It is a little late, but I just read your July 4th article in your newsletter this morning. I get your church newsletter regularly because it comes to my post office box, addressed to a former member of your church who previously had my mailbox. You know me, of course. I am the sister of one of your members and you knew me when I worked for Baptist General Convention of Texas. (Letter sent to Baptist pastor August 3, 2014)
When I found it in my mailbox Friday, I tossed it in the front seat of the car. This morning I arrived early at my church and picked up your newsletter and read it. This is what you wrote:
“The history of the human race is largely one of enslavement. Men have enslaved each other…Yet man is enslaved by a worse slavery than the literal kind – by circumstances, by customs, by fear, and by his passion for sin. John 8:32 tells us it is the truth that makes man free. Christ came to make man free, not just from institutional slavery but from every kind of slavery. He frees through Himself, who is the truth incarnate. If a person wants true freedom all he has to do is surrender to Jesus Christ.”
I like the story of freedom through Christ. Paul told the people of Galatia “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1).
I put down your newsletter and went into my own church. Today, our praise song was “Open Our Eyes (we want to see Jesus).” The song says ‘we want to reach out and touch you, and say that we love you.’ Surely you hear the wistfulness in women’s voices when they sing this song. Much like Mary at the tomb the morning of the resurrection when she saw Jesus.
My pastor began to preach. I was glued to his every word. He told the story of Esau and Jacob. You remember the story. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright. The name “Jacob” means “supplanter, deceiver.” Jacob took what was not his to take. Through opportunity and deception, he received the inheritance of goods and position.
That was the Old Testament. In the New Testament, there is a ‘newbirth’ right, given by Jesus, where both men and women were set free. A new birth: a new right as sons and daughters of God. That was our birthright. We were free! Christ set us free from ‘institutional slavery and every kind of slavery,’ (your words, again.)
We were all firstborn, and set to inherit goods and positions. But something happened along the way.
The supplanters and deceivers came and women’s birthright through Jesus Christ was stolen from them. Women were made slaves again. Like Esau, we have been tricked and we have lost the precious birthright that came with Jesus. Yes, like Esau, we have sold our birthright for a bowl of pottage. We have received a bowl of beautiful words of flattery served with ‘equal-but.’
Jacob sought to make amends with his brother. God met Jacob on the way, and Jacob was engaged in a spiritual battle to account for what he had done. Jacob would not give up the struggle until he knew that he had received a blessing. This changed Jacob forever. He limped, but more than that, he had received forgiveness.
A birthright has been stolen. The birthright was a way of living, a position in society and family, something to be passed on to the next generation.
So it is today. And it has been stolen.
Which belies the last statement in your article on the 4th July 2014: “If a person wants true freedom all he has to do is surrender to Jesus Christ.”
True freedom would mean a full birthright. To preach. To be a deacon. To serve the Lord’s Supper. To take up the offering. To pass out an attendance pad and worship bulletin. That is not a freedom that you are willing to give the women in your church.
This past Fourth of July, as you ate your hotdogs and apple pie, women are still being oppressed by the very church that claims to set them free. What would happen if next July 4th, the women in your church can serve as God calls? Will you lead the way?
It is 2016. How free are you?