Carolyn Custis James looks at the brokenness and suffering in this world and sees a solution: The Body of Christ. She calls every one of God’s image bearers to become active in taking God’s love to a world in need. In particular, she speaks to women in her book Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, encouraging them to gain a global perspective for how their gifts can be the means through which God delivers help, healing, and hope.
I’ve already written about three themes of James’s book that were of particular interest to me: women as Kingdom builders (Part 1), women as God’s image bearers (Part 2), and women as spiritual warriors (Part 3). In this fourth and final installment, I want to highlight one last theme, one that actually threads through the entire book and ties everything together. James calls it the mystery of God’s A Team, God’s Blessed Alliance: God created men and women to partner together to fulfill His global mandate. Together, men and women form the force that will take God’s love and mercy to the world.
James states that the success of the Blessed Alliance is no small matter. The way in which men and women work together is critical. By this alliance, three things will be built up or torn down: 1) God’s image, 2) our identities as men and women, and 3) God’s Kingdom. By working together in humility, love, and respect, God’s people will display all three rightly. And when we are working together, filled with God’s Spirit of love and mercy, we will be prompted to extend that love and mercy to meet the needs we see around us.
Reading James’s words fills me with deep excitement for what God might accomplish among His people! These visionary things sound good on paper, but I am always left wondering how they play out in the practical day to day. James helps by pointing to two biblical accounts (Esther and Mordecai; Mary and Joseph) that show how men and women worked together and demonstrated this Blessed Alliance for us. As I reviewed these examples, I see the Blessed Alliance really boils down to Christlike humility:
“Being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:1–11, ESV)
Closing Thoughts on Half the Church
Closing out this four-part review, I wonder what overarching thought will remain as days and weeks and months distance me from this book. My heart is filled with this: There is too much to do and too much brokenness in this world for any of God’s people to sit idle. We have been redeemed at a price and have the joy of redemption—Jesus, Himself!—living within us. We have the high honor and privilege of bearing God’s image to the world. And I don’t want to live a small life centered on me when I have the chance to display God’s love and mercy to a world that is desperate for help and hope.
Whatever your view may be on the role women should play in God’s Kingdom, I think you will both enjoy and benefit from reading Half the Church. James does close the book with a final chapter on the great debate between egalitarian versus complementation perspectives. She remains silent on her stance, and for that, she has received much flak. Instead, James chooses to leave that debate with the reader, for there are brilliant minds and strong arguments in both camps. Ultimately, both camps need to display Christian unity and get busy: God’s Kingdom is at stake and the world is in desperate need.
I am grateful for the excitement and focus this read has stirred in me. God has used it to draw me deeper into His redemptive plan, to seek His lead in everyday ways I can spread His mercy, and to assess how my life needs to change so His Kingdom is first. This is the joy of being God’s image bearer: being in the midst of God’s Kingdom work, for His name and His glory. All I can think is: Let’s do this!