“The beautiful, wild body of Christ is supposed to be the one place where the playing field is leveled and all are equal.”
“There is no more beautiful art than to see a person, a man, a woman, a child, crafted in God’s image and living as fully into that image of God that only they can fill. It not only makes them more beautiful, it makes God more beautiful.” – Christa Romig-Leavitt
Part of a life centered on downward mobility means becoming people who practice equality in the relationships and systems we are in. Equality and power are intimately entwined. Like diffusion of power, equality means that everyone has an important voice that needs to be heard; it’s ensuring that everyone is welcome at the table.
Many of you reading haven’t felt equal in the systems you have been in.
– Your gifts have been undervalued.
– Your gender has been a barrier.
– You have not been treated equally.
And sometimes dreaming about really practicing equality feels scary.
It is, indeed, risky. But like so many of the ways of Jesus, we must try. Changing the world won’t come by staying stuck and unempowered. It will come through brave men and women stepping up and into this important Kingdom principle: practicing equality.
Jesus broke down barriers of inequality. Now we need to play our part in it as well.
Equality crosses more than just gender. Gender is sometimes the most obvious piece of equality to focus on, but gender equality dovetails into other divides such socio-economics, race, education and life circumstances. The beautiful, wild body of Christ is supposed to be the one place where the playing field is leveled and all are equal. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “There is no longer Jew or gentile, slave or free, male and female. All are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Many of us have heard this passage many times.
But many of us have not seen this passage practiced much.
So many things separate us and keep us from living out our full dignity as a child of God.
Equality means freedom from labels, distinctions, assumptions and preferences that look exactly like us. It begins with seeing the other as God sees them, as human beings created with a distinct and unique image. When one is put underneath another in a consistent up-down position, it means that one party’s power is always diminished. Equality is mutual submission, the kind that often gets overlooked: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
For me, women being regarded as less than men damages the foundation of the value of human beings in a way that affects not only women but also the under-represented, voiceless, powerless and marginalized. If the two primary groups in humanity—men and women—aren’t treated equally, then it is a much greater stretch to expect other forms of equality. In living out Jesus’ ways and creating equality-infused communities and little pockets of love, some critical questions need to be asked:
- Where am I experiencing inequality in relationships, organizations and systems?
- How can I begin to see myself as equal and others as equal?
- How do power and equality mix together?
- How can we work to make equality normal?
The best way to make equality normal is to just do it instead of talk about it. We have practiced making equality normal at The Refuge from the beginning. We don’t talk much about women in leadership or why we have an open floor where anyone can share or elevate certain roles or titles above another. We try to just practice it with actions not words.
However, practicing gender equality, like every other Kingdom principle, is not an easy task. There’s sometimes resistance to it. We’ve had people leave our community because of our inclusion of homosexuals and our openness to a wide range of theological ideas. To them, this kind of radical equality is too scary. To us, it embodies the kind of healing space Jesus created.
“There are a lot of forces working against equality because of our natural human propensity to divide, judge, and power-up on each other.”
It will take brave men and women who are willing to go against the grain of the systems and cultures they live in to take a stand on behalf of a better way.
– It means we will have to make room for others at our tables.
– It means we will have to sit at tables we’re not used to sitting at.
– It means we will have to push through criticism and people throwing Bible-verses at us that tell us that we are in sin by seeing ourselves or others as equally qualified to lead.
– It means we will have to be brave.
– It means we will have to be humble.
– It means we will have to work to make equality normal.
God, help us be brave, humble, and willing to practice equality.
My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts on practicing equality:
- How are you practicing equality?
- What are you learning?
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com and recently released her book called, Down We Go–Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids.