For Men and Women: Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Samantha Mathews
History of International Women’s Day
Dating back to 1909, International Women’s Day has a pretty messy history globally. Sometimes a day of celebration, more often a day of protest, over the years this holiday has gained recognition and become a unifying moment around women’s equality. Today, International Women’s day is a global day for celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Just like everything else in our culture and world, as Christians we have the opportunity to take something that has both righteous and wicked roots and use it as an opportunity to engage culture, confront our own sin and bias, and redeem it for God’s Glory. That’s a hefty call though, right? Sure is, but hopefully this article will serve as a starting place for you today.

Created with Purpose
We know that men and women were both created in the image of God, but we sometimes forget the impact of that on our masculinity and femininity. In Matthew 19:4, Jesus reminds us that “…at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female.’” (Matt. 19:4; cf. Gen. 1:27)
As image bearers, there is no difference in the intrinsic equality that men and women share. In fact, by choosing to create two genders with differences from one another, He allows the fullness of his image to be represented in a way that could not be if he had stopped creating after forming Adam.

We see some obvious ways in which women fulfill a special purpose when Eve is named “mother of all living”— a call to not only populate the earth, but a foreshadowing that through a woman, Jesus enters the world to bring true and abundant life. Does that mean it is only through motherhood that we live out the purpose of our creator? Absolutely not! We see throughout the Scriptures and church history that God created the hearts and minds of women uniquely to bring him glory in all aspects of life – in the workplace, in our homes, in the community, in our understanding and application of the Gospel, in missions, and in the local church.

Jesus Valued Women
The way Jesus interacted with women was more than simply countercultural, it was revolutionary — and to many — offensive.  Jesus did not shy away from women, and they held important roles in his life and ministry as well as in the spread of the gospel through the local church.  We meet many incredible women in Jesus’ ministry and when interacting with them, Jesus did not bend to the norms of seeing women as temptresses or as inferior. Jesus, in fact, sees them as friends. In Luke 8, we are told that not only were there 12 disciples, but Luke goes out of his way to tell us about some of the women who were disciples of Jesus as well and like the men, we see that these Godly women were in it for the long-haul — even to his death. (Luke 23:49).

Jesus stood alone to talk with the woman at the well, discussing intimate details of her life, something that would have been unheard of at the time (John 4:1-26). He not only allowed a woman to anoint His feet with oil and dry it with her hair, but he met that intimate gesture with gratitude, love, and attention (Luke 7:36-50).
 
Called to be Learners
When culture said to women that their job was to be a Martha: busy and serving, Jesus told women to be a Mary: sitting at his feet and learning (Luke 10:38-42). Essentially Mary took on the traditionally masculine role of disciple and learner and was met with the praise of Jesus! Women are called, just as men are, to be apprentices of Christ. Women are called, just as men, to transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12:2), to be girded for battle with the Sword of the Spirit: the Word that is sharper than any two-edged sword (Eph 6:16, Heb 4:12).
 
A Call to Women
Ladies, I hope as you read this you feel encouraged in your faith and the rich history that comes before you in the accomplishments of godly women.  However, it would certainly not be a fair rendering of the history of the Church if we weren’t honest about the fact the church history includes much oppression and abuse of women both inside and outside the church. If you have experienced spiritual abuse, didn’t find the church to be a safe place, or felt undermined—I hear you and I see you. I pray that you are able to separate the way Christ views you from the way sinful people have viewed you. You are known and loved. You are valued and you have a place, a vitally important place here in the church. It could not reflect the fullness of God without you. My three encouragements to you would be:
  • Armor up, sister! Grow in biblical literacy, have a fierce prayer life, be unrelenting in fighting for justice and for the least of these, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
  • Celebrate what makes you unique (and what makes your sister unique). There are so many voices telling you what womanhood should look like: how to dress, how to carry yourself, how “driven” you should be, stay-at-home mom/working full time, kids when you’re young/kids when you’re older/no kids at all, too girly/tomboy, too emotional/not emotional enough. Those voices are exhausting but the femininity that will honor the Lord is exactly the one that you are when you are pursuing God. Empower other ladies to do the same; there is room at God’s table for all of us.
  • Speak up when you feel comfortable and safe. If there are ways you believe you or another woman have not been treated with dignity. Let that be known.

A Call to Men
Brothers, you have a unique place in this story as well. Generally speaking, you come from the position traditionally holding more power, particularly in the church. You get the privilege and responsibility of encouraging female voices and celebrating the victories of your sisters. Here are my three encouragements to you:
  • See women primarily as sisters. There is a temptation in the church to see women as many other things: a stumbling block, a potential mate, or even as easily dismissed or inferior. If you see her as your sister, coheir with Christ, you will find your interactions with her change and may even find yourself blessed by the robust friendship and important wisdom she can speak into your life.
  • Seek out female voices. When is the last time you read a theological book (or any book) by a female author? Publishers in the Christian book world have (I believe out of fear and a misunderstanding of God’s word) marketed pretty much all books by female Christian authors as “women’s studies”.  Imagine the vast perspective you are missing out on when you don’t include female authors in your regular reading rhythms. (Don’t worry, I have a list below for a great starting place).
  • Be a safe place. If you hear of women in your church feeling uncomfortable or unsafe ask them what they need, listen well, and be willing to help when you are asked for it.

Men, women, we all have a part to play as we celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness about women's equality, and revel in God’s beautiful creation. We praise God together that at RCC, we belong to a church that empowers, uplifts, and encourages female voices and is full of fierce, female leaders who are truly iron that sharpens iron. I pray you will find one way today to continue rolling the ball forward toward a more Christ-reflecting church.

A small list of great books by or about females:
Jude Bible Study by Jackie Hill Perry
Suffering and the Heart of God by Diane Langberg
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot
Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. and R. Albert Mohler Jr.
None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us by Jen Wilkin
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
Fervent by Priscilla Shirer
Send the Light: Lottie Moon by Keith Harper
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
No Little Women by Aimee Byrd
Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry
The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation by Trillia Newbell
Chasing Vines by Beth Moore
Trustworthy: A study of 1st and 2nd Kings by Lisa TerKeurst
Imperfect Courage: Live a Life of Purpose by Jessica Honegger
In All Things: A Nine-Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy by Melissa Kruger

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