Friday, July 25, 2008

Week 6 - Lead/Follow

"...submission is not an occasional event. It is a lifestyle. It isn't a negative obligation on women, but the natural outworking of the gospel in every Christian's life. Submission is an attribute of Jesus, so it ought to show up in all of his followers" (James 161).

Whenever you bring up the topic of leading and following with a group of women, it seems gender tensions inevitably arise. Since the curse, we find ourselves wanting to follow strong leadership but find it lacking; with critical spirits then, we can take over, dominate, and dictate whether in our homes or churches. But every women is called to lead--in action and attitude--and every woman is called to follow--with sacrifice and submission.

This chapter focused us on the centrality of faith and trust in both leading and following. And in looking at Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz, we see the centrality of submission in all three people and the way the gospel is lived out through their actions. Carolyn James devotes a chapter to the role of submission in her book on Ruth. So we started our discussion there.

Naomi deeply desires to see Ruth "well-provided" through a husband, the primary means of provision and security for a woman in that culture. She knows there is a connection between Ruth and Boaz so she sends Ruth to the threshing floor with the intention of securing a marriage that night. She sacrifices her own future security by sending Ruth to Boaz--who is not the closest kinsman-redeemer--and essentially releases her hopes of restoring her husband's land or lineage. Ruth's future, the future after Naomi's death, is most important to her.

Ruth, however, challenges Boaz, the "man of high standing" to undertake a rescue mission that night. Risking humiliation and rejection, she pushes Boaz beyond the letter of both the levirate and kinsman-redeemer laws. Boaz is not a brother (more like a cousin) and not even the closest kinsman-redeemer. Ruth, now barren for ten years, offers to marry Boaz and produce a child for Naomi which will inherit the land and continue the family line. Boaz, not emasculated in the least by this strong woman, listens to Ruth's plan and resolves to act immediately.

Boaz, for his part, sacrifices his own financial and family interests, by joining Ruth. Rather than refuse to help, getting off on a technicality, he recognizes the call of Yahweh to care for widows, to restore families, to show great kindness to the least.

This week's chapter also looked at the lives of Deborah and Esther, two more strong women leaders in Israel's history. Judges 4-5 gives the account of a battle in which Barak, the general of the army refused to go to battle without Deborah with him and in which the greatest victory was given to a Jael, the woman who drove the tent peg through the enemy's skull. In looking at the meaning of "lead" and "follow" this week, I saw over and over again in Deborah's song (Judges 5) that both the leaders of Israel and the people "offered themselves willingly" or volunteered. In contrast, tribes who did not send soldiers were said to be on their ships still or in the inlets of safety. They were unwilling to sacrifice.

This willing offering on the part of both leaders and followers is the call of every follower of Jesus. It is an offering in faith and a dependence on someone else--first God and then others. It demands a complete lack of self-sufficiency and a relinquishing of control, power and to cease fighting. It is a willing, conscious laying down of one's own interests and desires for the sake of another.
  • Do you consider yourself more a leader or a follower? Where are you more comfortable?
  • What does "lead" mean? (You can use your thesaurus.)
  • Why do we refuse to lead?
  • (from Question 2) Examine any obstacles that might be in the way of you being a good emotional leader in your home.
  • What are some practical ways we can lead or initiate in our homes, our neighborhoods, and church?
  • What does "follow" mean?
  • "Faith, submission, surrender, leadership, followship--it's really all about how much you trust God" (157). How do you define faith, trust, dependence, surrender, submission?
  • By faithl...."What would you want the faith chapter to say about you? What does it say about who you are as a leader, and as a follower" (157)?

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