HOW JESUS ELEVATED WOMEN
The reality is that the Judeo-Christian heritage is hands-down, the most female affirming world-view on our planet. Due to our Judeo-Christian heritage, women are treated better in western culture than any other culture on earth. The reason for this goes back to Jesus. Jesus elevated women to a status unheard of before in Greek and Roman culture, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. Matthew’s Gospel includes four women in the genealogy of Jesus—something unthinkable in the first century. Several of those women were known for their sexual sin—the Bible doesn’t sugar coat things! The Gospel writers also tell us that women were among the first eyewitnesses of the resurrection—an incredible detail that is often overlooked in our egalitarian, democratic culture as women in the first century had no voting rights, and could not testify in court.
From the earliest pages of the Gospels, Jesus elevated the status of women and no credible historian can disagree this fact. From the earliest days of the church, women have been included in the New Community. Both Jesus and Paul included women in leadership roles. In most times and places, women have found the church more affirming and liberating than their surrounding cultures. This was certainly true in the Roman empire, and remains true in much of the world today. What an important reminder in our own country when powerful men are being outed for their sexual abuse of women.
New Testament scholar Michael Kruger notes in his book Christianity at the Cross Roads, that in the 2nd century A.D. the strong presence of women in the early Christian movement remains unchanged. Women also played a significant role among early Christian martyrs.
Then there is the woman at the well— a Samaritan. Jesus talked to her. He really did. He connected with her on a heart level. Jesus interacted with a female of a different ethnic group…in the open…in public…in the Middle East. This is strange enough even today and unheard of in the first century! Too often the Bible is criticized for restricting the role of ruling elders to men as stated in 1 Timothy. While the Bible does affirm this, it is not a negative thing. Paul had a very high view of women. His teaching about the role of women in the local church is rooted in his affirmation of God’s authority in the family. This is a positive thing for women—a very positive thing! It’s meant to be a shield and a protection. Paul and Jesus are in full agreement concerning the high calling of women. Let us make sure to honor and respect the women in our life accordingly. They are due nothing less. Jesus said so.