Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. (John 4:27-30 (ESV)
“They marveled that he was talking with a woman.” Generally a man didn’t do this in Jewish society. Women were more or less second class citizens, and if you didn’t know the family talking to a woman could arouse suspicion. But Jesus regards them as equals. He talks to them. That simple little thing called a conversation restores dignity to this woman. Of course antiquity wasn’t monolithic in it’s treatment of women. Jewish practices were not Greek or Roman or those of the barbarian either. Women, it seems could enjoy a great deal of autonomy in Greek and Roman Culture. The example of Lydia comes to mind. I find it amazing when people consider Christianity to be misogynist, though. Jesus was anything but that. He broke many of the stereotypes, and women supported his ministry even as it seems most of Paul’s support came from women. Yet neither Jesus nor Paul would let women hold the pastoral office. That was reserved for men. God has his reasons for this, I’m sure it has nothing to do with degrading women. And I don’t think secular society has much room to talk when it comes to pointing fingers at the church for a “sexist” policy.
Bo Giertz who as Bishop in Sweden was the most vocal opponent of Women’s Ordination, and led that cause for quite sometime with the belief that allowing for women’s ordination would undermine the authority of scripture in the church, also felt it would be a detriment to the church because women would then feel they weren’t serving the church if they weren’t pastors, and that women who did become pastors would look down on other women who merely sought to support the church in ways that were more traditionally open to women, such as in offices like those of deaconess. He has proven to be prescient in this. But even more so, today I run across another phenomenon that is equally disheartening. It’s a knee jerk reaction to the threat of women’s ordination, and it really needs to be put to rest. It is unbecoming of a Christian. And this is that women who seek to serve the church are looked on with suspicion as if they are trying to take over the pastoral position. To be sure, there are times and places where stuff like that occurs. It’s disheartening to hear of women being called deacons or elders. It is disheartening to see scripture ignored and hear that these female deacons are preaching in the absence of their pastor who is on vacation. I have no examples of this, it may just be rumor. I don’t know, but if such things are happening. They are not good. On the other hand, a woman going to school and learning theology so she can be of greater service to the church in social work, in teaching at the schools and universities, or in a myriad of other things is commendable and ought not be discouraged. Truth is, there would be no church today if it wasn’t for the hard work of women, who free up the time for pastors to be pastors. So let us suspend suspicion every time we see a woman trying to help and serve the church in a position outside the pastoral office and not marvel that Jesus speaks with them and uses them for his purposes.