Anyone who reads the Bible, especially the Old Testament of the Bible, will come away with the observation that it is very male oriented and dominated. The Hebrew culture and the cultures around them were very patriarchal. That is irrefutable.
However, the fact that the Bible contains writings that are patriarchal does not mean that is God’s desire or practice. Throughout the Bible, Old and New Testament, we read of God’s instructions to protect women, treat women with respect, and women are written about with great admiration and regarded as heroes.
For example, in Genesis, Miriam, Moses’ sister, is first his protector when he was a child, and later she was an integral part of his leadership of the Hebrew people. Moses relied on her in his decision making.
In the Book of Joshua we read of Rahab. The book begins recounting the death of Moses and that Joshua was now in charge of the Hebrew people. He is preparing to take the people into the Canaan land that God had ordered them to enter forty years earlier. Joshua sent spies into the land to gain knowledge to be used in development of their strategy. The spies enter a town and the home of a prostitute, not an auspicious beginning. The enemy was looking for the spies. The enemy approached Rahab’s home to search for the spies. Rahab first hid the spies and then assisted them in escaping the city. For her help and valor, Rahab and her family were allowed to leave the city before the Hebrew army over ran it. Rahab is even mentioned in the genealogy of David in Matthew chapter one.
In Judges chapters 4 and 5 we read of Deborah. Deborah was a prophet of the Hebrews. A prophet in those days was a leading governmental official. She was instrumental in advising the army of the Hebrews in defeating their enemy.
In 1 Samuel we read of Hannah. Hannah was the wife of Elkanah, and she was barren meaning she was unable to bear children. Being unable to bear child in the Hebrew culture meant her only worth was as a housekeeper in the home. However, Hannah was a woman of great faith. She cried out to God for mercy and asked that He open her womb. God heard her prayer, opened her womb, and she and Elkanah conceived a child. Hannah had promised God that if God gave her a child she would dedicate the child to God’s service. Hannah was true to her promise. Once Samuel, Hannah’s child, was born and weaned, she brought him to the temple and gave him to Eli so Samuel could live his life serving the Lord. Samuel became one of if not the most important prophets in the Old Testament. God used him mightily in leading the people. He led the coronation of King Saul and King David as well as advising them. If it were not for Hannah’s rearing of Samuel and dedicating him to the service of God, Israel would not have had his powerful, faithful leadership.
On and on the list goes of women who figured prominently in God plan for Israel. There were also many prominent women in the New Testament beginning with Mary the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. There were women who taught the Apostle Paul and helped him. Timothy’s mother and grandmother were noted for their faithfulness and upbringing of Timothy.
Throughout God’s word many women are mentioned as a vital part of God’s work with His people.
In addition, God commanded Moses to include in the law instructions that were designed to protect woman from being abused and treated unjustly.
In my life and ministry, I have been blessed to know many godly women without whom the respective churches could not have succeeded or survived!
The women include my mother who made sure I attended church and who supported my desire to learn about God as a child and to later enter the ministry. My wife’s mother served as a missionary for 30 years to the people of Kenya alongside her husband. My wife’s faithfulness is a paramount support in my service to God and in the rearing of my children both of whom have been and are serving their church in paid and unpaid positions.
Given the time I could tell you of Ernestine Roberts, Nelle Edgin, Florence Deddens, Agnus Masterson, Ruth Miller, Betty Hallmark, Leffa Moore, Pat Teodorski, Jackie Stucki, and on and on my list goes. I have been instructed, encouraged, admonished, and taught by these great women as they lived their life before God.
These women brought intelligence, unique skills, and a motherly love to so many who were blessed to come into their sphere of influence. Some had children and some were childless, but they all showed nurturing love to everyone.
This is one reason when Mother’s Day comes around on the calendar I choose to honor all women, not just those who have given birth, for the nurturing love that seems ingrained in them.
So, I encourage you to honor and respect women, all women. Hold them high on a pedestal of respect. Secondly, do not be fooled by some who want to belittle them and diminish their role in the world and the church.
Ladies, I hope you will not take a surface view of God and think He is against women. Read His word and see for yourselves how much God teaches how to treat women with honor and respect.
I’ll leave you with this story. My mother enjoyed a relaxing cup of coffee, and she treasured the times she could stop, sit down, and enjoy her coffee in a pretty, flowery cup complete with a matching saucer. The cup was fine china. It was beautiful and of much more worth than a big, heavy mug. It was cherished and treated with care and protection. Women to me are like that china cup. Beautiful and valuable and to be cherished and cared for. Men are mugs. Thick, sometimes ugly, but strong. You can throw a mug on the ground and chances are it will just bounce and not break. Do that with fine china and it will chip at best and most probably break into many pieces. As fine china they are strong and capable and can bear some challenges better than any man. But they should be respected for their strength and cherished for their beauty of body, soul, and spirit.
Many of you will remember a movement that occurred in the 1990s called WWJD or What Would Jesus Do? It was very popular for a while and fostered many items to help us ask ourselves this question in each situation we encountered. A WWJD bracelet was produced that became a big favorite.
The thought and phrase initially occurred many, many years ago. Perhaps the first published book on the subject was Imitatio Christi (The Imitation of Christ) written by Thomas à Kempis in the early 1,400s. Charles Spurgeon mentions the book and uses the phrase, what would Jesus do, in a sermon of his from 1891.
Perhaps the most well-known book written on this subject is Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps subtitled “What Would Jesus Do?” Sheldon’s book, written in 1896, grew out of a series of sermons he preached at his church in Topeka, Kansas. Sheldon’s book took a different application than previous teachings. He used the term in Christian Socialism as more simply what Jesus would have done in everyday activities and situations in people’s lives versus a more theological application. The book has challenged many Christians and non-Christians to put their beliefs into practical application by helping people in practical ways.
The thought and movement were resurrected in the 1990s by Janie Tinklenberg, a youth minister in Holland, Michigan. She was looking for a way to motivate her youth to live daily and constantly for Christ.
Thus, the phrase, thought, and practice has been around for a very long time. However, that doesn’t diminish the truth contained in the question. What would Jesus do is a valid question each one of us can and should ask ourselves as we face the many challenges in our lives and in the attempt to help others.
Lately, a corollary has come to my mind. It is What Does Jesus Want? I don’t mean to assign any profundity to my thinking. The thought has grown out of realizing I need to develop the mind of Christ as Paul says in Philippians 2:5. “Let this mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus.” (KJV)
While we live by faith in Christ alone, God did endow us with a beautiful, powerful mind. We have a great capacity for thought and those thoughts guide us. Again, while we live by faith we should use our mind to gain knowledge of God and gain understanding of His way designed for us. The author of the wisdom literature in the book of Proverbs penned in Proverbs 23:7a, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” The Apostle Paul enjoined us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2. Jesus taught us to “lay up treasures in heaven” or have a heavenly mindset.
As we seek to serve Jesus, we can do that best when we know what He wants. Once we know what Christ wants, we can align our desires with His desires.
I been married to my wife for 47 years. While I won’t state that I know everything she is thinking, in mundane, daily decisions like eating out, I have learned what she likes. When we go to a restaurant, I can order for her. That’s not a statement of masculine chauvinism it is a fact and an ability that can help. When we’re choosing a place to go have a meal, I can choose a place she’ll enjoy because I know her mind about eating.
Our walk with Christ should be that natural and automatic. In common, daily occurrences I should be so in tune with the mind of Christ, that is knowing what He wants, that I don’t have to ask Him what to do, I don’t have to think about what I should do, I just do because what I do is in sync with Him on an ongoing basis. I’m walking in His way, living by His Spirit.
As a church we need to think about our mission in this way. It is easy to get distracted with programs and ministries that may be very good. However, in their pursuit we can lose sight of Christ’s desires and miss His leading because we are obsessed with our work. We miss the great because of the good we are doing. Too often the effect is that of the “tale wagging the dog.” Rather than us utilizing a method or program to achieve the goal of Christ, the program has ballooned to entrap us, eventually causing us to fail in accomplishing the mission of Jesus Christ.
One way we can keep us in the center of God’s will is to regularly ask ourselves, and measure our actions by the question, “What does Christ want? If we measure our actions against the standard of what Christ wants, we can determine if our actions are appropriate. The more we go through this process the more natural it is to know the mind of Christ. The mature Christian will find every action they take in Christ’s will from beginning to the end.
Does Christ want me to invite my neighbor to church? Yes! Does Christ want me to tell my neighbor about the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Yes! Does Christ want me to go out drinking and carousing with my friend? No! Does Christ want me to help my friend financially? Maybe, maybe not! That takes a specific inquiry.
If we are serious about knowing and doing God’s will for me, we will make this process a constant attitude of our heart. If we are serious about knowing and doing the will of God for our church, we will do this process!