Jesus the Feminist
The 8th of March is the International Day of Women. The 2017 theme is Women in the Changing World of Work.
We have lots to be thankful for in the freedoms gained for women over the years.
Thank you Lord for the changes we have seen.
We still have a long way to go. The term “feminism” dates back to 1872 and was used to describe emerging movements for women’s rights, seeking equality and freedom. It was much needed. For example in the UK:
• Until 1882 a wife’s property belonged to her husband
• Women were forbidden to ride a bicycle
• Women were barred from higher education
• Many roles and professions excluded women
• Women only gained the right to vote in 1918 and then only over the age of 25, whilst men could vote at 21.
• Up until 1925 a women could be imprisoned if she left her husband
• Women were paid less for work done, and mostly, still are.
In many countries significant inequality remains and a form of structural and institutional oppression affects women on a daily basis. Feminism is a movement that challenges the accepted norms and values in society that promote and justify inequality, racism, oppression, marginalisation and abuse. There are many forms of feminism that have evolved. Here are a few ones to consider:
1) Liberal Reformist Feminism: seeks equal treatment and equal opportunities within society for women and men.
2) Socialist Feminism: seeks to address the inequality in society of pay and takes into account that class and ethnicity also play a part in marginalisation and oppression. What this looks like today is that certain roles are held for working class, ethnic minority women.
3) Radical Feminism: seeks to address stereotypical patriarchal representations of women.
Where would Jesus stand with regards to feminism?
Jesus entered into a society where women were still held in low esteem, classed with the outcasts of society such as lepers, Samaritans, prostitutes and tax collectors. Women were not allowed to learn Scripture and were seen as property, much like a slave.
As we follow the life of Jesus, we see him breaking social norms:
• Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. This very act would make him religiously unclean. (John 4)
• He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery (John8), in fact he saved her life and called her to transformation
• He was not angry with the woman who touched his hem to receive healing, which again would have left him religiously unclean. In fact, he commended her faith.
• He received the love and care offered by the woman who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. He commended her love. (Luke 7)
• Women financial and practically supported Jesus’ ministry. (Luke 8)
• He welcomed women to sit at his feel and learn. (Luke 10)
• He welcomed women and children with care and concern.
• He showed love and concern for the widow who gave out of her poverty.
• It was to women that he first revealed his risen self.
Jesus was certainly a catalyst for a movement to address the inequalities and oppression society had imposed on women.
Many times we have focused quite rightly on the freedom of women, but I think we also need to work on the freedom of men who themselves are enslaved into ways of thinking and behaving that society wrongly justifies.
There is a deeper problem that we together need to address that has affected us all and the inequalities in society simply represent the symptoms of an underlying issue. It is an issue that takes root in our hearts, our social structures, and distorts and even perverts our relationships with one another, with God, with ourselves and with creation. The problem is sin and pride, greed and power, selfishness and fear.
God’s liberating agenda seeks to bring freedom for men and women, to reconcile and restore healthy and life-giving relationships.
Lord, thank you for showing us the way through everyday acts that demonstrate love and inclusion, equality and wholeness for all. We confess our brokenness and sin to you and ask that you would help us to be your image bearers and be reconcilers in our family, community and nation.
We pray for the SDG 4 and 5 goals that continue to work towards equality for all, especially enabling women and girls to have equal opportunities in life.
Come Lord, and liberate us!