What Christianity Did for Women
"Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.' … [Later] his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman…."1
Alvin Schmidt, in an article on an Assisted News Service report, asks, "What would be the status of women be in the Western world today had God not entered the world in the flesh of his Son Jesus Christ? One way to answer this question is to look at the low status women still have in I'lamic countries. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women are not even permitted to drive automobiles, and in the Koran a man is commanded to beat his wives physically if they are disobedient (Sura 4:34).
"When one looks back in history before and at the time of Christ, women, similar to I'lamic countries today, also had very little freedom and dignity. They were seen as evil, inferior, unclean, unequal, and kept silent. Numerous statements in ancient literature attest to this biased cultural perception….
"Reflecting Greek culture," Homer (eighth century B.C.) wrote, "One cannot trust women" (The Odyssey). The Greek playwright Euripides (d. 406 B.C.) said, "Women were the best devisers of evil" (Medea). Tacitus the first-century Roman pictured women as dominating and cruel (Annals). Among the Hebrews, Jesus son of Sirach (second century B.C.) stated, "From a woman sin had its beginning and because of her we all die" (Ecclesiastus).2
"Women were seen as inferior, unclean, unequal, but it was Jesus and the early Christians, in opposition to the accepted norms of the day and those of ancient tradition, who accepted women as equal and gave them dignity. Jesus ministered to women; he asked a despised Samaritan woman—of all people—to give him a drink of water; he taught women theological truths; and among his closest friends (in equal standing with his men friends) were women. Furthermore, he solidly rebuked the religious Pharisees who attempted to get Jesus to condemn the woman caught in adultery by saying that the man who had never sinned could be the one to cast the first stone at her. And Jesus appeared to women first following his resurrection.
"As apostolic Christianity spread, it gave women freedom and dignity unknown to the ancient world. It did this not only by baptizing and admitting women to the Lord's Supper—equal to men—but it also gave them leadership roles. St. Paul notes that Apphia 'our sister' was a leader in a house church in Colossae (Philemon 2). In Laodicea there was Nympha who had 'a church in her house' (Colossians 4:15), and in Ephesus, Priscilla was one of Paul's fellow workers (Romans 16:3). Phoebe was a key female leader in the church in Cenchreae, where she was a deacon (not deaconess) and a leading officer (Romans 16:1-2). Paul also said Euodia and Syntyche labored with him in the gospel … and the rest of my fellow workers' (Philippians 4:2-3).
"Christ's influence had numerous other effects that benefited women. Unlike the pagan Greco-Romans, the early Christians valued baby girls as much as boys. St. Paul commanded husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25)."3
How sad that our secular world fails to see this profound truth as well as numerous other blessings that especially the Western world has gained because of the impact of Jesus and Christianity.4
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, how can I ever thank You for the incredible blessings that have been granted, especially to those of us fortunate enough to have been born in the Western world, that have come as a result of sending Your Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the world, and because of the profound impact Christianity has had on the world. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1 John 4: 6-10; 27 (NIV).
2. © Alvin J. Schmidt, Ph.D., "Christianity Gave Women Freedom and Dignity," Assist News Service (ANS), http://www.assistnews.net. Get the full story at: http://www.assistnews.net/stories/2007/s07080019.htm.
4.See Alvin Schmidt's book The Great Divide: the Failure of I'lam and the Triumph of the West (Regina Orthodox Press, 2004).
Brenda Clark Pike
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