Why Jesus had to die

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„Does your God really say: ‘You insulted me, therefore, I cannot look at you any more. So here is my son. You kill him, and then I will be able to forgive you again!“ This is an argument which is often heard in our day against the Christian faith. And not without reason. Christians often like to oversimplify their doctrines. The doctrine of salvation, however, goes far deeper than this arbitrary connection of points to a superficial and absurd conclusion. It affects all spheres of human existence and the existence of evil, and it works, of course, with all facets of the amazing nature of God himself.

To understand the problem better, one must note that God is not only love and almighty, but also true and holy, and also one who respects the free will of the people he created. Therefore, there is just one way to mend the relationship which humans have rejected by sinning against him: It is through God’s own suffering and death. When Jesus dies on the cross, God dies, so the offending human could be resurrected to a new relationship with God.

The Differnt Standard for Me and Others

We can understand this from our daily experience. When someone rejects and betrays our love, our relationship with this person is broken. The relationship can only be restored if we „die“ to ourselves – forget the harm and give another chance to the perpetrator. In this way we make possible a new relationship with them. Those who have gone through this experience, know how painful and difficult it is to deny oneself and make oneself vulnerable again.

On the other hand: people who betray someone’s faith, easily disregard the suffering and pain they caused. They presuppose that the others have to forgive them. E. g. Often an adulterous husband will say (and often the church, thinking superficially, agrees): „How is it that she cannot forgive, if God has forgiven me?“ This is kind of simplistic question reveals a preposterous self-loving pride, which does not seek forgiveness (so God, in fact, could not have forgiven him). God and others should just simply forget what was done and live with the consequences! In other words: People exist to live up to the sinner’s caprice!

Even better. When they are flooded with the evil of the world which they see as perpetrated by others – injustices, wars, bad politics and so on – people are quick to criticize God: Why does he allow this if he is almighty? Should he not stand up for the weak and the victims and put an end to the violent perpetrators, stiff-necked egoists and criminals?

You notice the double standard? When we are being treated unfairly, God should stand up and annihilate the perpetrators of evil. But when we are the perpetrators than God and others should just forget and forgive our sins?

God Had to Die…

The fact is that in Christ, God has shown the one and only possible way to overcome all our sins. He is well aware that in a situation like this, where his love and will have been obstructed, the relationship that was meant to be one of eternal love, has died. People, who were created to live from the Creator’s love, have cut themselves off and are dead. The only way to re-establish the life-giving relationship is through God’s dying. So, when we look at the suffering and death of Jesus, we look at God’s giving-up himself and dying, so that his resurrection life can be the sinners’ resurrection too. In Jesus, God himself dies. (Jesus is not just some less perfect version of God!)

Surely, God could have cut off people for good right there and then when they first sinned and before they ruined all his creation. But God’s love longed for the relationship with his people and sought for a way to restore them to himself. So in his dying on the cross, God teaches us that in the current state of affairs in the world, true love must be ready to suffer and die. This is also the reason why God did not then and does not now “end it all” in one blow. So for years God teaches us through his cross that he is a good God who picks us up in our deadly state. This is also how he awakens hope in the midst of the dying and decay of a fallen world: You can trust a God who died for his people.

… So We Could Live

When Jesus dies on the cross, it is not a doctrine of God “the heaveIMAG1315nly abuser of children”. It is a doctrine of God who in the face of rejection continues to love even an evil world. Those who believe him follow in his ways. They stand up for the good when they encounter evil and evil will not scare them, even in the eye of suffering, pain  or losing of their lives.  They know – because it is God Almighty they serve – that dying to sin is the way of resurrection into a new life. This is not just for an “after-life” future. Resurrected life for them has begun already here and now and its effects are visible wherever believers accept his sacrifice and gracefully live through the suffering of this time – not as victims, but as victors.

So, Happy Easter, dear sisters! Your faithful battles with and victories over the sins of the world are examples of God’s resurrection power in this present time. It is a sign that God is with us and that death has been swallowed up by life (2Cor 5:4).

 

Why Jesus had to die

When Baptist Women Come Together in Christ

Several people have asked for the text of my report to the Executive Board of the BWA held this week in Falls Church, VA. So it is best to place it here (and make you familiar with this place.🙂  – Just to put some minds at ease: there is a more traditional report given in writing which is part of the Report Book.

Report to the Executive of the BWA

Patsy Davis Retires

From among the many possible issues I could be reporting on behalf of the Women’s Department, let me revisit two: the retirement of our Executive Director, Patsy Davis

azijaat the end of 2015 and the WD Emergency Meeting held in London last month. Let me use this opportunity to express my own and the WD’s appreciation for the 17 years of ministry that Patsy has given Baptist women of the world. I believe that she will be remembered for many great projects and leadership actions, not just for the women.

 

Why a Women’s Department in the BWA?

With regards to the London meeting, the Executive Board used the current situation to thoroughly revisit the purpose (the Why) of the WD. The “Why” is the question we often face and particularly when we want to bring people on board for the necessary change.

So this is the Board’s answer:

The WD exists because when Baptist Women come together in Christ, God creates Shalom for everyone.

This means that we affirm that the WD is a platform, a place of sorts, where this coming together of Baptist women is encouraged and enabled globally. In the world’s individualising culture that tears relationships, the coming together must be sought intentionally.

Biblically, the story behind our Why it is that of Romans 8. The passage claims that the whole creation yearns for the comprehensive and glorious revelation of God’s children, but that this resurrection power is already in the making through the gradual resurrection of our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11) in the midst of the “sufferings of the present time” (Rom 8:18).

Romans 8 is an affirmation that when Christians come together, good things happen for the world. We experience the amazing power of the Holy Spirit which by far exceeds the pure total sum of our individual potential. Even the current partial revelation of the children of God in their justice, servant heart, love, submission, long-suffering and the like changes many circumstances. But our hope and effort is for the full revelation of the children of God and God’s new creation.

In the WD we encourage women to come together – not to seek equality or fight for rights. Baptist women need to come together in Christ because, as is now clear even from the secular realm, every big global problem affecting all humankind starts with the marginalisation (and one can add, self-marginalisation) of women. Big problems, the UN presupposes, are solved where women are encouraged to gain back their power!

Theology of Salvation and Women

In the WD, we much rather work from a theology of salvation. Sin has robbed humans of their humanity through wanting to be “like god”. This means war among all those possible “gods”.  Due to being the “weaker sex” because of even the potential of childbearing, women cannot compete in this game. Mostly they give in to male “gods.” Occasionally, they want to be like men, but more often they play the role of “goddesses” as they are held up and sexualized. At other times they like the role of the omnipotent divine “mother”. These roles are easily inverted to “bitches, whores and witches” but always downplayed to commodity that is sold and bought: human trafficking emerges right there in Genesis 3!

But when women come together in Christ, they show allegiance to the One true God, Creator and Saviour.  He took upon himself the curse of our bodies – even of the feeble female bodies – so that women can live as free unto his glory! (With Christ we are not under the curse of Genesis 3!)

Having Christ as their Head helps women set necessary boundaries to themselves and also towards these self-imposed “gods.” Women who believe, know that their protection and strength is in God – even in the midst of all the pain and suffering they go through. In these circumstances and that faith they change from the powerless and scared victims to bringers of God’s Shalom, the exciting, vibrant and abundant life for the world.

So the best thing in this Why for the WD – when Baptist women come together in Christ, Shalom comes to everyone: the Baptists, the Christians, the world, to men and to the women.

 

When Baptist Women Come Together in Christ

Why I’m Baptist in a Post-Denominational World

 

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This is where it starts

In the culture of post-denominationalism it is more profitable  to be just Evangelical or even just Christian. Christians have come to believe that there is something wrong with belonging to a denomination. In some ways, this is certainly true: Non-believers take offence at all those names and more often than not, the animosities with which diverse Christian groups have dealt with each other throughout history has not done Christianity any good.

However, observing the results of non-denominationalism so far, some caveats are in place. The first that comes to mind is the evident watering down of the Christian message in an attempt to come up with a common denominator. Matters of „divergence“ are ignored, rather than explored. On the other side of this tendency is the fundamentalisation of the one’s own belief and refusing to interact with others up until a point where they consider and treat others as devils.

On a more pragmatic note, many Christians’ personal spiritualities have suffered, as they approach church life as “shopping around” for a church which will serve them best. This attitude has produced churches which concentrate on how to entertain potential members rather than how to be a church in a hurting world. Get a combination of all the above factors and you can see how the contemporary church suffers.

Denominationalism is not all bad

From this it seems to me that denominationalism of the church is not all bad. In fact we have profited from the denominations in the past and could do so in the future. Denominationalism has helped churches to point out to the important segments of their theological heritage  and work on them by explaining them to the other denominations and to the world. Denominations have invited their members and others to sit it out with frustrating situations, to build a Christian character in the process of working it out in faith. As much as the modern world appreciates instant solutions and quick fixes, life is more often than not perseverance in hard circumstances. We must admit that church and faith were much more binding in the old days of denominationalism and the bonds between people in churches were stronger. I do agree that this is probably due to many factors, but belonging to a denomination has contributed to the ties.

While post-denominationalism has taught us about the need for unity, about what Jesus meant that “all should be one”, I am sceptical that unity can be achieved by downplaying the importance of differences. Unity must be achieved in the midst of diversity – by attempting to find serious and deeper ways of solving the tensions. Unity needs the living in faith that at some point we will all understand better and possibly re-evaluate our own denominational traditions not just to meet the other, but to wholeheartedly embrace them for the benefits of a hurting world. Not least, the world can observe and learn from that how unity is lived out in imperfect situations and diversity.

In a certain situation it may just be that hanging in there in one’s own tradition and persuasion in the midst of this difficult dialogue is the one thing that can show in time how a certain denominational emphases helps the other denominations.

There are several such things which I find in my own tradition, which have kept me proudly Baptist for more than three decades. I will try to explore some of them here.

This time I want to elaborate on the

BAPTISTS’ ANNOYING INSISTENCE ON THE ‘BOTTOM UP’ CHURCH

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The direction of success

 

In the Baptist churches, everyone is equal. There are no “higher” positions and hierarchies. Those people and structures which seem as “high” are there to be first to serve, and they know it. It does happen on occasion that some Baptist leaders forget this and adopt hierarchical behaviours, but in truly Baptist surroundings they are soon shown their place.  Every little lady has a vote and can speak her mind.

Among the Baptists, the main organisational unit is the local church, not a national or global hierarchy of elders. And in those local churches all the members are entitled to the freedom of conscience. Needless to say: they are all allowed (even encouraged) to read and interpret Scripture on their own for the sake of their lives and their communities. Being a theologian (albeit a Biblical scholar) I can imagine how this alone can make one freak out. Imagine the chaos of everyone having an opinion! There has to be someone to put their foot down, right? There has to be ONE person to end a dispute, or one professional to speak her/his mind for stuff to function?

Baptists acknowledge that there is – but He is not of this world. He is the one who has made us and before Him we are all different and equal. So we better find ways to work it out. That is called faith in God through Christ.

Interestingly, this is what the world is now also catching up on. Do you need hierarchical structures for success? Well, according to the newest state of things – apparently NOT.

I came across this TED talk by the amazing Linda Hill and there you have it laid out clearly and scientifically: the (baptistic) insistence on bottom up management seems to be the one single success trait of permanently innovating companies. What can be more important in a world where even change is changing rapidly?

Baptist have known all along and that is why they have advocated against a world of solo geniuses for a collective genius that emerges from the messy dealings with all the input you can get. That’s pretty baptistic, right?

You see what it means for our Women’s Department?I m about to do something new

It is unimaginable, how one can manage all the impulses from all of you around the globe but – there is no way around this blessed c
haos of genius, God has placed in us, my dear sisters. I need you to act baptistic and speak up. Share your insights and stories. The Lord has put us and all our potential together for a time like this. All of our insights, experiences and ideas are needed if we want to be his good news to a hurting world.

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/linda_hill_how_to_manage_for_collective_creativity.html

Why I’m Baptist in a Post-Denominational World

Why We Should Not Close Down Women’s Departments

Let us observe a lesson from history:

Jean Sartre maintained that the ‘Marxist intellectual has believed to serve his party by raping his experience, that is, by disregarding unpleasant details, by simplifying in the worst possible ways given facts…’ only to make sure the ideology in general, stays intact. It is worth paying attention to such evaluations of history because they tend to reveal some standing truths. I think Christians in particular need to understand this one, especially as it refers to women’s work.

First, a secular connection, and then how this plays out on Christian Women’s Work.

Yugoslavian feminists won a huge victory at the end of the 2nd World War, it is claimed. The Constitution of Yugoslavia and its diverse documents and laws proscribed equality of women as an ‘outright result of the struggle of the women themselves through their feminist and anti-fascistic female organization before and during the War.’ That was 1945. But already in 1959, the Anti-Fascist Women’s Front supposedly suspended itself as obsolete. That is the official version. Behind the scenes, these women’s groups were becoming too annoying to the Party while pointing to its repeated shortcomings of putting the laws into practice!

For the Party, that was it: the laws were put in place, and will eventually sort themselves out when all the comrades have been properly enlightened. Later Yugoslavian feminists came to disagree with this optimism. When their “militant” organization was terminated, they claim, the women were practically again at square one: they were either ikebanas on the diverse boards to prove the ideology of equality right (with no real voice); or they had the fake choice between staying at home and getting a “female” low-paying job. Someone has rightly concluded: oppression is not one event. Thus, it cannot be solved with one decision. Rather, oppressions happen through a series of often indistinguishable, small steps.

As Christians, we should not be surprised. The apostle Paul has rightly stated that salvation does not come from having the law but through doing what the law requires. He was referring to God’s law, but it can be applied to human laws, too. As good as laws are, they go no further than the letter and outside appearance. The law can say: Do not do this! But it cannot prevent people from doing it if they want to. At best the law can punish – after the wrong has been committed. Also, we know that no law can even start anticipating all the wrongs that can be done by people! So, in the case of the factual inequality of the Yugoslavian women after 1959, Slavoj Žižek, the at once praised and scolded Slovenian philosopher, evaluated that by setting up the equality law but depoliticizing women’s concerns by terminating its political groups, the Communist party in Yugoslavia embarked on a nifty way to marginalize women to the apolitical spaces and so to prevent equality. At the surface, the women had all the rights. Under the surface, they were marginalized and silenced even to the point of not even having a voice.

I am concerned because I see a similar tendency and effect in the Baptist Unions of the ‘liberated West.’ Women’s Work has been terminated (often by the women themselves) in several places in Europe, for instance, because it is ‘no longer needed.’ Many more are considering terminating it.  After all, some of these Baptist Unions made a lot of effort to come to the point of stated and accepted equality of men and women in the church. The Bible has been researched, the work evaluated, social studies conducted. They have done a great job.And, there were no serious reasons found to question equality of men and women in both salvation and ministry. So, after all this, who needed women’s work? I know! I have been there and believed that! Possibly, it can be even considered as “unequal” to have a women’s ministry without “men’s ministries”! And often – let us be frank – the women’s work just did not suit the new generations of women.

Sure, women’s work sometimes lacked the necessary skill and insight to regenerate and reform, and including new generations has not come naturally. But it was suspended because of the romantic belief that by figuring out equality and accepting a resolution at the national Baptist Union level, the work of women has become oblivious. Women were now, after all, welcome to all the ministries and positions – if they met the searched for criteria!

Authentic Christian Living

This positive decision which included long and tedious discussions in the churches, unfortunately, ended up creating some of the same outcomes as the belief they were trying to overcome: that namely women are not equal but “created ontologically inferior to men”. This is still held in many places around the Globe by people who prefer to

the banner of welcomeunderstand Galatians 3:28 (about the equality of all and oneness in Christ) as Paul’s eschatological (heavenly) vision of the church. Only in Heaven, they claim, maleness and femaleness will be overcome, but not in the earthly church! Women and men may be equal “in Christ” – but on Earth there are still biological roles, and godly women gratefully accept their subservient roles.

Believers in Christ rightly reject such interpretations, because these interpretations go against the great biblical doctrines of creation, sin and salvation, and then also because they diminish and terminate the value and spiritual gifting of more than a half of the Church.  But so far, I have not seen them noticing that their own agenda of terminating women’s work on the account of equality, also removes the tools by which a just attitude towards women can be achieved! They are forcing us, as Sartre would say, into a “raped experience”: we should claim equality as a higher good where in fact, there is often just lip service paid to it and a sporadic female example is set forward so that it can be pointed to as this great proof of equality.

Sara E. Mendoza de Barrios South American WD president (in the middle) and her friends

So what can one do? There are many reasons why even in marvellous “Western” circumstances, there is still an immense need for women’s work in Baptist Unions. Even more so around the Globe There are deep and numerous reasons for inequality of humans and the interplays of such reasons – some we have not yet started to see, even in the so-called enlightened West. They must be unearthed and confronted. It is not likely that men, as benevolent as they may be, will even see them, let alone fight them – with due respect for the noted and few exceptions, like President Carter.  Most likely the reasons will be dug up, noticed and confronted by an engaged, God-fearing women’s work and then supported by others. For instance, I am deeply frustrated when I see my girls going through some of the same unjust situations which I had to go through, in both society and in the church, although these organizations now confess to equality. If one gets ridiculed and disregarded in such a place – what with the many places that openly stand for inequality? Sin has many devious ways to infiltrate even the best of our intentions and the newest of our inventions. Talking to women in the West, it is clear to me that, yes, even we feel the pain of inequality in both society and the church – Yes, we may be MUCH better off than the rest of the world, but that should only make us the more aware of the need for a platform where these issues will be brought up for the sake of our sisters and their potential. May be that is the stuff God created to help the world? And if we still believe that a platform like this is not needed for our own sake, then let us have one for the sake of our sisters who are mistreated, abused, insulted, injured and sold – on a daily basis in what is called the “majority world”.

Fun times at the BWA Women’s Department Leadership Conference in Johannesburg, 2015

The Baptist Women’s International Day of Prayer is at the door – celebrated on each the first Monday in November. If you have not yet been involved, you should try finding or even founding a group of women who will observe it with you. This may be your first step towards looking the truth in the eye. There are women out there and they are in bondage. But Christ came to set us free. It is not a future freedom, it starts here and now. Let us not “rape” reality by closing our eyes from the truth. Enduring injustices big and small without addressing them means supporting the perpetrators. Let us not give up on our women’s groups or prayer and support for those near and those far. Let us consider our women’s groups as islands of support and hope, and platforms where hard issues may be brought up, inspected critically and graciously and discussed.  I am certain that God wants to bless communities through women who have been set free by him and for his purposes.

Why We Should Not Close Down Women’s Departments

We Need Women in All Kind of Places

I have been checking on an old-time friend of mine to see what she’s been up to – yes googling her! I found these great videos  (and here  – takes about 15 minutes to watch them both).

Sometimes, we are misLynn Smithunderstood in what we mean when we say “we want to empower women.”

Here some very good thoughts are voiced as to what it means, when I say it.

Women are empowered when they can use their gifts for the greater good in God’s world. We need women and their gifts in all segments of life – science, education, politics, at home and in the church. We need them to work together in partnership with men who understand Jesus’ concept of leadership as explained for instance in Mark 10:35-45. The kind of leadership that Jesus modelled is NOT that top down domineering kind, but the nurturing co-operating care for the other and service.

We Need Women in All Kind of Places

Add your story

I just watched this video and it is very important to the work we try to do. Unfortunately, it ends where we would need to hear how it is continuing! So here is a challenge. Where along do you, women of the world, see your biggest problems are and where do you contribute most to the change?

The story of stuff

And most of all – where we, as Christian women,should be contributing most.

(instead of writing in the comments below, you can send me your stories and I will add them as as guest blogs with your pictures here. THANK YOU.)

Add your story

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the board african way

I am still contemplating on all that happened in Johannesburg and pictures come up. It is easy to move on and say: That was great – but it’s time to move on to everyday stuff. I want to share a few thoughts on why I think this fellowship of Baptist women globally is not just another cool conference. It is God’s treasure chest, which needs to be on our minds at all times.

In Galatians 4, Paul paints a picture of the world as God’s household. There are three kinds of people he sees there – the slaves, who have no permanent place in it and are considered strangers (that would be the unbelievers), the young children, who still need a peidagogos to keep them in place and learning (Paul believes this are the Jews before Jesus) and the sons and daughters who are off age and who sit at the table, have the right to listen to the Father in person and to speak to him and know his will directly.

When I read Galatians 4 the picture of God’s  family business comes to mind. Asbrenda man u manduri God’s daughters we have been acknowledged as full family members. We sit with God around the executive table. God says: “My daughters, I hope you have read through the memo I sent you and we are all on the same page concerning our goal for a new world.  Just to make sure you all got me right. There is pain in the world and there is suffering. There is an enemy still on the loose on earth causing all this. It is our business to ease the pain and suffering. Set free the victims! Turn on the light!”

God tells us: “As my children in whom my Spirit is placed, you are my partners in this. You are no longer little children. You are grown women of integrity and my daughters. You have been gifted with the best of gifts – all my treasures I have hidden among you. My Spirit, the Spirit that has risen Jesus from the dead, is in you. Nothing is impossible!”

“So now,” God says,  “the table discussion is open! What are your ideas? Where do you see the issues and how do you think they can be solved? What can you do? Can you see the potential in the women that surround you? How can that potential be awaken? How can it be put to use? How can you all work together? What would you do if only the sky was the limit? Because it is! Everything that is mine and I have given to you. Take it out into the world in my name.”

This is how I see our work together in the Women’s Department (and also in the BWA): God has placed us together to engage what he has already given us towards the fulfilment of his ‘executive goals’ concerning a hurting world. It takes Christian grown-ups to recognise this amazing Spirit of adoption as children of God through Christ’s holy sacrifice. We are not minors in the eyes of God who must be afraid. As Christ believers and God’s daughters we are off age and ready for responsibility. God has put sandals on our feet and given us his executive ring. We have his Word, but we also share in his Spirit to lead us into all truth and create in us both wanting and being able to do his perfect will. We are co-workers in God’s family company! Our names have been written on the company’s logo: God & daughters.naša fešta

Or even more down to earth:

It is like watching our own grown children stepping out into the world and making a difference. We do not tell them what to do or not. We watch them take their own decisions, and love their successes. So too, God has equipped us and has made us ready. He delights in our endeavours and cheers for us. He rejoices in our successes like a mother does when her children do well. He helps us analyse when things do not turn out right, when things grow over our heads, when we have taken on too much! And God loves it when we come to share with him and ask advice and pick his mind. It is the best place!azija

That’s why belonging to a global family of such daughters (and sons) is not just a great conference experience, but a gigantic privilege. All around the world there are sisters and brothers sharing the same Spirit and mission, sitting at the same table, with the same Father. If communication lines are set up and open, we can share and mobilize an immeasurable potential for the good – something which has still unexplored heights and depths and breadth. God says that in his church he has hidden a potential which equals the power which raised Jesus from the dead! Do we understand what this means? God’s Spirit in us still raises the dead! There is no pain in this world which can trump that!