Sitting with Mary at Jesus Feet
The start of another week and my mind is whirring with the many things I would like to share – the beauty of Fall in Seattle, the horror of the fires in California, my struggles to keep my life balanced in the midst of a busy schedule all come to mind. However uppermost are some further reflections on the place of women in Christianity.
As I was thinking about my posts on this subject during the last week I was reminded of a discussion I had with Elaine Storkey, prominent English evangelical whose writings have helped me greatly to understand a biblical perspective on women. One thing she pointed out that really impressed me is how deliberately the gospels balance Jesus interactions with men and women. Jesus miracles always touched men and women alike, in fact there is often a deliberate reporting of similar miracles occurring to men and women – both men and women were raised from the dead, both men and women who had been marginalized (lepers and the woman with an issue of blood) are healed, and there are two accounts of Jesus followers acclaiming “You are the Christ” We all know the man (Peter) but who is the woman? I find that when I ask this question few can tell me – and maybe I will tell you next week if someone doesn’t guess
My favourite story that Elaine expounded on is that of Mary and Martha. “We have it all wrong.” she said. “This is not about busyness, this is about the liberation of women. In a culture in which men prayed daily, ‘Thank God I was not born a woman.’ and in which it was believed that women were unable to understand theological truth, Jesus is telling the men (and Martha who is carrying out the accepted womanly duties) that it is OK for Mary to sit at his feet and learn in the same way that the men are.” What a refreshing and wonderful insight that was for me. Not only did I feel affirmed in my own role as a professional woman, I also felt an affirmation of my own desire to see women everywhere set free to worship God freely.
I have often shared this story when working with women in Africa and Asia who are struggling to be educated themselves or to educate their daughters and other young women. The education of girls does more to improve the life conditions of poor families than almost any other form of intervention. Yet of the 900 million non literate people in our world 65% are women due to lack of educational opportunities. And partly as a consequence of this 70% of the 1.3 billion who live in poverty are women. How wonderful that there is a story in the Bible that even affirms the value of women and our work in this important area