The news outlets over the past several months and recent days have highlighted sexual exploitation and abuse in politics, entertainment, business, and elsewhere. While not all of the headlines have been about the exploitation of women and girls, most of them have been. On International Women’s Day, we are reminded of how often women are exploited, endangered, and minimized, and of the need to highlight their infinite value as humans. Not just today, but every day, we need to elevate women rather than exploit them.
One of the ways we can elevate women rather than exploit them is to guard against fixating on body parts. Fixation on female bodies devalues them as whole people. See them as whole people, focusing on their character, personalities, spirits and minds.
Another way we can elevate women rather than exploit them is to highlight their great accomplishments and their potential in making the church, our society, and the world flourish. Here are a few posts I have written in the effort to pay tribute to women and their profound and urgent concerns (See here, here, here, here, and here).
Along similar lines, it is important to bring to the foreground sacred texts that celebrate women leaders, especially against the backdrop of patriarchal cultures. The stories of Tamar, Ruth and Esther, Deborah and Mary, Mary and Martha are some of the biblical accounts that speak loudly of how the Bible elevates women in the face of patriarchy. The Lord Jesus himself was a feminist, if we take that to mean he elevated women beyond their current standing in society at large. How Mary, Martha’s sister, sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from him along with his male disciples, was radical in the day. How Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb and sends her with the good news to his male disciples that he has risen from the dead is also powerful. How Jesus’ mother Mary is featured more than his father Joseph in the gospels is also unbelievable. I could go on. Jesus elevated women, and so should we.
Men like me should seek every opportunity to promote education and meaningful employment opportunities for women and girls across the world, and advocate with them for equal status and earnings in every sphere and at every level of society. In this way, we elevate them and help to guard against their exploitation.
Some of the greatest advisors, mentors, influences and ministry partners in my life have been and will continue to be women. They have helped me become a better leader and a better man. On International Women’s Day, I celebrate them.