This week, in our ladies Bible study, we were looking at the life of Lydia. She is the first convert in Philippi, a business woman and a leader in the community. The study we were doing assumed that she became a leader in the church too, so we talked through the role of women in the church. Just how far does the leadership role extend?
I have been thinking quite a lot about a lady called Triphina. When I was in South Africa a number of years ago and one of the most vibrant churches I visited was in a black township on the outskirts of Durban. It had been lead by a man for a number of years, and when he had died, his wife assumed the leadership role. She was wonderful.
My thoughts have not really been about her role as a leader in the church and whether it is biblically sound or not – my thoughts at the time! I have been thinking about just the way she lived her life.
The black township was a place of poverty. It was reflected in the community. Apartheid had come to an end perhaps three or four years earlier, but the thinking was still in place. The black community did not think themselves equal with white people. They did not have the same opportunities or chances. There was a mentality that said “This is our place in life – accept it!” I think for many they had ceased to dream.
For them their whole environment was an excuse not to succeed in life. It was a kind of “Why bother? Nothing is really going to change,” attitude that pervaded everything they did. I realise that I am making some sweeping generalisations here.
Triphina was different. She had not made her living conditions an excuse not to triumph in life. As well as leading the church, she also ran two businesses. One was a sewing business, making and selling dresses. The other business was running a small shop. She grew vegetables and sold them – or gave them away to really needy people.
She lived in the black township, with all the limitations that everyone else had with lack of decent sanitation and clean water – but again, her home was as neat and tidy, comfortable and clean as possible. It was painted and decorated, unlike any homes in the township.
It was like she was flying a banner to say that you don’t have to live according to your circumstances. You don’t have to let the environment dictate the way that you live, or the way that you think. She was acting as salt and light – very powerfully.
I am so challenged by her lifestyle right now. I can make so many excuses about why my testimony is not as powerful as it could be. If I had nicer pupils, if I had new desks, if I was not teaching in a prefabricated hut – all these things are irrelevant. Triphina didn’t make excuses. She shone regardless.