taught teach, discipled disciple
I’m the chair of our presbytery’s Committee on Representation. In my experience and in my context, representation can feel like forcing a square peg into a round hole. Our denomination reflects the qualities of the dominant culture—up until the symbolic minute ago: white, mainly straight, not so young, yada yada…
We want to see ourselves as reflecting a full range of ethnicities, sexual expressions, jobs and careers…the whole kit and kaboodle. As I see it, these are easier to visualize. I’m not saying it’s easy in any way to achieve, but it’s easier to put on a list. Our (Presbyterian) Book of Order gives such a list to us, consisting of “race, ethnicity, age, sex, disability, geography, [and] theological conviction.” I have long considered the last in that line to be the toughest, but perhaps the most important. Ideally, theology determines the value we place on the rest.
Is this a square peg in a round hole?
Here’s something I’ve trotted out from time to time: Jesus was the master at representation, to the chagrin of the powers-that-be. Placing Matthew the tax collector (a collaborator with the Romans) with Simon the Zealot (a likely revolutionary) in the same group is either insane or genius. And women! Only a few have their names mentioned, but we are told there are many more. How dare Jesus put them on equal footing with the men!
Still, is it possible even Jesus has what we might consider a moment of discovery in Mark 7? Immersed in a culture in which Jews look down on certain gentiles, he has an encounter with a Syrophoenician woman who has come begging him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. In addressing her, he uses the word “dog,” a slur used by the Jews. She challenges his assumption and displays a genuine faith. Jesus then says her daughter has been set free.
Jesus models what might be called a learning spirit.
The book of Isaiah has an interesting word. Chapter 50 verse 4 reads, “The Lord God has given me a trained tongue, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens, wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” The Hebrew word translated as “trained” and “taught” is לׅמּוּד (limmud). However, this isn’t simply one who is taught. This is also one who sustains the weary. The taught teaches. The disciple disciples.
What a theological position that would be. We aren’t asked to engage in mindless conformity. Rather, we are asked to first be willing to learn—and then, to pass along the wisdom.
We are asked to be willing to learn, to be willing to listen. That doesn’t mean being snarky or dismissive.
Regardless of where one self-identifies on the spectrum, this is a word to be heard. (I must confess I often find this pigeonholing of ourselves, as if we can’t be more than one thing, to be a tedious bit of business. Perhaps another square peg in a round hole?)
Maybe that’s a good start to representing ourselves!