Grace for Women

John 4: 17 – 18

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

I was listening to Christian music the other day when a song played that recounted this episode. The song lyric said, “Jesus told her of all her sin.” Honestly, it was a pretty song and well sung, but this lyric grieved my heart. I thought of other Bible references about women. Women often portrayed in an unfavorable light. Even Mary Magdalene, a devout follower of Jesus, is referred to as a prostitute, but was she? The worst thing of all, at least to me, is that we carry these ideas forward and continue to judge these women harshly. One understands that in biblical times, women were not treated equally or even fairly. The culture of those times sanctified treating women as property for that is what they were. Further, there were few ways for women to support themselves. Primarily there were two: marriage or prostitution, which, in truth, offers little difference between the two. Either way, women traded sex for their sustenance.

We harshly judge the woman in this story, but we must understand that women had very little power over their persons or their lives. The only way this woman could support herself was prostitution or to be the companion, married or not, to a man. How many opportunities did this woman have to buy food and provide shelter for herself? Could she force this man to marry her? Maybe she pestered him daily to marry her, but he refused. What was she to do?

Now, for generations people have judged and criticized her but little do we understand her predicament. Little compassion is offered women of the Bible and even less comprehension. There are feminine heroes in the Bible. Consider Ester and Ruth but in large part, the appearance of women in often accompanied by judgment. Jesus is the great exception. If you read of his life, you will notice he had women companions and treated women fairly. Even more astounding is that time after time, he refused to judge them. This is one of the ways we need to follow in his footsteps.

The message I wish to convey in today’s Word of the Day is two-fold. First, we have an opportunity to greet the women of the Bible without judgment or criticism. Secondly, for all the women who read these passages and are troubled by them, Jesus has redeemed you and purchased your freedom with his own life. The Bible says, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first,” (Matthew 19: 30). In Jesus’ eyes women are not second-class citizens. Some of his closest supporters were women. In fact, women were the first ones to preach the gospel. They were the ones who found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. So understand, you are not second class with Jesus. He very much honors and respects women.

Also, God loves you like He loves Jesus. You are precious in His sight. We may have thousands of years of damaged, sin-infested Christians and Jews who left a legacy of enslaving and marginalizing women, but God has not had even one day or one thought of women being anything less than competent and lovely in His eyes.

When you read your Bible, remember the environment women in Biblical times existed in and cut them some slack. Jesus did not judge them, and neither should we. What I find objectionable is that we characterize Bible women as sinners and overlook the sin of men of the Bible. Let’s stop majoring on women as sinners for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3: 23). Instead, we can honor their contributions. We don’t have to be in denial about where people are falling short, but we really should stop relegating women. It is almost as if we look for their crimes and overlook their accomplishments while overlooking the sins of the men to focus on their accomplishments. Read the whole story of this woman in John. She evangelized her town. She took the good news to the men of the town. But for her, none in the town of Sychar have heard the good news about Messiah, none would have gotten saved. To make it an even more amazing story, Sychar was a Samarian town and Jews of that time had nothing to do with Samaritans. Jesus, however, stayed two days in that town. Though disparaged for generations, this Samaritan woman evangelized a whole town. How many disciples can that be said of?