(Read part 7 here)
THE SECOND SURPRISE, that the quality of my theology matters to others, was evident right from the start when friends would drop by my apartment for a late-night chat or meet me for coffee. Sooner or later, one of us would start talking about her troubles, and together we would work through how our theology related to the issues that were bothering us.
Later, in marriage, my husband would need my theology for all sorts of situations that called for the best we both had to offer. When I held my infant daughter in my arms and faced the challenge of raising a little runner, my theology was (cartoonist’s opinions aside) the greatest gift I had to offer as a mother. Now, hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t pass through my orbit in need of good theology.
A woman’s theology is not a private matter. It is a public asset she is called to use for the good of her friends, her husband, her children, and her church. Whether I’m a good theologian or a poor one, my theology will always rub off on others, giving them new strength or dragging them down. “Curse God and die!” was the final blow Job received, from the lips of his despairing and agonised wife (Job 2:9). Naomi heard a very different message from Ruth, the daughter-in-law who shared her sufferings but, instead of shaking her fist at God, took refuge under his wing (Ruth 2:12). Instead of giving up on Naomi’s God, Ruth’s loyalty to him deepened when she vowed, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). These women weren’t just venting their emotions. They were making theological statements to their loved ones that could dishearten or awaken hope in God. When someone’s ship is sinking, it matters a lot to them whether we help them bail, dump more water in the boat, or stand by helplessly and watch them sink.
Recently two deaths have broken the hearts of the people at our church. One was a young mother who lost her valiant four- and-a-half-year battle to leukaemia and a bone marrow transplant that never settled down. The second was less public but equally devastating: a miscarriage for another young mother—her third. Throughout these battles and in the aftermath of grief, women were on the scene. Oh yes, they arrived with their casseroles, but they also brought their theology. Some of them wouldn’t say a word. But some would wade into the grief, listen to the wrestlings,get under the burden, and never relinquish their hope in God.
Women shoulder enormous responsibility to build up the body of Christ, whether we do it over coffee with a friend, in the privacy of our homes, or in the broader fellowship of God’s people. Our theology equips us for this monumental ministry. It is sobering to realise that someone else is helped or hurt depending on the state of my theology.
Taken from When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Copyright (c) 2001 by Carolyn C. James. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
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Carolyn Custis James (BA, Sociology; MA, Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organisations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post / Religion, and is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.