An intriguing description of one of Jesus’ followers is found in Luke 8:1-4: “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward or household manager.”
One can only imagine the conversations held between Joanna and her husband, Chuza, the “COO,” chief operating officer, if you will, of Herod’s household.
I imagine Joanna was concerned about how her husband felt about her decision to follow Jesus and support Jesus’ ministry.
After considering all factors, she had the courage to not only follow Jesus, but also to support the work of the ministry.
“In order to please God, we are often compelled to be different,” declared Samuel DeWitt Proctor, in his book, “The Certain Sound of a Trumpet: Crafting a Sermon of Authority.”
It’s not easy to be different. It’s not easy to go against the grain, to march to the beat of a different drum, to separate from the pack, to take the road less traveled, to have the courage to follow where the Spirit leads.
Indeed, it takes courage to be different, to do what is right in the face of daunting opposition, to be willing to do and be what is necessary to bring about change.
We have somehow developed the false notion that if someone is courageous, it means they have such bravery, such “true grit,” such valor that they are fearless. In other words, because of their boldness or audacious spirit, they move about with little or no trepidation.
The opposite, however, is true. Courage is what it takes to move forward in the face of or in spite of our fears. It may be defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens you.”
We take so much for granted as we read the Scriptures. We forget that it was no small feat or endeavor to drop everything and follow Jesus, especially for a woman.
Jesus was considered by many to be a menace to society. So, for Joanna to step out of “her place,” particularly as a woman, and follow Jesus, supporting his ministry financially with her money, took great courage.
Luke 8:1-2 does not clearly state how Joanna started following Jesus or even why. It simply says, “The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”
Though not stated specifically, it is inferred Joanna was one of the women either “healed of an evil spirit” or with an “infirmity.” In other words, she was sick and had been healed by Jesus.
One might argue that her healing not only emboldened her, but also carved out a deep level of compassion for others giving her the courage to be a change agent.
With all of her wealth, with all of her finery, high position and prominence, she still could not get healed. Her healing came from Jesus, who opened her eyes and her heart to some new realities.
It is clear Joanna did not care what Herod thought, what her friends in society thought or even what Chuza may have thought.
She became a change agent because she was willing to sacrifice her comfort, her position, her prestige and whatever people thought of her in order to support and help others.
To be a change agent, one must be willing to sacrifice, suffer and serve. To be a change agent, one must be willing to take up their cross and follow Jesus. To be a change agent, one must have a heart of humility and compassion.
It is not enough to feed the hungry. We should desire that the hungry will one day be able to feed themselves and do what we can to change systems keeping people in the cycle of poverty.
It is not enough to privately condemn those who mistreat and take advantage of co-workers, and those who destroy the self-esteem and self-worth of others by bullying.
We must be willing to do what we can, using wisdom to protest unfair labor laws and conditions. We must have the courage to confront bullies (children and adults), to let them know that someone is watching and is ready to take whatever action is necessary to make them stop their harassment.
Being a change agent is not easy. People may not like you. They may not invite you to sit at their tables, to come to their parties, to participate in their conversations.
But if we accept our Christian calling to defend the defenseless, to support efforts that help to lift and bless others, to speak truth to power, to do whatever we can to help bring about hope and change for the better, we will not walk alone.
In our everyday lives, we may not be called upon to exhibit life-or-death courage, but we will be called upon to choose the road less traveled.
We will be compelled by our compassion, our faith and our hope in a risen Savior to be change agents – to rock some boats, to say and do things that some people will not like.
We will be called upon to speak up concerning issues of injustice, ugliness, oppression and hate.
We will be compelled to reject the joys and comforts of going along with the crowd for our own temporary comfort for the hope, healing and deliverance of others.
Chris Smith is pastor of Covenant Baptist Church in Euclid, Ohio, author of “Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.” A version of this article first appeared on her blog, ShePastor, and is used with permission. You can follow Smith on Twitter @Revcsmith1.
Senior pastor of Restoration Ministries of Greater Cleveland. She is the author of Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors.