I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was…
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord's people who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
I love this quotation from St. John Chrysostom:
“Greet Andronicus and Junia . . . who are outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7): To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.
Of course, Paul isn't exactly subtle in Galatians, either:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
But Paul also made all sorts of comments, forbidding women from speaking in church, etc...
Yeah, he's sort of a problem.
So what do you do when someone makes contradictory statements? Conservative churches have traditionally taken the most patriarchal, oppressive stance. A surprising choice, given that Christianity is supposedly founded on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Nonetheless, it's important to recognize and admit that right or wrong, it IS a choice being made by Christians. There ARE opposing statements being made. We don't get to reconcile them (of course there are lots of valid "contextual" readings that do help soften some of the harshest language). Ultimately, either Paul is right when he says there is no male or female in Christ, and recognizes women as "apostles," or Paul is right when he says, "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." (really, Paul? You're suddenly back to the Law?)
Which do you choose? I mean, really! What's worth fighting for? "Keeping women in their place"? Or freedom?
I choose freedom.
I choose the same for my queer sisters and brothers, and friends of other ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, too. I choose it because I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth. (John 16:13) I believe the word of God (not a book, but a person) is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12) I also believe I'm generally an ignorant fool, so I constantly question, constantly try to listen, constantly deconstruct... but re-read that Matthew quotation in the header of this blog. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice..." We haven't even BEGUN to understand what's asked of us - what freedom looks like - have we?