She was young and bold, ready to advocate for any issue that pressed down the weak and elevated those in power.
She roared at injustice and waged peace with her very life. She was a prophet, welcoming the outcasts into her home, speaking out against unfair global labor laws, standing tall and firm alongside her minority sisters and brothers saying, “No more!” to racism and hate. She was only 16 and the church as we know it had no place for her.
When I met this blazing high-school junior, I could tell she had a fire in her gut that compelled her to contend for things that matter to God. This was her God-given gift to the world. She shattered the mold of a typical, “godly young woman,” and lost interest in organized religion.
Not an uncommon story.
While the institution of the church in the West is arguably in decline, wise women, young and old, are finding their way to Jesus, starting revolutions of love against society’s degradation.
For the last several years I’ve grown in passion and conviction around a theology that proactively elevates women to a place of dignity and honor. In the church, as in the rest of life, I believe that leadership, ownership, and voice are to be shared equitably by men and women who seek to live honorable lives, aligned with the character and calling of God in Christ.
Just as Jesus raised up women to places of equal distinction within a society infected with patriarchy, so I believe women are meant to flourish at every layer of gift, role, authority, and position in the church and in the world. As the Apostle Paul said, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, “For there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Perhaps the 16-year-old prophet can relate with the young Mary who carried a revolution in her womb. Or perhaps with the angels who were messengers of God, announcing peace and messianic rescue. What if the host of singing angels had appeared to women today as they tended to their school classroom or instructed the managerial staff of the company they own? What if the guiding star had illuminated over them as they cared for aging parents, watched over patients, or led participants in their yoga class?
Let the wise women bring their gifts to the Christ child.
In “5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ“, Alan Hirsch suggests that each person has a natural energy and momentum inherent in them to participate in the Mission of God. He suggests that the fivefold typology listed in Ephesians 4 can help us discover what our participation might look like. As I ponder Mary’s story I wonder, “how we can better help women discover their contributions to God’s Christmas mission?” Borrowing Hirsch’s language, here is how I envision these roles for women:
- The Entrepreneur (Apostle) She innovates, imagines, and initiates the creation of restorative structures, events, ideologies, and pathways for more people to be awakened to the love of God.
- The Peacemaker (Prophet) She contends for reconciliation and restoration within the cultural, environmental, economic, and spiritual sectors of society.
- The Relater (Evangelist) She connects to the heart of people, awakening them to the purpose of their lives within the story of God.
- The Nurturer (Shepherd) The Nurturer She serves, sacrifices and walks with others toward their holistic wellness in Christ.
- The Educator (Teacher) She illuminates truth in ways that bring about spiritual growth and transformation.
So who are the women entrepreneurs, peacemakers, relaters, nurturers, and educators among us? How can we encourage them to use their gifts to extend the reign of God in the world, to work for beauty and peace on earth? This Christmas, may we all bring our hearts to the Jesus story, embracing our call and walking steadily into the next year.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, and goodwill to all.