The Value of Women to Jesus

September 26, 2012

'Woman at Baobob in Tana' photo (c) 2007, David Dennis - license: you ever felt to some degree marginalized in your church because you are a woman? Not every Christian woman has this experience, but many do. The circumstances that stir up these feelings may vary, but often we are left with the impression that we have no voice in some aspect of ministry or church life that we care about deeply. 

Over the past few months, a couple of dear friends have shared with me their feelings of disappointment and discouragement around this very issue. These aren’t women who are trying to work their way up the church leadership ladder. They are wise and godly sisters who merely wanted to share their insights on topics relevant to their ministry experience. Instead of having those insights heard and respected, they felt ignored in an all-male environment of church authority. 

This is bound to happen sometimes in church settings where many Christians understand scripture to place spiritual authority, preaching, shepherding, and decision-making solely in the hands of men. Certainly, church leaders have serious responsibilities. They must act consistently with their understandings about the roles of women in ministry and leadership. I just figure, though, that sometimes they get so used to listening only to other men about church-related matters that they forget how wise and insightful spiritually mature women can be. They end up excluding women in areas where scripture definitely doesn’t bind them, and it feels like they are saying, “You have nothing to say that we need to hear.” 

'Woman' photo (c) 2011, Timothy Krause - license: ladies can be encouraged that our Savior took a more considerate approach, one that clearly demonstrates how deeply he valued women.

According to the Gospels, the Son of God—who created both men and women—frequently noticed the women around him and their needs. Because he cared so much about them, he healed them, cast out their demons, and granted their requests—even resurrecting their beloved family members who had died. 

He also appeared to recognize women’s intellect. He spoke with women about spiritual matters (the sisters Mary and Martha, for example, and the Samaritan woman). He taught them, probed their understanding, even allowed them to argue with him (remember the Canaanite mother who wanted her daughter to be healed?). He also revealed himself to women as the Messiah (or Christ). 

Jesus allowed women to travel with him on his ministry team, to support him financially, and to use their domestic skills directly in his service (Luke 8:1-3). He included women in his teachings and his object lessons, probably because so many women were in his audiences and he wanted to connect with them. On the other hand, he never generalized about female characteristics or made jokes about women or commented on their appearance. 

He acknowledged women’s ability to evangelize—and not only in “women’s” ministry. The Samaritan woman told her whole village about her experience with Jesus. As the townspeople headed back to Jacob’s well to meet him, Jesus told the disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest and that “others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:38).

Of course, in the various Gospel versions of the resurrection, the women who visited the empty tomb were instructed to report to the “brothers” (the remaining eleven disciples) the most meaningful miracle God had ever performed. Perhaps the men’s failure to believe the women (see Luke’s version) has inadvertently served as a model for a few of our guys today <smile>.

'Woman profile' photo (c) 2011, Pedro Ribeiro Simões - license: also believe that Jesus valued women as the individuals they were and not only as wives or mothers.  Here’s an interesting point made by a feminist Jewish New Testament scholar, and she’s exactly right. “It’s difficult to name a married couple, with the exception of Mary and Joseph, who are together when Jesus talks to them,” she said in a recent interview with Christianity Today.  None of the women in the Gospels is accompanied by a spouse, she pointed out. Most appear to be living celibate, either as single or widowed, and Jesus accepted them just as they were. 

“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother,” Jesus told one crowd, indicating again the presence of women in his audience as well as his equal consideration of them. He seemed to expect women to be on the frontlines of spiritual battle, too, pronouncing in Matthew 10 that following Jesus would turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…”

And in one of my favorite stories, Jesus defended Lazarus’ sister Mary when she chose to express her adoration with an extravagant sacrifice of expensive perfume. It was an unorthodox form of worship, true, but Jesus saw all the meaning behind it and told his appalled disciples that Mary had done a beautiful thing for him. 

Here is the message we can draw from these passages, Dear Sisters. Mere humans aren’t always going to get this right in our fallen world. But you can rest assured that you are valuable to Jesus, not only as his precious daughter but as a disciple of great worth to his ministry. He values both your heart and your mind, your service and your vision, your passion and your compassion.

No matter what messages you may get from other Christians—male or female—about your significance to the Father’s kingdom work, never doubt that He values all you have to give.

Being all you can be in Christ may require a bit of humility, patience, persistence or creativity in your church context, but God wants each of us to be “all in”— heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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