Politically conservative Christians tend to be pretty skeptical of feminism, at least in its modern form. They have no problem with equality before the law (with voting rights, for example), and they certainly have zero tolerance for physical abuse or for treating women anything less than the image-bearers that they are. But they have some real issues with some aspects of the modern feminist movement, especially with its proclivities for pretending that men and women are the same. And many of them--including myself—have a strong distaste for the atmosphere of victimhood which pervades much of it and seems to forget that women are just as much sinners as the guys are. They aren’t exempt from having a sinful nature, but you wouldn’t know it from some of the literature that sees all men as horrible brutes and all women as angelic victims.
Having said all that, I think it’s time to take a closer look at how Jesus viewed and treated women. Please keep in mind, however, that Christ didn’t come to set up a political liberation movement. His every step was directed by the Father’s comprehensive plan, and nothing was allowed to distract from that. He came to redeem us, both men and women, from bondage to sin and its effects. Everything else was secondary at best.
So let’s get it out there: Jesus was a lover of women. The sad thing is that when I say that, I have to qualify and explain it, otherwise you’ll walk away thinking that Keith is “rediscovering” the “historical” Jesus as some type of “playa.” The reason you instinctively react thus is because we’ve abused the word “love” so badly. A guy who sleeps with a different woman every night—heck, a guy who fails in any way to stick to God’s plan—does not truly love women. He’s using them.
So when I say that Jesus loved women, I mean he truly loved them. He cared about them. He cared about what they thought. He cared about their hopes, their dreams, their fears, and about who they were as a person. This is stark contrast to his peers. The Jewish state was pretty liberated compared to its pagan neighbors, but that doesn’t say much. The ultra-traditional view of women as second-class citizens was pretty universal at this time.
But he didn’t see them that way. He inspired the passage in Genesis we cited above. He created man and woman in his own image, and thus both are of equal intrinsic value and worth in his eyes. Every woman is an image-bearer and thus is deserving of respect, dignity, and honor. And that’s how he treated them.
He had no problem speaking to them in public and employing them as his emissaries to those who didn’t know about him. He also had no problem teaching them, another big no-no among rabbis. He honored them when they devoted themselves to him, and one in particular he promised would be forever famous the world over as far as the Good News is spread. And of course, as we noted before, he chose women to be the first witnesses of his resurrection.
That’s why today’s passage seemed like a good springboard for all this. Women have been oppressed by unjust laws and unfair treatment for as long as history’s been recorded. But then our Savior, a true lover of women, came along and now offers them true liberation. He offers them a place in his Kingdom in which there’s “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus.” The worst oppressor of women has never been a male chauvinist pig, however. Like all other political and social oppression, that's just a symptom of the disease. It’s always been their own sinful nature which cripples women far worse than anything this poor lady suffered. But the Man who said “Woman, you are set free!” is the same One who offers his hand today. And if he sets you free, you’re free indeed. That should inspire both joy and gratitude.
Today’s message is mainly for the ladies, but there’s some thoughts for the guys too. Do you see women the same way our Lord does? Do you see them as precious bearers of his image, or as a potential sex object? Do you honor and value them like he does? Do you treat them the way he does? Do I?
Lord Jesus, every woman I cross is either a precious lost soul for whom you died or a sister in my family. May I see them and treat them as I should, as you do.