Last Sunday, many places around the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which is used as an opportunity to honour the incredible achievements of women around the globe.

Second-wave feminism has been a topic of heated, sometimes controversial and complex, debate, but is fundamental to understanding our current our society and has also been discussed in churches. Politically, spiritually and socially this issue splits society down the middle in many ways. As followers of Christ first and foremost, even though this is also a challenging topic in churches, we strive to look to Jesus for our example of how to act, treat people and interact with the world around us. 

Throughout the Bible, women are spoken of in a variety of contexts. There are many stories in the Old Testament that tell of women in powerful, influential positions – think of Esther and Deborah. Esther became Queen of the Persian empire and prevented the annihilation of her people. Deborah, meanwhile, in the book of Judges, was a powerful member of Israelite society. In addition, women such as Rahab, Ruth and Hannah are described in the light of their incredible strength of faith in God, even in the face of challenge and difficulty. 

At the time of Jesus, the scriptures equally make mention of women from many social levels, whether in positions of influence, such as Lydia (Acts 16:14), or those such as widows who were considered very lowly in status. Jesus’ gospel message was radically counter to the general narrative of the time, and His approach to women was no different. He saw, heard, healed and ministered to those who were broken, lost and vulnerable, and women were no exception to this. 


Consider stories such as in Mark 5:24 – 34, in which a mere touch of Jesus’ cloak heals a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Or Luke 13:10 – 17, where He heals a severely disabled/​disfigured woman. Jesus not only saw women for who they were, He saw’ and cared for those whom nobody else did. He treated them with respect and equality, as He did the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4). As He set off on His journey with the disciples, specific mention is made of a few women who travelled with them (Luke 8:1 – 3).

Finally, during Jesus’ last days on earth, there is specific mention of women, namely Mary the mother of Jesus, Salome and Mary Magdalene, watching at the cross (Mark 15:40 – 41). And it was Mary Magdalene who first saw the empty tomb and went on to share this message of hope (John 20:11 – 18).

These are a few stories which illustrate beautifully how Jesus chose to interact with those who were not seen as equals, but who were seen as secondary. He sets a template of profound and powerful kindness and compassion which we can be encouraged by in our own lives. This is a legacy Christian women and men have built on through the centuries – a legacy that has been at the forefront of many key campaigns, including, most notably, the suffragist movement which pushed for women to have full democratic rights.

In recent years there has been a surge of developments for the rights and status of women across many sectors – be it in international legislation, such as the CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women), or in attention to cultural and societal inequalities or stereotypes – and women have been empowered as a result.

Jesus loved, honoured and respected women in equal measure to their male counterparts. God created women in His likeness and image just as He did men – their stories and testimonies are used for the glory of His kingdom and we celebrate that in light of International Women’s Day this year. 

Photo by Becca Tapert