“Feminist” doesn’t have the greatest connotation. People start getting uncomfortable when it’s used, shifting in their seats, emotions rising. And then you throw “Jesus” in there, and no one has any idea what to expect. For many, I’m sure “Jesus Feminist” sounds like an oxymoron. But for Sarah Bessey, and for everyone who calls themselves Jesus Feminists, it’s the most intuitive combination.
Caring for the women of the world is a natural outcome of falling in love with Jesus.
I’ve loved reading Sarah’s blog for a couple years now. Jesus Feminist is an extension of everything good in her blog: it’s a poetic, intimate, inspiring celebration of Jesus’s vast love for everyone, especially women.
Through personal stories and honest woman-to-woman talk, Jesus Feminist is a balm of comfort to women who are downtrodden and tired. Though I have many favorite aspects of the book, one certainly is that Sarah’s tone is simply uplifting and gentle. Many Christian feminist voices are angry—and they’re right to be angry. There is a time and a place for anger. But it’s also right to be humbled, to “practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.” As Sarah says, “Sometimes we turn over tables in the temple, and other times, we invite conversation by starting with an apology. This is just one fire on the shore.”
But, oh, does it ever burn bright. Through the painful personal stories and knee-deep exegesis of Paul’s verses about women, what shines is the love of Jesus. Marriages are in harmony when the spouses are not caught in a power struggle over gender roles, but embracing the upside-down Kingdom of God, outdoing each other in love and service. Living the love of Jesus means something strange and wonderful that women of the world rarely get to hear: “You are equal. You are lovely. You are called; you are chosen; you are beloved. You are gifted. You belong. You have worth and value. You matter.”
In a world that loves to tell women what they can and can’t do, how they should dress, what they should eat, when they should get pregnant, who they should or shouldn’t marry, when they should speak, when they should stay silent, how they should serve, and how they should lead, Sarah (calmly and nicely) says, ENOUGH.
I’m through wasting my time with debates about women-should-do-this and women-should-not-do-that boundaries. I’m out. What an adventure in missing the point. These are the small, small arguments about a small, small god.
Our big and good God is at work in the world, and we have been invited to participate fully—however God gifted and equipped and called each of us. One needn’t identify as a feminist to participate in the redemptive movement of God for women in the world. The gospel is more than enough. …But as long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as along as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion and abandonment and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.
The best thing I learned from reading Jesus Feminist is that it’s not about me. This is probably the hardest lesson for a Jesus Feminist—or anybody—to learn. Because I think, “But I have a right to be angry! The expectations on me are not fair. I have been mistreated, too.” But Jesus Feminists are not called to be finger-pointers, accusers, or angry rabble-rousers. We are called to the “hard, unsexy work of setting things right slowly with little visible success.” And that is the hardest thing. It’s so incredibly counter-cultural: to work for something and not see the results. To persevere just because God says to. It requires a huge amount of faith. It requires Jesus Feminists to submit (that word that makes us cringe) to Christ’s will.
But we’re not alone. Sarah Bessey’s book is a blessing and encouragement. By the grace of God, we can continue to work for equality for everyone. We are all called to be part of this. And if you think you can’t make a difference in someone’s life because you don’t have a blog and you work 60 hours a week and you’re tired all the time—you’re wrong. You can. The Kingdom of God is better with you in it.
I’ll leave you with this blessing from Sarah:
I set you apart in your right-now life for the daily work of liberation and love. Proclaim the Kingdom of God with your hands and your feet and your voice to every soul in your care and influence. May your soul long for prayer and for the Scriptures, may you keep secrets, may you give away your money, may you share your meals, and may you sit alone in silence under the sky and be satisfied. May you change bedding in the middle of the night without anger after yet another childish accident, may you hold babies and comfort the dying and be the voice of knowledge tempered with grace and wisdom, and may you never forget how to sing and be silly. May you make room in your life to be inconvenienced and put out, and may you be Jesus with skin on for a few people. May you be fearless, and may you eat good food.
There are so many women living out the hard work of Jesus Feminism, and you can see many of them at the Jesus Feminist Facebook page.