TWR Canada past-president Ray Alary blogged every Thursday, telling behind-the-scenes stories and ministry updates you won't find anywhere else. You can still access his stories and read about his time as a missionary with TWR.
Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day. To celebrate this, I am sharing last week's TWR Women of Hope women's ministry blog below. -Ray On March 8, women in several countries around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. For over 100 years, it has been a day to acknowledge the achievements of women and to create awareness about the challenges they face, specifically in the pursuit for gender equality. TWR’s ministry to women, TWR Women of Hope, is also pursuing gender equality - but from a very different perspective. For those of us who know Jesus, we can celebrate the love he shows to each of us each and every day, and regardless of whether we are male or female. Each is included in his gift of salvation; he was born, became our sacrifice and rose again for all people. And we desire to share this inclusive gift with women worldwide.Many don’t know this truth: that they are precious, loved and valued by Jesus. We want them to know so that they can have their identity in him and be confident that they are a beloved daughter of the King. At the time Jesus was on earth, culture taught women they had no value; in fact, it was believed they were socially, intellectually and spiritually inferior. With that as the cultural belief, it’s not hard to imagine how they viewed themselves. Yet Jesus saw women differently and challenged the cultural norms of his day by showing women great dignity, respect and compassion, even inviting them into ministry. His treatment of women began a movement, changing how women were valued and viewed. One of the most profound examples is one we are all very familiar with: the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 1:1-42). Jesus went against cultural and gender standards of his day to show he saw this woman as a person of value. To others, she was viewed as a lower class citizen because she was a Samaritan (Jews did not associate with Samaritans), because she was a woman (men did not talk to women in public), and because she had lived a life of shame (she had several husbands and was currently living with a man who was not her husband). But that’s not what Jesus saw and that’s not how he treated her. He saw her as someone worthy of his gift of living water. Jesus publicly spoke to her and in doing so turned culture and gender issues upside down. He looked at her as a person, as someone in need of a Saviour’s love, someone empty and searching for meaning and worth. He also acknowledged her sin and held her accountable, but with compassion; then he offered her hope and healing in his name. And she accepted. Her nationality and her gender did not stop Jesus from offering his gift of forgiveness and salvation. It was a gift he freely offered to everyone, and one he continues to offer. Jesus also showed tenderness and respect to women in the way he spoke to them. Remember the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years (Luke 8:43-48)? In a crowd dense with people, she dared to touch the edge of his cloak and was immediately healed. Jesus instantly knew and wondered out loud who had touched him. The disciples tried to explain it away, but Jesus persisted. The woman came trembling forward and told her story. Jesus’ words to her were filled with compassion: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” He verbally, in front of a crowd of people, acknowledged this woman’s faith and called her daughter. His tone and words communicated the message that she was created in his image and was of great worth. And finally, Jesus taught women, and some traveled with him as disciples. Again, this turned things upside down! In Jewish culture, women were not to learn scripture and their place was in the home. Yet, here was Jesus teaching women, women such as Mary who chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn rather than help with domestic chores (Luke 10:38-42). And in Luke 8:1-3 we see that women traveled with the disciples and ministered to Jesus. In these ways, Jesus further demonstrated that he valued women and believed they had a place in culture, religion and ministry. Jesus set things in motion to begin a movement of changing beliefs and actions towards women. As Christ followers, we carry on in his footsteps. We can proclaim his love to a world of hurting women, women who have been taught they are worthless. We can pray that they find their identity in the King of Kings. And we can trust the One who is sovereign to soften hearts and reconcile them to himself. Jesus’s love is indeed a great reason to celebrate!