by Paulette Hamilton
Member of Intown Atlanta church of Christ
There are certain human characteristics and traits that are overwhelmingly feminine and attributed to women. Only women can bear children. Only women can breastfeed. Only women can be traditional mothers, aunts, sisters and wives. We are wired differently than men and we have different societal roles than men. As women, we often face cultural restrictions that men do not face. We have vulnerabilities that men do not have. But although we are different than men, spiritually, we are no less important to our Lord and in His eyes, we are not that different at all. In *Galatians 3:27-28*, Paul writes that for those who have been baptized into Christ, we become one in Him, and our cultural (neither Jew nor Greek), societal (neither slave nor free) and positional (neither male nor female) differences are no longer important.
But we live in a world where these differences often intervene and disturb our lives. As women, we face a dichotomy that is sometimes difficult to handle. The world presses us to be feminine while our Christian walk demands us to be strong. Society wants us to be submissive, but the Word tell us to be bold. In the worship we are cautioned to be quiet, but we also are told to be outspoken about our faith. Sisters, I have grappled with this, and what has helped me tremendously is to study and meditate on the women in the New Testament who intersected and connected with Jesus during his life on this earth.
There is not much information about these women, only snippets, here and there. They lived in a time and culture where women were often treated like they were personal possessions, disposable, without much say in their own lives. But in their biblical records, I see these women being brave and
nurturing, serving in their households and boldly following Jesus, hosting in their homes and sitting at his feet to learn. They believed in Jesus and hoped in Him. Elizabeth, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome and Susanna have taught me that I can be and do all things in Jesus. I can’t let the restrictions and challenges I may face as a woman stop me from living in the power of Christ.
Remember when Mary, while she was pregnant with Jesus, goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth? At the time Elizabeth was also pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth had a visceral reaction to Jesus while he was still in Mary’s womb. She declares to Mary, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb! Why is it granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me” (*Luke 1:42-43)*? Mary responds to Elizabeth by praising God. “My soul magnifies the Lord” (*Luke 1:46).*
Now, these two women were facing some of the most difficult times in their life. Elizabeth was advanced in years, was having her first child and her husband had been struck dumb. Can you imagine what she must have gone through not being able to talk to her husband about her feelings, her fears, her doubts, her wonders during this miraculous pregnancy? And Mary was pregnant with a child that was not her husband’s! The angel had stopped Joseph from putting her away, but can you imagine that stress! She lived in a time when she could have been severely castigated for this. If I were in Mary’s place, or in Elizabeth’s place I think I would have been crying and complaining. But Elizabeth and Mary show us the value of having godly woman companions. *Together*, praising and magnifying Jesus, they coped with their stress and worry. In Jesus they found solace.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, amid the sorrow, terror and fear, the women stood by. His mother, Mary Magdalene, James’ mother and Salome were all at the cross. I think we sometimes don’t get how brave an act this was. When you consider the political turmoil that led up to the crucifixion, you would think that these women would have hidden away in their homes while the crucifixion was taking place. But they didn’t. Imagine what it must have been like for Mary to watch her first born die, in such an agonizing way! But she stood there, *together* with her godly women companions, strong in the hope of the resurrection.
As women we are going to face challenges that are unique to us. There are women who are unwed mothers, women facing difficult pregnancies, women threatened by men who hold financial power over them. The list goes on. But, as Christian women, we can find great strength in our godly companionship, to overcome these challenges. Like Mary, Elizabeth and Martha, we can draw on each other’s strengths, knowing that in Jesus we find solace and in Him we have a wonderful hope. "Together".