I read a lot of blogs written by women, and I’ve been told that showing up and commenting on these blogs encourages the writers. Some of the bloggers, though, give me the impression I’m a bit more encouraging than they’re used to, particularly from a man.
Perhaps it’s true.
Why might I be so encouraging? Frankly, I think it might be because Jesus never pushed a woman down, put her in her place or shoved her to the side.
Jesus and His Women
The Gospel accounts record a number of interactions between Jesus and women, not casual encounters but meaningful moments that not only brought the Light of the world into their lives but also give us examples of the deep love of God. Despite the expectations of the society around him – expectations that Jesus would disregard women, even shun them publicly – Jesus chose to honor and cherish these women as people made in his Father’s image.
There’s the Samaritan woman at the well, an outcast among her own people and a pariah to the Jews. But Jesus engages with her in a lengthy conversation, listening to her words and her heart, showing her that what she’s longed for all her life as she lived with one man after another could be found in him, the One she eagerly awaited as Messiah.
Another time, when snobby religious leaders rebuked Jesus for allowing a woman to caress his feet, Jesus gently honored her, comparing her acts favorably to the shortcomings of his host. The master of the house did not offer water for Jesus to wash his feet, but the woman wet them with her tears and dried them with her hair; he didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss, but the woman never stopped kissing Jesus’ feet; he did not honor Jesus with oil for his hair, but the woman poured costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and massaged it in. And Jesus sends her off with gentle words of peace and forgiveness.
One woman wanted to be with Jesus so badly that she forced her way through a crowd that was hurrying him along to the home of a sick little girl they wanted him to heal. The woman just wanted to touch the hem of his robe, knowing that if she did she would be cured of the bleeding that had plagued her for twelve years. It worked immediately. Jesus stopped, the crowd surging around him. He called her to him, said she was his “Daughter” and he gently blessed her before continuing on his way.
And then there’s the woman who literally ended up owing Jesus her life. Caught in adultery, she’s thrown at Jesus’ feet where her accusers demand the ultimate punishment – being stoned to death – as much for judgment of her sin as to test Jesus’ orthodoxy. The fact he came to her defense might not have surprised her accusers. It’s what they wanted him to do, so they could accuse him in turn. But the way he did it was unassailable:
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus didn’t tell her to clean up her act before he’d forgive her. He didn’t even mention forgiveness with this woman. He just stood up for her, told her she’s free from condemnation, and that she should go and live accordingly.
The Godliness of Encouragement
It’s the way for all of us who belong to Jesus. We are forever free from condemnation.
The world doesn’t always treat women that way. In fact, people in this world are more likely to condemn women to a life of second-class status. And heaven help the woman if she’s a woman of color. How quickly a woman can fall from second- to third-class status or lower, condemned to less than full membership in society.
It’s an ungodly way to treat them.
So why do I spend time at women’s blogs, reading women writers, supporting women’s efforts to bring their insights and wisdom to work in the kingdom of God?
I’m just following the example of Christ.
[This updated post first ran as a guest piece back in 2013 at Bronwyn Lea’s blog.]