I have been watching, with some interest and amazement, a sometimes heated discussion/debate currently underway on one of the online sites I frequent. The topic: women in church leadership. The same tiresome arguments are marshaled on both sides. If God had wanted man to fly, He would have … Sorry, wrong argument. If God had wanted women in church leadership, then He wouldn’t have sent his only begotten Son, got that, Son, and appointed twelve males, as in men, got that, as his closest disciples. And the other side counters with charges of cultural ossification, blindly adhering to the traditions of the past, yada, yada, yada. See how these Christians harangue one another.
It strikes me, reading these debates, how little I actually care about this stuff. To tip my hand somewhat, there are women in my church who are involved in leadership. They are involved in church leadership. They are involved in all kinds of leadership, and I can’t imagine life, in general, without their wisdom and gifts. But beyond that, I just really DO NOT CARE. It’s not worth expending much time and energy, nor, as best I can tell, are any of the innumerable other theological topics that tend to bog down Christians from the more important tasks of loving Jesus and loving other people.
I just don’t think it’s all that complicated, although at one time in my life I tried to make it complicated. If you’d look downstairs in my basement, you’d find several bookshelves full of books that deal with theological issues. We just threw about 100 of them away last weekend during a frantic spring cleaning session, but there are still hundreds left. I’ve read most of them. I went to seminary, and studied Greek and Hebrew, and at one time could have debated the merits of whether the apostle Paul was writing to north Galatia or south Galatia. That was back in the days when I thought I might be a pastor, before I figured out that struggles with addictions and telling the fourth grade Sunday School class to "sit down, damn it" probably weren't the best recommendations for church leadership. And none of it helped me much in terms of loving other people, or avoiding some nasty habits, or getting outside the all-consuming Kingdom of Me.
Here’s the thing: the charge that is always leveled at Christians by non-Christians is that we are hypocrites. And, of course, they’re right. We are, indeed, hypocrites, and we fairly routinely betray by our words and actions what we claim to believe. We are self-centered, ingrown, prone to constructing fortresses to keep the rest of the world out. And I have been that way in my own life.
If that is to change – and I hope and believe that it can and that it is – then I need something beyond intellectual answers. I don’t need knowledge. I need a soul transfusion. And if I have overreacted, if I have moved away from the intellectual approach to the Christian life that comes fairly naturally to me, then it is because, in my own Luddite way, I have tired of being a hypocrite. I don’t want to know one thing and do another. I want to live a life and be a part of a church that is characterized by costly love, by getting outside our comfort zones, by caring for the unlovable, by giving of our time, our money, our energy sacrificially to serve others. Really. No fooling. I want and expect that to happen. The best marketing a church can ever do is simply to love other people -- both inside and outside the church -- unconditionally. There is nothing more attractive than that, and nothing more revolutionary. And it’s what Jesus did. And if, by the way, there are women who know how to do that better than I do, and can teach me how to do it better, then I am all ears.
Here is how uncomplicated this is: Love, trust, and obey God. Love other people. Apologize (AKA repent) when you screw up one or both of these things. Repeat as necessary. There. That’s easy. It’s not easy to actually do it, of course. But it’s easy to understand it. And that’s about the extent of my theological interest these days.