The way women are represented from the pulpit today is, at best, unfortunate.
Women in the Bible are portrayed too often as weak, sinful and needy and none are ever the heroes. Every Bible character is weak and sinful, but the men can be held up as role models, but the women are almost always in the shadows. I have even heard Ruth and Naomi portrayed as total failures, in every aspect of life, and in need a man to come along and support them.
Sermon illustrations with women in them position the women as supporting characters, and are usually silly and appear foolish, especially old women, who are “stupid or foolish.” I have rarely ever heard a sermon illustration story where the woman is the hero, and we should all be like her as a role model. Apparently men find it hard to be inspired and ministered to by a female character. This mind-set is forced upon the listeners, and men and women are assigned positions, as seen fit by the prevailing culture, and not as the true outlook of scripture.
This has a detrimental effect on everyone, and because it is also psychological, it shapes attitudes in men and women, and gives rise to prejudice, misrepresentation and unfair treatment in the social situation. We end up regarding each other in a warped way, and the acceptance of this, causes so many difficulties.
JESUS treated women very differently than present “Christian” culture. Women were the ones who cared for him in every way. They provided a place to rest, food for him and also the twelve men disciples who followed him. They laundered his clothes, mended his sandals, cut his hair and manicured his nails. The Lord Jesus knew he needed them and he loved their devotion and attention. This is not exclusively a women’s job. Mary and Martha had a brother Lazarus, and he would have been equally involved with Christ.
Men are equally able to minister in this way, but are somehow unable, because of the present culture that these activities are menial and therefore “women’s work.” This philosophy has build up over years of stereotyping and warping the message of the scripture to suit our particular church setting. This has a detrimental effect on men and women, and the glory of service to Christ is missed by many. The real work is seen to be the work done by the person at the front. The men lead everything and women are allocated to the perceived lower jobs, and so the mindset is propagated and enhanced over time.
Many doors are closed to women in too many churches, and there is a much lower expectation of intellectual activity, and persistence in getting a job done. Leadership is predominantly male and the outlook is biased towards male social mores, and static views of structure and organisation.
Women turn to the secular world for opportunities to study and work and make progress in their mind and abilities. The church looses out and women loose out too. There are still way too many encounters where church leaders show gross prejudice about what a women can do based on age, dress and even looks! The fact that we also bear children is a massive negative, because women’s brains go soft in child bearing and therefore are only capable to managing toddlers and babies.!! Even the secular world has come to terms with some of these issues, but the social arena of the church has not been able to sort this out. Perhaps because women are still not involved in any kind of leadership, nor are there opportunities to develop ministries at a cognitive level.
Women helping and teaching men, is still very foreign in many church organisations and missions. Women are certainly able, but are kept down by trivialising their academic ability and any kind of insight into the scriptures, doctrine or theological debate. A few women have written and have spoken in an academic regard, but they don’t seem to be acknowledged in the male arena. This is a great pity and injustice.
When the Lord Jesus walked the earth, He definitely relied on the support of women. Christian women used their profit in business to provide the things he required and he overlooked none of them. He spoke into their intellect, as He did with everyone. Christ knew their love for the truth, and their steadiness in believing.
As he died on the cross, a crowd of women who loved him, watched from afar as their Master hung there to pay for their uncountable sins. They fixed their eyes on his body as life left it and their loving Lord was gone. John was there- that dear disciple, who was always leaning on JESUS, and couldn’t let him go. The women took his body down from the cross and rubbed in some fragrant spices and put him in the tomb.
The tears that would have been shed, the memories recounted as they remembered how JESUS raised Mary and Martha’s brother- Lazarus, and how this man who needed them, could beat death and rejoice with them.
These women were also the first to see JESUS alive again, and he gave them the first message to his disciples, to declare the good news that JESUS is alive.
His love for them is so touching, as he meets Mary Magdalene in the garden of the tomb, and calls her name- so personal, so careful and full of love. What would you give to have him call your name? To be so loved by him in that way, and to know he loves you, as you. It makes every heartache worth it, and enlivens for every work that he calls you to do for him.
Perhaps it is the unfairness that give women their unique qualities of love and devotion for Him. He knew exactly what they were about and he will include them in the everlasting kingdom to reign with Him forever. Maybe we could have some of that glory and wonder here on earth, if we could be like Him and love others different from us, and regard them as equally valuable as each other.