Around the world, March 8 is celebrated as International Women's Day. I have spent the week looking at women in the Gospels, to have a stronger understanding about the Biblical view of women.
Many women across the World are still denied of their basic rights and face threats to life at every stage starting in some areas with the right to be born, access to education, domestic violence, inadequate healthcare, access to a nourishing diet and the ability to make decisions about their own lives and that of their families.
20% of Women in Zambia will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) every day in Zambia 93 (these are only the reported figures) women are raped or sexually assaulted in the country. 11,000 cases of GBV violence was reported in 2013-14 and only 22% of those were prosecuted. 42% of Women in Zambia attest to have been assaulted by their husbands or partners.
Today I ask you to take 5 minutes to focus on how much Jesus valued women and how he intentionally included them and relied on them during his ministry. In the scriptures we can see that Jesus viewed women in a very different way, this was often entirely against Jewish law and went against many customs in ancient Israel.
Philip Yancey (American Christian Author: The Jesus I Never Knew) comments, "For women and other oppressed people, Jesus turned upside down the accepted wisdom of his day .... Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels."
Throughout the Gospels we see that Jesus was sensitive to the social and religious exclusion which women faced daily. He both purposely and publicly and both included and celebrated the influence of the many women amongst his followers and supporters. The strength of these relationships is seen among the women who loved Jesus, and stood waiting at the foot of the cross while he died, when most of the male disciples had fled and his very closest had denied him.
Jesus so honoured women that He gave them the role of being the very first to inform others of his resurrection, in a culture where women had no religious or legal authority as a spokesperson. This encourages us to have the attitude of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).
Women have been abused and put down by men–sometimes very rudely and cruelly. But Jesus for me is the perfect man and God wants every man to be as that perfect Man.
I encourage you in all your various daily programs and visits to take an action to honour and appreciate the contribution of women in society.
Read: LUKE 8:1-3
“After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
In Malawi/Zambia/Mozambique, the vast majority of women are today, as we sit here reading this, at home, in the fields weeding, cooking, looking after children & washing clothes. Meanwhile, most men are out “earning” the income. This is less so in the middle classes, where those roles are becoming more shared, but among the poor with whom we work, it is almost universally true.
In Mwandi, where we lived for many years, young women wanted to get out into the world and to work, but were prohibited by their husbands & fathers and social stigma and custom, which insisted they should stay at home and do the housework, look after Children and tend the fields. Not only can many young women not go out to work, but often are not even allowed out of the house to interact with the world by going shopping or visiting friends, without a male escort.
Yet we see in today's passage, in Palestinian Society of Jesus' day, 2000 years ago, women were clearly out and about interacting with society, the disciples and Jesus. Not only that, they were the breadwinners 'helping to support them out of their own means'. Jesus and his disciples weren't earning anything and needed to rely on the charity of these women. 'Their own means' seems to indicate that these women had earned the money themselves. From that earning they voluntarily chose to help and support Jesus & his disciples. Jesus’ acceptance of this situation would imply that he approved of their behaviour, welcoming their interaction and their support. Otherwise he would have challenged the behaviour, as he did with many other characters in the gospels (the Pharisees, Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, Pilate etc.). For me, this passage forces us to ask hard questions about the progress of women in our society today.
Why, if women were out and about, earning, giving & interacting with Jesus and the communities he ministered to 2,000 years ago, are most women today restricted to staying at home, cooking Nsima and washing clothes? I would ask us all to reflect on the following;
- In my family who is the breadwinner/supporter? Why is that so?
- In my son's/daughter's family (when they marry) who is likely to be the breadwinner/supporter? Why is that so?
What can I do this year to help my daughter/sister, become more like the independent women we see in the gospels?
As men I feel we need to do more and to do what is in my power to help the women in my family and beyond to become like the independent women of the gospels. We must have the courage to do this even though we may be criticised by our family, friends, and neighbours. You can show no greater love for them than standing up for their equal place in our society today.
Have a Blessed Day and remember to praise and thank God for all those women in your life.