Is Christianity Oppressive or Liberating for Women? – page 5




Is Christianity
Oppressive or Liberating
for Women?

by Amy Orr-Ewing,
Europe/Middle East Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and Director of Programs for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA)

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In Luke 10:38[ff], we read of Mary, who sits at the feet of Jesus while Martha was distracted with serving. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, but Mary continued to engage in theological study much to her sister’s annoyance.

Now, in first-century Judaism, rabbis gathered groups of students or disciples who would sit at the feet of the rabbi to learn. The phrase “to sit at the feet of” describes the rabbi-student relationship studying the Torah. And this privilege of studying Torah under the tutelage of a rabbi was strictly for men only and it has remained so within Judaism until quite recently. Men studied the Torah; women did the housework. That was the way things were. So Mary, by sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to His word, is assuming the role of a rabbinical student, a role reserved in Judaism exclusively for men.

And it’s really interesting, later in John’s Gospel, chapter 11, where we read of Martha, Mary’s sister, running out to Jesus after their brother had died. And in that context she becomes the recipient of one of the most astounding theological statements of the New Testament. Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Jesus didn’t just teach Mary theology; he also taught Martha. Another example of Jesus revealing great theological truths to women is that Christ reveals His true identity in the gospel of John to a Samaritan woman at the well. “I who speak to you am He.”

Jesus doesn’t just act in a countercultural manner toward women, He also teaches and speaks about women in a new and fresh way. Anyone who’s experienced sexism or racism will know that racists and sexists aren’t very often directly rude. Sometimes they are, obviously. But often those attitudes are revealed in the incidental way they speak about women or people from another background. It’s when they’re not paying attention that those prejudices come out. And what’s fascinating is that both in Jesus’s direct engagement with women and also by the incidental way He speaks about women, we see this beautiful attitude. You see that Jesus’s parables are drawn from life experience, both of men and women. So, for example, the parable of the mending of the garment, that’s an everyday image from the average female-vocation working life at the time. The parable about the making of the wine is an everyday image from an average male vocation from the time. In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15, He speaks of God as the shepherd searching for the sheep that has been lost. Next parable, He speaks of God as the woman, down on her knees in the dirt of her house, searching for the coin that has been lost. That is actually amazing.


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