Last weekend as I read the lectionary texts, I was struck by one phrase. Unusually for me, it wasn’t in the gospel which is where I am currently trying to focus. Yet this one sentence stood out like a glaring spotlight — “I truly understand that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34).
I couldn’t really get past it. As we had a full house last weekend my thoughts never made it to paper. However, the phrase stuck in my mind and I have pondered it frequently this week.
“I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”
Most of my thoughts were self-reflective. If God shows no partiality, should I? Do I show partiality? In what areas? I then expanded this from personal to the more general, Does our contemporary society show partiality? Again, in what ways? (Sadly, I can think of quite a long list without even spending a lot of time pondering it)
Today I moved to the texts for this Sunday. The reading is the calling of the disciples (John 1:35-42). I have in the past talked about this story and the way the disciples were called. But today, probably because of my musings this week, the first thing I noticed was that they were all men.
Two hard concepts to put together “God shows no partiality” and the “gathering of the men”. Somehow there seems to be a huge discrepancy between these two ideas.
I could try excusing the gathering of the men because of the culture of the time. It wouldn’t be comely for women to be around men in that close a company. Should the men be even talking to the women? Would that leave them open to gossip and hinder the gospel message? Practically, it would be much harder for women to leave spouses and children as the men did.
If this had only happened in the first century, I could accept it as an historical event in a certain cultural context. However, I don’t want to hide what happened behind a cultural veil. So, I call them excuses for not including women, mainly because nothing much has changed over the centuries.
I would love to think that if Jesus was physically calling disciples today women would be included. However, I want to be realistic and, sadly, I find it hard to believe the world has changed that much.
I have only to look around at photographs in the media to see the gathering of men. Any important discussion or major event and the photographs usually depict a gathering of (white) men. Even church leadership often is a gathering of men. So sad that the women are still silenced and the gifts and wisdom they could offer ignored.
Today, I read an article about an issue affecting mainly women. There was loads of good discussion in the comments. Then a man joined the discussion. He wrote/spoke with what he obviously perceived as authority. In my mind, it simply read as arrogance. He told all the women that they would not feel the same way in twenty or thirty years. I was appalled by his assumption that he knew better than all the women who had commented and about an issue that affected women.
So, today I read the story of the gathering of men in the gospel with sadness. I wish I could confidently say that society has changed. I do truly believe that progress has been made and will continue to be made. However, I cannot deny the evidence of my own eyes — as I look around, I continually see the gathering of men in many aspects of life.
I think change starts with awareness. I want to look at media and be aware when a gathering of men is photographed or talked about. I want to have a voice to remind people that women could have an important contribution to the discussion at hand.
Imagine a day when I could read “I truly understand that God shows no partiality” and see that reflected in all areas of society. What a day that would be!