In Chapter 5 of Discovering Biblical Equality, Aída Spencer discusses Jesus’ treatment of women in the Gospels. She points out that virtually no one disagrees with the claim that Jesus treated women with unprecedented respect and affirmation. The difference lies in what people think that treatment has to say about women today.
She outlines four main points.
1. Jesus’ conversations with women indicate his esteem for them. These conversations crossed the conventions of the time that discouraged men from speaking to women in public. In the book of John, Jesus discloses that He is the Messiah first to a woman.
2. Jesus’ teaching are favorable to women. He defined marriage as one man and one woman, with no allotment for the polygamous relationships that were common.
3. Women form an important part of Jesus’ ministry.
4. Jesus’s teaching and comments often take into consideration a woman’s perspective. For instance, Jesus uses female imagery for Himself, comparing Himself to a hen gathering her chicks. God’s care for the lost is exemplified as a woman searching for a lost coin.
Jesus even shows us that a woman’s first priority was to follow Him, to be His disciple.
The chapter closes with a a discussion of why the 12 were all men. Most people do agree that this is a reflection on the 12 tribes of Israel. In that case, they needed to be twelve free men of Israel. No one is using that as a reason that church leaders could not be slaves (many early church leaders very likely were) or that church leaders could not be Gentiles. Therefore, it is a strange hermeneutic to single out women to be excluded.
Today is also Juneteenth. I rarely make a point of noticing holidays in my writing. It’s my own little quirk and I quit worrying about it. I also know that many Black people would like to point out that they did not ask for a holiday. They asked for justice for themselves and their families. But it’s much easier to make a holiday than to give up our own power for the flourishing of others, isn’t it? Whether is it the lives of Black people in American society or the worth of women (and others) in our evangelical churches, words are simple.
I think it will always be the tendency to give ourselves power and position and deny the same to others. We refuse to let humanity stand on any level ground but instead choose to define a hierarchy. This is not the same as choosing a boss at a workplace based on experience, expertise, and character. (Though that’s the ideal and not always what happens.) This is deciding that based on some biological fact (one’s gender, one’s race), someone should be denied what I am giving myself. Often, Christians then go one step further and attempt to ground that denial in an interpretation of Scripture. It’s worked out poorly for centuries and will continue to. Perhaps we could choose a different way?