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Jesus Teaches us to Respect Women

Written by Dr. Aswathy John
March 20, 2013

International Women's Day

The world we live in is not safe because people whom we believe and trust are really not trustworthy—-not even our own flesh and blood, kith and kin, at times not even parents! Society divides humanity based on gender as male and female. They are expected to be complementary and not competitive.

This complementarity suffered at the first fall mentioned in Genesis as the disobedience of Adam and Eve at the behest of Satan. Since then, might and power has ruled. History proves that ‘male’ became the symbol of power (physical) and ‘women’ the powerless. This mighty physical strength enabled the men to overrule and overpower women throughout the centuries. “Main stream is always Male stream”.

The 21st century witnesses many inhuman activities such as rape, murder, molestation, violence, trafficking and so on towards women and girl children, which clearly show the decline of moral values in society. Human beings have lost their sense of discernment, which really is a gift of God. We have heard many agonizing and heart rending stories of gang rapes, incest, and of children and women being treated as sexual commodities to be used and thrown. The reality is that the plight of women and their physical and mental trauma are not heard at all, neither at home, nor in the church or by society. Where will they go for safety, security and justice? Who will listen to them and who will stand for their rights? How can they assert their dignity and integrity at home, the work place and even in the Church? Who would save her life? Is there any place ‘as secure and safe’ for women in this world other than the womb? The question is whether the womb itself is safe any longer? As Christians what are our responsibilities and how do we interpret the word of God for giving life and dignity to women.

In order to affirm and assert the attitude of Jesus towards women, there are two different passages taken from the gospel according to St. John. This reflection is a kind of comparative study of two biblical passages (Jn. 4: 1-42& 8: 1-11) which directly talk about women, how Jesus looked at their lives and how he treated them. The first is the Samaritan woman, and the second is the woman caught in adultery.

In the Gospel of St. John 4:1-42, we read about the Samaritan woman who came to draw water at the well of Jacob having a serious dialogue with Jesus. Her confrontation with Jesus is a supreme example of how Jesus responded to a woman who was regarded as immoral in the public. Thus this portion is an eye opener to the reader who considers women as evil and sinful.

2 John 8: 1-11 narrates the incident where a woman was caught in adultery. Usually there is a tendency to look at this passage and depict the woman as a sinner forever!! Without the interpretation of the text it is easy to translate her as a sinful adulteress. However Jesus never looked at her as an object or abuser but as a human being who is created in the image of God.

When we compare these two texts with the present scenario of the world, one can easily understand how Jesus was different from other teachers and how he treated them with dignity and respect even though they were stigmatized as sinners by society.  Although they had a questionable background as it was pictured in the Bible, Jesus made their lives meaningful and worth. Both women were sent into the society with proper acknowledgement, hope and aspirations.

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

The Samaritan woman and Jesus had a meaningful conversation and dialogue.  What impact did the interaction with Jesus have in her? What were the changes in her and how did she see her life differently as a marginal woman. The following points can be noted from the passage:  

1. She felt secure and comfortable with Jesus. 2. She opened up her life before him. 3. The woman with immoral behaviour was not condemned or blamed rather welcomed by Jesus who interacted with her. 4. The interaction led her to open up her life more deeply and she explored herself. 5. She found herself. So she could realize where she stands and what her shortcomings were. 6. Jesus did not tarnish her life. 7. However her past life was forgiven and forgotten. Her present life was transformed 8. The transformation motivated her to reorient the priorities of life. 9. This pointed her to look towards a bright future and turning point in her life. 10. The new perspectives and vision emerged and her witnessing life in the village produced more fruits. 11. This incident is a resurrection in her life. The dark side of her life had gone and she came into the light. The light and life in her brightened her future.  12. She received eternal life and she is fully satisfied because she met the fountain of water. 13. The woman goes back with confidence, assurance and commitment of sharing good news and her testimony to her villagers where she had a bad image. 14. She became a successful missionary in her village.

The second passage Jn. 8: 1-11 is interesting and shows how Jesus had dealt with her as an adulteress woman.

The woman who was caught in the act of adultery was also brought before Jesus. This woman also became the victim of the cruelties of society. But when we analyze the incident we come across some interesting facts: 1. While she was caught, her partner in the forbidden act was free. 2. Society charged only her and brought her for punishment. 3. She was brought to Jesus by religious leaders—Scribes and Pharisees. They are the keepers of the law. 4. Even though adultery is an act between two or more, only the woman was caught. 5. Men are free from punishment or accusations. 6. She was harassed and humiliated in public. It happened in the premises of temple. 7. Jesus redefined the meaning of sin but had not justified the act of adultery (v. 7b). 8. Response of Jesus led the religious leaders to introspection (V.9a). 9. Jesus never accused or blamed her because of her act. 10. A criminal in the sight of public may not be criminal in the sight of God. 11. Her dignity and future was reframed and relocated by Jesus. 12. Given assurance of forgiveness and allowing her to lead a sinless life. 13. The dignity and her image were regained in the eyes of the public. 14. Love of God through Jesus always transforms than tarnishes.

Therefore from the two texts and analysis it is understood that women are the most affected victims of the atrocities even though men are also part of it. The structure of the society is always hierarchical and prone to finding fault with women. However, Jesus the saviour values women with respect, integrity, and dignity. Let us teach our children, youngsters and brothers to respect women, sisters and mothers as human beings and let us be the channels of justice, equality and peace so that they may experience life in its fullness, thereby we may be the doers of the word rather than passive listeners.

Prepared By: Dr. Aswathy John, Theology Dept, Serampore College, Calcutta, India



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