makes them better at visiting the ill or the imprisoned, donating to charities, providing coats, feeding the hungry, or championing the causes of the oppressed in all of the ‘visible’ ministries? Which Christianity is the right one? The one that is all about works backing up one’s faith, or faith without works? I don’t know. Perhaps the division is half the problem – we need a Christianity that is united and has erased these and other dividing lines – not one that continues to separate, subtract, and divide.