Drawing upon the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, this series by Scholar in Residence, Peter Johnston, documents the constructive contributions Christ and Christians have made to economic, political, and social liberty throughout the centuries.
Liberty for the oppressed.
In today’s politically correct environment, it sounds like a rallying cry for the left. Often decrying the oppressive hand of white males, Western civilization, and/or the United States.
Have you heard it?
But backtrack 2000 years and similar words came out of the mouth of Yeshua Messiah, Jesus, the Christ.
Echoing a prophetic declaration made by Isaiah roughly 700 years earlier, Jesus opened a scroll and read, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…”
No doubt Jesus’ primary means for fulfilling that prophecy was through individuals believing in His death and resurrection, and thus receiving spiritual new life and a relationship with God Almighty available from that point through all eternity.
But the life of Yeshua Messiah, Jesus the Christ, and the lives of his followers for two millenia, have also brought liberty for the oppressed in light of the common public good.
Witness the elevation of women, the social liberty of women as a result of the gospel being lived out by followers of Jesus, the Christ.
Could that be?
Women throughout history in most cultures have been oppressed. Do I hear an amen?
That was not the original intent of God since God made mankind, both men and women, in His image.
But following the Fall, the original break of man with God by asserting independence from God’s will, consequences included improper attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Over time cultures throughout the world have demeaned women.
Even among the Jews. For instance, Lee Strobel writes in The Case for Christ, at the time of Jesus Christ:
Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, ‘Let the words of the law be burned rather than delivered to women.’ and ‘Blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.’ Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of law.
Women were not treated poorly by Jesus, however. Consider his interaction with the adulteress brought before him by the religious leaders. Consider his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. She was shocked that he would have anything to do with her, yet he treated her with utmost respect. And what about his deep concern for the well-being of his mother, Mary, as He was being crucified?
While some unbiblical attitudes toward women made their way into the church over time, consider these insights from Glenn Sunshine, professor of history:
Christianity initially had a much more favorable attitude toward women [than the Greeks such as Aristotle who “argued that women were essentially the products of birth defects.”] Women responded to the gospel in greater numbers than men, and since girls in Christian homes were not discarded at birth [as in Roman culture at that time], the church developed a much more balanced gender ratio than that of the Roman world. Sociologists tell us that this actually increases women’s status in a group, which may help explain why women over the decades continued to be drawn to Christianity in greater numbers than men. What is clear is that they were given a freedom within the church that was denied them in the pagan world. They could take leadership roles within the church as deaconesses, and some of the wealthier women sponsored house churches. So contrary to popular belief, the rise of Christianity had a very positive effect on the place of women in society (emphasis added).
In fact, the strongest basis for human rights in general is the truth that mankind is made in the image of God. Each individual, in spite of the Fall, still maintains a semblance of that image and subsequently has an inherent dignity that ought to be respected and honored by others.
Women have benefitted from cultural acceptance of transcendent truth that they are made in the image of God. When that truth is denied, their position, their inherent dignity, their genuine liberty, is in jeopardy. Thomas Jefferson understood the relationship of liberty to God as visitors to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. can see. He stated:
God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed their only sure basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that those liberties are the gift of God.