Courage Is for Humans

By February 19, 2013March 13th, 2015Uncategorized

 Today was my day to
post over at Tapestry. Here’s what I wrote:
A class I teach includes an overview of women in church
history. In addition to reading accounts of women martyrs, students watch the
film “Iron Jawed Angels.” Most people don’t realize that Alice Paul, a key
leader in the fight for suffrage in the USA, was a Quaker.
Driven by her conviction that God made man and woman equal,
Alice Paul worked tirelessly for a constitutional amendment giving women the
vote. After viewing the film, one of my students wrote this to me: “All was well
until completing the reading for class today and seeing Iron Jawed Angels. The
movie had an enormous impact on me. I’ve realized that all throughout the last
few months the word that keeps coming up both within and outside of me is
‘courage.’”
She went on to say that she had always thought of courage as
a manly quality rather than a human quality. But as a result of her Spirit-led,
film-inspired clarity, she realized courage was for women, too. Consequently,
her plans shifted from spending a summer in comfort to pursuing a ministry
opportunity in Ethiopia. And that summer in Africa has led to a lifetime of
service planned as a missionary living overseas.
I’ve mentioned this story in the past, and I tell it again
because I continue to encounter people who associate courage with manhood,
which is all well and good, until they disassociated it from womanhood. If
courage is manly, they think, then “a woman who acts courageously is acting
against her gender. Men were made to rescue, but women were made to be
rescued.” 
As many conservative churches focus on biblical manhood and
biblical womanhood, teaching in some of these contexts at times borders on
mentoring in Christian subculture norms rather than the Bible. How can a
Christian female roofer in America risk being labeled as  “unfeminine,” but a female Christian roofer
in Kenya is “doing women’s work”? Aren’t biblical norms supposed to be
universal and timeless?
I am all for being masculine and feminine. Truly. But when
the labels prohibit us from experiencing our full dynamic range of personhood,
and when our churches teach conformity to these labels, aren’t we missing
something? Why not focus instead on pursuing Christ and the fruit of the Spirit
embodied as a woman or embodied as a man? After all, Jesus cooked fish, Jacob
cooked stew, and the deacons in Acts 6 served the widows their food. If we
teach service to one another, our applications might even challenge gender
norms at times in the name of love and service.
I would argue that courage is for males. But it is also for
females. Are not all believers told throughout scripture to “have courage”? And
what is “fear not” but a reminder to put off fear and put on courage? More to
the point, what was Queen Esther, if not courageous in the face of death? Did
she wait for Mordecai to come rescue her? No, she rose up and rescued not only
herself, but an entire people group.
And what about Jesus? According to the story in Matthew 9,
our Lord encounters a woman with a “female” problem. And notice what He
requires of her: “But a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for
twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. For she kept
saying to herself, ‘If only I touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ But when
Jesus turned and saw her, he said, ‘Have courage, daughter! Your faith has made
you well.’ And the woman was healed from that hour.”
His only imperative was, “Have courage, daughter”?
She was made to be courageous! 


  

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