On Respecting Women: 7 Times Jesus’ Actions Changed Culture

Jason Inman • 6 minutes

Is respecting women something you think about?

If you’re an average, decent human, like I hope I am, then respecting women is probably something you think about often.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, will you think openly about your week for second? Did it include any of the following? Another news story about why respecting women is or isn’t a big deal right now. Another conversation where someone used the Bible as a reason to tell women to somehow be quiet or simmer down. Another workplace promotion that seemed unfair for the wrong reasons. Another piece of sexist entertainment that sums up women as not much more than their bodies. Another too-broad assumption someone will think or act a certain way because they are or are not a woman. Something else? Maybe it happened to you?

When I was thinking about all the disrespect for women I came across this week, I sent my wife this text message:

What do you think the average, decent, but maybe too-comfortable man (basically me), needs to know about women?

Her response seemed to come back within seconds. She sent me this list.

  1. She is stronger than you think.
  2. She is more intelligent than you think.
  3. She is more valuable than you think.
  4. She is a better leader than you think.
  5. She is more observant than you think.
  6. Don’t underestimate her.
  7. Believe the best about her.

Jesus lived in a way that defied social norms by elevating women to a place of honor as His co-workers in the great mission to restore the world.

Respecting women, like my wife, is at the foundation of healthy cities, families, workplaces, relationships, churches, and societies. Jesus was born into a culture that treated women as not much more than property. The secular and religious world around Jesus either belittled or berated women, yet He made respecting women a priority. In fact, He went way beyond that. Jesus lived in a way that defied norms by elevating women to a place of honor as His coworkers in the great mission to restore the world.

7 Times Jesus Went Way Beyond Just Respecting Women

  1. Have you heard of Christmas? The first human to discover exactly when, where, and how Jesus was coming to the world—was a woman. The Gospel of Luke records that the angel Gabriel visited Mary the mother of Jesus first. The Gospel of Matthew records another visit where Gabriel visited Joseph to affirm what he’d heard from Mary as true so he wouldn’t divorce her. I’m reminded of my wife’s list; believe the best about her.
  2. According to His own words, Jesus started His official ministry on earth earlier than He planned by request of a woman. Jesus’ mother (moms have always been changing the world) saw that they were running out of wine at a wedding. This would’ve reflected very poorly on the families of the bride and groom. Next, she began asking other men to do whatever Jesus said. Because of what a  woman noticed and requested, Jesus launched his ministry, saved the wedding party, and performed his first miracle of turning water into the best wine at the wedding. She is more intelligent than you think.
  3. Though it was looked down upon by the religion He was raised in, and much of the society around him, Jesus regularly spoke to and interacted with women in public. Several times it was in front of large crowds that would’ve been surprised not just by a miracle or His wise words, but by the very fact that He was addressing a woman. This happened with the widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-17), a crippled woman at a church (Luke 13:12-16), the woman with more than a decade of bleeding (Luke 8:43-48) and others. The woman with bleeding would have been seen as ceremonially unclean—not even a woman’s husband was supposed to touch an “unclean” woman. Jesus went out of His way to tell the crowd that they had made physical contact when she reached out and touched Him. Why? Because the very act of her touch, that faith-filled, culture-defying courage, is what brought healing into her body (Luke 8:47-48). She is stronger than you think.
  4. In essentially every recorded case of Jesus speaking with a woman in public there are additional factors that would have been astonishingly opposed to the standards of His culture. Jesus called the crippled woman (Luke 13:12-16) a “daughter of Abraham,” a never before recorded term which suggested that women shared equal footing in God’s covenant. Don’t underestimate her.
  5. One day Jesus was traveling through a part of town where the residents were unfortunately viewed as “less than” because they were thought to be “mixed-race”. He got tired and sat down next to a well there where a woman was getting water. He didn’t just speak with her though. Jesus crossed multiple boundaries to start the conversation, carry it on for quite a while, and then inspired her to report to the whole village. He didn’t hold a seminar for the men of the village, or find a trusted man to tell others about His news, He chose a woman to teach this town about the goodness of God. She is a better leader than you think.
  6. When a woman was caught in the act of adultery by religious leaders … pause there. What did the religious leaders have to do in order to catch such an act? Okay, back to the story. When she was caught and the man was apparently let off the hook, she was dragged out in front of a crowd where, according to the law, she’d be stoned. Enter Jesus. Jesus put Himself between her and her religious accusers. He started quietly writing something in the dirt. But the leaders demanded Jesus speak to the situation, so He encouraged any of them without sin to cast the first stone. When everyone started to leave, He finished what He was writing. Then He looked at the woman, did not condemn her, and graciously invited her into a life of freedom (John 8:1-11). She is more valuable than you think.
  7. Despite all the people who loved, followed, and were healed by Jesus, there was still a crowd of mockers who showed up to see His death on the cross. Some of the exceptions were four brave women who played integral roles in Jesus’ work and life. It doesn’t end there. Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead, and you might already be guessing what happened next. The first people Jesus chose to meet with after coming back from death were women. He then entrusted the women to carry the greatest message our world has ever known: Jesus is alive. She is more observant than you think.

If you’re a man who’s still reading this post, can I tell you another story I came across? As Jesus’ dying body was breathing His last few breaths on the cross, He worked up the energy to speak to the women who’d come to see Him there.  He spoke to the women and one of His closest male friends who was also there. Why? Scripture seems to suggest it was to make sure these women would not be mistreated. Not because the women were weak, but because Jesus would’ve known very well how culture mistreated women. It seems He knew the odds were stacked against His mother and the three other women standing there with her. Apparently, He knew that as a man, a great man, that He needed to speak up and make sure these women were not mistreated by the male-dominated culture. It seems Jesus was onto something.

Christian or not, many people believe Jesus was one of the most influential people to have ever lived. Christians believe He’s the perfect Son of God—without error. In either case, Jesus chose to go loudly against the culture of His day to set a standard of not just respecting women, but also of treating them as equal, capable, and incredible partners in restoring this world.