I am the son of a Congregational minister, a female congregational minister. Just those three words, “female congregational minister”, are enough to close the minds of a disturbingly large percentage of Christians and cause them to read every word I write with unwarranted suspicion and at an elevated “threat level.” Why, because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and can anything good come out of Nazareth? Well, I personally don’t have any “fellowship breaking” issues with Congregationalists as a whole and I certainly don’t have any issue with women serving in ministry. My mother poured herself out like water in service to Jesus and was an exemplar of patience, compassion, and love. If you are immediately inspired to leave me comments citing scriptures that seem to prohibit women in pastoral ministry, save yourself the wasted effort and don’t.
The original Jewish-Christians had no vision for the salvation of non-Jews until they witnessed the Holy Spirit being poured out on the gentiles in Caesarea. Their response to this outpouring was a completely reasonable, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water.” Fast forward 2000 years and gentile Christians outnumber Jewish-Christians by over 6000 to 1. When I see women carrying a pastoral anointing, a gift that cannot be obtained by studying at a seminary, my reasonable response is, “Surely no one can stand in the way.” If God has chosen to pour out his grace in this way then who are men that we should pronounce it a mistake?
Our limited knowledge and interpretation of Scripture must bend to the actual work of God. I don’t believe that God is bipolar and I don’t believe that Scripture contradicts our experience of reality. If my understanding of sacred writings seems to fly in the face of what I see God doing then humility and reason would dictate that I must be missing something and interpreting things wrongly. Beyond the scriptures, I still haven’t heard a cogent argument as to why having your reproductive organs on the inside of your body, rather than the outside, makes you an inferior candidate for pastoral ministry, (Chuckle) which leads me to what I really want to talk about.
There exists Christians who believe that their understanding of Scripture supersedes their experience of reality and their interaction with the Creator. I have no issue with believing the authenticity of their salvation, because it is the gift of God, but I do have suspicion regarding their denominational classification because they can be found spread throughout Christendom. To my way of thinking, these people belong to a special sect of Christianity known as Legalists.
Legalism, by definition, is excessive adherence to law or formula, dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith. Studying Scripture was never meant to be an academic pursuit, but rather a spiritual one. If you read the Scriptures with your “fleshly” mind then you will only have a “fleshly” understanding of it. However, if you read Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit then you will receive the truth implanted deep within your being. The Master himself taught us,
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears…”
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper in the faith I used to pray the following prayer before reading the Bible, “Lord, please open my mind so I can understand your book. I am told that I am an intelligent young man but I put no confidence in my own mind to understand spiritual things. Please help me so I can know the truth and know you better.” No wiser prayers have I ever uttered in my life.
No doubt many of you are reeling right now, pendulating wildly to the complete opposite of what I am saying. Let me be clear, I am in no way saying that crazy ideas that you may have cooked up in your head supersedes the Scripture. That’s as erroneous an extreme as the person who spouts Scripture like pagan incantation and has no enlightenment. In the middle of those two ends lives a secret place of the Most High, where you can “come and reason together” and receive truth in your innermost being, a place where Scripture and reality find harmony.
The human body without blood cannot survive. Within that blood there exist two kinds of cells, red and white. The function of the red cells is to carry oxygen from your lungs to your tissues throughout your body and remove carbon dioxide and carry it back to your lungs for expulsion. Their function is vital and if you doubt me you can find out exactly how vital by causing a part of your body to “fall asleep.” Those sharp needle pains are proof that your tissues are starving for oxygen and unable to escape the carbon dioxide waste. White blood cells are the armed forces, national defense, of your body. They fight infections by attacking bacteria, viruses, and germs that invade your body. Without them you would get sick and die.
The problem with legalists is that they operate like white blood cells rather than red. Instead of bringing life to the community of believers, the Body of Christ, they attack its members as if they are viruses in a vain attempt to purge error from the Church. Are there people in Christendom who are called to address doctrinal error? Absolutely, but just as a white blood cell is a 1 in 600 rarity among red blood cells, it is highly unlikely that you are one of them. (Chuckle) God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world but to save it. Likewise, the Son has not sent his believers into the world to judge the world but to save it by preaching the “good news.” Did you read those words slowly and correctly? I said “good news” not bad news. If you are preaching the gospel in such a way that people are receiving your message as judgement then you’re not doing it right. If your very presence in a group makes them feel uncomfortable then you are not living right. If you are ministering to believers in such a way that they are feeling condemned rather than redeemed then I most certainly guarantee you that you are doing it the wrong way. People were drawn to Jesus, not repelled by him. He could attend a dinner party at the house of a sinful man like Matthew and good things would happen while the Legalists of his day condemned him for his outreach. When in doubt, bring life, be a red blood cell!
I have received a number of “loving” letters from white cell Christians over the years. This recent election sparked a new round of them because these “virus hunters” poorly interpreted my defenses of Hillary Clinton as an endorsement of her candidacy and they felt I needed to know the error of my ways. Apparently Donald Trump was God’s chosen one in this past election but the Almighty had neglected to send me the memo that he was endorsing a loud-mouthed rude and crude New Yorker. (Chuckle) I didn’t know it but I guess I wasn’t supposed to correct the record when people spread out-and-out lies about Mrs. Clinton. By the way, I did the same for Trump but apparently the white cells were unable to notice. That is precisely the problem; White Cell Christianity renders the adherent deaf and blind. You cannot hear the Holy Spirit so you can be properly guided and you cannot see the work of God so you can enter into it. All you have is your rigid cache of “pagan incantations”, the very Word of God being used as an instrument of death and even though it is clearly taught that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, it never enters your head for even a moment that you might be “hitting for the other team.” You cannot be somebody else’s Holy Ghost and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will become a true and productive instrument rather than a destructive loose cannon.
I am under no illusion that White Cell Christianity will be vanquished any time soon. In the meantime they are being used for good, a fulcrum for the rest of us to grow in grace and patience. We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Even those who are operating outside of his will are being used for our ultimate good. Yes, even the horribly misguided white cell Christians.
A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am less than that. Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”. If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts. Thank you for reading.