Do you remember the time Jesus touched a leper (Mark 1:40–45)? I love that story, especially how the leper challenges Jesus to help him:
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus was indignant, the NIV says, but there is some question about that interpretation. According to Bruce Metzger, of the 20,000 lines of the New Testament, only forty lines have questionable translations.12 That means there is agreement among scholars about 99.6 percent of what we read in the Bible. Still, there are going to be a few hard words, some things we have to wrestle with. This word in Mark 1:41, translated in the niv as “indignant,” is one of those words. Whole books have been written on this one word. Curiously, almost every other version translates to “compassion,” as in, “Jesus was moved with compassion.” But we can’t escape the “indignant” feeling inside the Greek word used by Mark.
Another scholar, Ben Witherington, tells me that the disputed word refers to the kind of feeling that comes from a person’s gut. He says the closest expression to the Greek is “the bowels of compassion.” The feeling evoked is fierce and passionate. It is not just the feeling of compassion (like the sad face of a puppy on a get well card) but the kind of concern that moves a person to compassion.
There is movement in this brand of compassion. Jesus is not just aggravated at a disease or at a man brazen and desperate enough to challenge him to make a miracle happen. It seems to me that Jesus is moved by some feeling deep in his gut that remembers a fallen world and the unjust exclusion of lepers with no power over their disease. It slays me to think that maybe God inspired among the biblical writers the use of a word here that means both injustice and compassion, anger and identification—because a person can be fiercely moved by love to go after someone stuck in a pit and simultaneously be angry at all the things that got them there. Not all anger is without compassion, and not all compassion is without passion.
Maybe this isn’t exactly a one-to-one comparison, but as a leader and a woman, I deeply feel the feelings in this story. I hear that hard-to-interpret word in the leper’s story as our word, too. I know what it is like to feel a little like a leper before Jesus, challenging him to fix things so I can do what I’ve been called to do, and I am moved to help others who feel the same desperation. What drives me—and I hope what drives you—is this deep burden for women who know that they are called but who have lacked the right voices to encourage them forward. I feel their loneliness in their callings, and it moves me to do all I can to change the spiritual atmosphere in the church we so desperately want to serve.
I also feel a kind of biblical indignation toward our fallen world—I am fiercely moved to see it made right. I feel the deep weight of challenging a worldview held by half the Christian church. I can feel God’s compassion toward those who disagree with what I believe to be true even while I am indignant toward what got them there. I realize there are good and intelligent people who have wrestled with a few hard passages about the role of women in ministry in the New Testament and who have come to a different conclusion than I. Every time I share with groups of men and women about what happens when women lead, I am inundated with messages from spiritual leaders who tell me they are thinking through this freshly. While they agree with my findings at the heart level, they haven’t taken time to lay their own biblical foundations for affirming women in leadership.
I tell them what I’m telling you: take time to do this work. The gospel depends on it, because the gospel is hamstrung by our lack of confidence in female leadership. We need to get a little indignant about that; we need to be moved at gut level to change the spiritual atmosphere for the sake of unreached masses who are desperate for Jesus to create a miracle in their lives. It is critical that we are grounded in our theology so that on the hard days, we are not missing signs of kingdom potential all around us. We must learn to see beyond our frustration to the vision of a realized kingdom where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free (Gal. 3:28). May these pages empower and encourage you wherever you are in that journey. May they help you to stand and keep standing for the whole gospel of the coming kingdom. And may you take the authority given you, trusting that the kingdom of God is poised and ready to advance under your leadership.
This is an excerpt from When Women Lead: Embracing Your Authority, Move Beyond Barriers, and Find Joy in Leading Others by Carolyn Moore. This resource is designed to help men and women better understand the unique leadership challenges of women leaders, and to help women design strategies so they can flourish in life and work. We can help women who lead to hold more realistic expectations and employ more effective strategies by giving them solid data and proven strategies to move beyond survival so they find joy in leading others.
- All women looking to learn more on how to be a leader in all areas of their life.
- Men looking to partner better with, and empower the women in their life
- Groups that want to learn together and discuss what it looks like to have women lead in their church and communities.
In these pages you will:
- Engage with Carolyn and her first hand stories
- Learn ways to practically become a better leader
- Be inspired to grow as a leader in your communities