One of the issues that has come up in the last year in church-ish circles is the ordination of women. Saddleback took a bold step and ordained women which went against the predominant grain of their partner body (SBC). There was an unexpected explosion in certain circles against Beth Moore. Along with misogynistic proclamations and male misconduct issues in the SBC, Moore left that body that she had grown up in.
One of the claims against women being ordained are some contextually misused verses and the traditions of the Israelites. The Church of the Nazarene has ordained women since its founding, but over the years has struggled to fulfill that promise. It’s on the right track, but there is work to be done, still.
There is often a wringing of hands in Christian Complementarianism (where only men can be leaders/pastors/elders) circles that there aren’t enough faithful men to fulfill empty roles. The Roman Catholic church, on top of its complementarian issues also requires celibacy, is also experiencing this problem. Some churches in both groups are finding creative ways around their limitations, but the reality is that there aren’t the faithful men needed.
For me, there were two transformative experiences in this regard. The first was experiencing the preaching of Dr. Nina Gunter. Any person with any spiritual sense and without theological blinders could experience her spirit-led preaching. The second was during my “Discovery” weekend of my pastoral journey, where I had to preach to my peers, senior pastor, and District Superintendent. I preached from Luke 19:38–40, where Jesus was told to rebuke his disciples. He responded, then the rocks will cry out. When I was praying over the words to preach, it came to me; God will not wait for us to proclaim God’s glory.
In other words, in the tradition of the Church of the Nazarene (and our sibling Holiness denominations) already assumed there were faithful women (and, yes, there are deeper theological reasons). I came to realize that complementarianism may actually already have its answer. If the men won’t rise, perhaps the women will (see Judges 4:4–9). Not the most Nazarene answer, at the time, but it resonated with my heart (and its implications went far beyond the ordination of women).
Faithfully responding to God has long been an issue. It goes beyond gender. It goes beyond status. It goes beyond wealth. It is a reflection of sin.
To understand, Elisha was, at minimum, plowing in a community, where people worked fields together (theirs and each others’). Some commentators believe that Elisha owned (or was the son of the owner of) all the oxen. That would be 24 oxen, so that would have been a lot of wealth (kind of like having 24 Jaguar cars). Elisha (and/or his family) owning 2 seems much more likely. That would still put him (in modern terms) in a very comfortable middle class.
Then some famous guy comes and puts his mantle (Elijah’s symbol of the prophetic office) on Elisha’s shoulders. Elisha understands that Elijah is declaring him the heir of the prophetic office, which was an unusual example in the Scriptures. Elisha’s response was (basically), “let me show respect and love to my parents.” Done. Then Elisha burns the equipment required for a yoke of oxen, then kills same oxen for a celebration.
Elisha opening, publically, severs himself from his old life. That is a lot of money to just be burning. It’s a great party, but there is no financial way of coming back from it easily. It’s similar to “burning the ships”. Hernán Cortés was famously said to have done this (he really just sank them) to keep his men from trying to return home or mutiny (there is a lot more to the story, and much of it not so positive). Elisha did it for himself.
One of the challenges that the Western Church faces is trying to return. This isn’t just buildings (So, let’s not burn them or just sell them). Actually, it’s more of a way of thinking. Looking back for guidance and encouragement? Yes. Looking back for the plan to navigate this new world? No.
You, too, have a call on your life. You, too, have oxen to burn and ships to sink.
- What items/events/fears of your past or present are keeping you from living an on fire life for God? (Yes, that is a question worth asking daily)
- If there was one “thing” in your life that would indicate that your are moving on, what would it be?
- Why are we so attracted to stories like that of Cortés or Elisaha, but don’t put it into practice? What other cultural icons (generic or specific) are similar to Cortés and Elisha?
Lord, there is no question that we are called to live for you. Let our lives be the bonfires that bring people into your light. Amen.