Luke 8:1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
Partners in ministry may not always be those whom we expect. The disciples traveled with Jesus, along with a group of women whom Jesus had touched and cured of numerous infirmities. They comprised the rag-tag team that served together with Jesus, and it took all of them to complete the ministry.
So much of this teamwork was counter-cultural. Women would never have been allowed into the inner circle with a religious leader and yet, here they were. While they came with great gratitude for what Jesus had done in their lives, they were able to give back to Jesus in return. Jesus humbled himself, though rich, he became poor, so that the women would be able to minister to him.
The disciples would follow this model into their future ministry, even after the ascension of Christ. Teams of disciples, men and women, would partner together in the spreading of the good news about Jesus Christ.
A synergy is created when God’s sons and daughters partner together in ministry and become a part of a team. I would guess that when we think of Jesus and his disciples we just imagine him with the twelve men. However, if you look closely at the scriptures you discover that it was a larger team and this included the women who helped to resource the ministry. It took this kind of a partnership to fulfill Jesus’ mission, and it takes this kind of a partnership today as well.
If we take Jesus as our example, then how would we do work or ministry differently? In the last few decades a number of Christian leaders have adopted a set of rules or standards which they believe will protect them from having their image tarnished. While I do understand where and how this began, there are unintended consequences. Had Jesus been concerned about his reputation with the religious leaders there are a lot of things he would not have done. In regard to his relationship with women, he found it more important to break down cultural barriers and raise the status of women in the kingdom, than to protect his own reputation. Therefore he was accused of hanging out with the wrong people — including women of questionable repute.
When we create barriers to protect our own reputation, others will be hurt. Suddenly the person on the other side of the barrier is viewed as being dangerous. They are isolated and are no longer participants in casual conversation. Decisions about work and ministry are made without a variety of voices at the table and the teamwork which was on display in the life of Jesus is no longer reflected. The kingdom loses in the long-run.
Whether we are talking about women, or ethnic minorities, or people of a different socio-economic class — we will find strength in diversity. The teamwork on display with Jesus’ rag-tag team astounded the world. Jesus intentionally broke down barriers which had existed for centuries and provided us with a little glimpse of the way in which work was to be done in the kingdom. We are to reflect that kingdom — already today! Kingdom work is teamwork.
Lord, please open my eyes to provide opportunities for intentional inclusion in your kingdom’s work. Amen.
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