Some of my favorite books are the ones that make me feel like I could grab coffee with the author and talk for a few hours. Good books are like making a new friend. Sarah Bessey, the author of Jesus Feminist, is the kind of gal you could sit at the kitchen table with as your kids run around and you chat between loud noises and tiny humans interrupting. Her voice is honest and unpretentious leaving space for you to ponder your own thoughts.
Sarah tackles the issue of gender roles in the church and how we balance our cultural expectations with God’s design for our lives. From the very beginning Sarah sets the tone for the conversation; this is a journey we are going to take together. This is not going to be an argument to be won or loss or look anything like the comment sections on Facebook. This is an intimate conversation between friends where hearts are heard and truth is the purpose. One striking quote from the book, “I’ve heard it said that there is no more hateful person than a Christian who thinks you’ve got your theology wrong.” Early on Sarah makes it very clear that all of this is about respect and love.
Sarah educates her readers on the history of Christian women and how they worked to embrace and empower women and other groups of people living on the fringe of society and how to handle this whole messy conversation with respect for our brothers and sisters.
Jesus Feminist is for every person, woman or man, whether the word feminist sticks to your tongue like a curse or you proudly claim the title. Sarah brings clarity to some of the terms and arguments culture has created in an attempt to explain a beautiful song the Father wrote for us; bringing a humble perspective on how He has equipped and called all of his children.
The most important thing about Jesus Feminist is the focus on Jesus. Sarah takes a look at how Jesus’ ministry elevated the status of women and how he interacted with them and how they faithfully followed him. He set the example of how his Kingdom would look; everyone participating in the work and worship together.
Throughout the book the conversation is always leading back to God and his plan for all of his people. This is not an emotional response to perceived oppression or a battle cry to make way for the ladies. This is not to make the roles of our brothers less or elevate ourselves above anyone else. Sarah’s love of Scripture is what catapults her thoughts on the subject. She takes on the words of Jesus and Paul with thoughtful humility and searches for insight from scholars asking the same questions. Sarah demonstrates solid hermeneutics and seeks truth bridging ancient and modern contexts and searching God’s whole story for answers.
She is clear that this is a question all Christians and the Church should continue looking at with open eyes and minds. Sarah implores readers to remember that the subject at hand is not just for the sake of writing policy or standards but it effects the lives of real women and real communities. She begs us to continue looking for understanding and to never settle into the pride of claiming you have the right answers always.
On first reading this book I was taken aback. I was for sure I had picked up the last book I needed to finally throw in someone’s face the next time they made a “place in the kitchen” joke. I wanted Sarah’s words to be loud and harsh and convicting. I wanted her to say all of the things I was already thinking.
Thankfully, Sarah wrote this book and I did not.
Sarah is more thoughtful and patient than I have ever been able to be on this subject. She is humble and relational. I wanted concrete answers; she gave me more questions. I wanted words that were tweet-able and easy to weaponize; she gave me a conversation. I wanted to be right; she took me to Jesus and reminded me that HE is the way.
For any woman with a fire in her bones to teach, preach, lead, mobilize, or cast vision in the church – read this book. Ground yourself in God’s word and pray for him to continue equipping you and be faithful in each opportunity he gives you to do what you do best.
For any man who is already teaching, preaching, leading, mobilizing, or casting vision in the church – read this book. Look around at the women God has given you. They are harvesters with tools in hand. They are the answer to your prayers when it seems like no one is willing to do the work. They are waiting eagerly to be invited to the table, not just to set it.
This is the next book you need to read! You can also read more from Sarah Bessey at her website http://www.sarahbessey.com.