There’s nothing like the Holy Spirit and a great tour guide to help you see the world with a new perspective.
In the past, God has used spiritual tour guides like Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and mentors to help me focus in on Himself. But He used a literal tour guide in September, an Italian spitfire named Sylvia, to rock my world with a fresh insight from something in my line of sight.
Basilica di Santa Prassede, the beautiful space in the picture below, is tucked in behind a quiet courtyard in the middle of the bustling city of Rome. Like St. Celcilia’s that I wrote about last week, St. Prassede’s is built on top of a house church hosted by she and her sister, Pudentiana. Like Cecilia, Prassede was a Gentile, and her father was a Roman Senator that was the first member of the family to become a follower of Jesus. Both Prassede and her sister were martyred for providing Christian burials on family land in part of what is call the catacombs.
A Nagging Question
As Sylvia led us around this stunning space, she gave us an art history lesson. In the times of the early church, the sizes of the figures indicated their importance. The stature being depicted in each art piece was determined by influence and power rather than simply physical height.
This detail about size led to a major insight just minutes later.
Sylvia released us from the group for some individual wandering, and I headed over to the wooden pews to rest my aching feet. In the quiet, my eyes scanned the ornate room and then landed on the intricate mural embedded above the altar. My focused intensified, Sylvia’s lessons floated through my mind, and I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, settling a question that I’ve wrestled with for decades…
Where is a woman’s place?
A Joy-Filled Answer
The mosaic’s artist answered my question with biblical beauty. Here are the realizations as they came to me:
- Jesus is the largest, and He’s in the center. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Col. 1: 15-18 NIV)
- Jesus is flanked on either side by Peter and Paul, friends and brothers to Christ and in Christ. They’re smaller than Him. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
- On either side of Peter and Paul are the sisters, Prassede and Pudentiana. They’re the same size as Peter and Paul. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 NIV)
- And WAIT! Peter and Paul each have their arm around a sister. (Remember that this mosaic was far above my head and hard to see with my old eyes. See their hands on Prassede’s and Prundentiana’s shoulders? I’ve included a zoomed in pic below so that hopefully you can see this sweet detail.) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Rom. 8:29 NIV)
I was transfixed, and I strongly believe that Holy Spirit directed my attention to this piece of art to confirm a perspective shift that I’m experiencing. “The family of Christ should look like this,” I thought. “Where is a woman’s place? Standing arm-in-arm with her brothers in service with Jesus.”
A Woman, Her Lord & Her Brothers
Jesus is the center and the head. He, our brother and friend, is above all things.
We are His family, just like the verbiage of Scripture tells us over and over. We are brothers and sisters, designed to stand side-by-side clothed in equal value, not arranged in a hierarchy.
Brothers and sisters are to operate in love, respect and trust, not fear. In Christ, we can stand close. Women aren’t seductresses that require distance, and men aren’t brutes who can’t control their impulses.
We may not all agree about positions and titles for brothers and sisters, but we can all work towards living more fully in the truths above. Will you pray with me that our churches begin to look more like the mosaic in St. Prassede’s, filled with brothers and sisters working side-by-side in the name of our Lord Jesus?
Come Sit With Me
I’d love for you to sit on a pew next to me in Basilica di Santa Prassede next September!
Registration is now open for the Women of Influence modern pilgrimage to Rome and Chianti. Come along with us to dig deep into the stories of biblical women– Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Eunice and Lois– as well as women of the early church– Helen, Prassede, Cecilia and others.
If you’d like more information about the trip than you can find at the link above, Wendy and I are hosting an informational call on Tuesday, November 15th at 7:30 pm Eastern Time. Email me at [email protected] for the link if you’d like to join us.