In this post, I won’t be telling women to become feminists or to accept the beliefs and philosophies of the feminist and women’s liberation movements. This is because, I have discovered from reading the Bible that our God has already declared and decreed equal status of women, long before any feminist movement came into being. It is true that human beings have not followed the teachings of the Bible and this has given rise to false beliefs about women and their ‘place’ in society and in the church. These false beliefs have also given rise to feminist teachings and the women’s liberation movement, which are good in many ways, but potentially detrimental in other ways.
In Biblical times, women’s status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law and customs, as they were in essentially all other cultures at the time. Generally speaking, most women were restricted to roles of little or no authority, they were largely confined to their father’s or husband’s home, and women were considered to be inferior to men and under the authority of men — either to their father before marriage, or to their husband afterwards.
Women were also not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public, or talk to strangers. When outside of their homes, they were to be double veiled. They were second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above that of slaves.
The restrictive conditions for Jewish women may have also prevailed in other cultures. Generally speaking, over the centuries women have been kept in a position that’s lower than men and have been restricted to traditional roles such as housewife, home maker and care-giver. This was true, both in the home and also in professions that have been traditionally dominated by women – such as secretaries, nurses, waitresses and so on.
In my reading of the Bible, I see no reference to any commandment or teaching from God that places women in a position that is less than men. In fact, Jesus did not make any statements about the status of women and I believe that this is because the question of women’s equality with men was not an issue or a problem for Him.
In every interaction Jesus had with women he showed respect and treated them as equals. His attitude to women was radically different from the traditional beliefs about women in Biblical times. In Biblical times, women were considered second class citizens.
So let’s look at how Jesus related to women. He affirmed, honoured and encouraged women in their faith, treated them with dignity, equality and value. Regardless of their race, culture, age, social status or sin, Jesus only required the women he met to have faith, so that He could minister to them, heal them and allow them to participate in His ministry. Jesus continually broke with the traditions, religious law and attitudes of the time regarding women. In fact He radically changed and revolutionized the way in which women were treated. If Jesus broke wrong traditional beliefs about women and what people thought their role should be, shouldn’t we also break away from traditional beliefs and ideas about the status of women that are contrary to the Biblical examples and teachings on the roles that women are expected to play?
Jesus included women in His ministry. His only requirement for ministry and discipleship was faith. Jesus’ disciples included several women, a practice almost unheard of among the rabbis of His day. We read in Luke 8:1-3, “Soon afterwards, Jesus began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” These were women of faith, married, unmarried, of high social standing, of humble means and those who had material wealth. They all formed part of Jesus’ inner circle, doing His work and serving in His ministry.
Jesus taught women. He revealed His truth directly to women. In Jewish tradition, women were not taught with men. In fact, Christ’s first recorded, explicit disclosure of His own identity as the true Messiah was made to a Samaritan woman. In John 4:25-26, the woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Another big, liberating truth about Jesus’ view of women is that He encouraged women to go beyond traditionally expected roles such as domestic service and hospitality. We read in Luke 10:38-42 that Jesus implored Martha to stop being bothered by household chores and follow her sister Mary’s example of listening to His teachings. It’s not that being hospitable is a bad thing, or that we are to neglect household tasks and only pay attention to Bible study. I believe that Jesus was liberating Martha and other women from the commonly held social belief that it’s a woman’s place to always do the hospitality and household chores. So what if you don’t feel called to serve coffee after church service? Jesus is quite ok with that!
He always treated women with the utmost dignity–even women who might otherwise be regarded as outcasts. He ignored Jewish laws of ritual impurity when he healed the woman with the hemorrhage and when He blessed and accepted the woman who washed His feet. He went past cultural differences and prejudices when He ministered to the Samaritan woman at the well who had been married five times and when He delivered the Canaanite woman’s daughter of an evil spirit(See Matthew 9:20-22; Luke 7:37-50; John 4:7-27; John 8:4-11; and Matthew 15:22-28).
As men and women of faith, we need to embrace these truths.
- God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son sees women and treats women as equal to men.
- God the Holy Spirit enables women and men to understand His specific will for you, empowers you to develop your talents and to serving effectively in ministry.
- Women of faith are not in the back row. Women are to come boldly forward and do God’s work, as we are directed by God to serve Him and the world.
This is who we are. This is who God wants Christian women of faith to be, and how He wants Christian men of faith to see their spiritual sisters, wives and daughters.