Does Christianity Oppress Women?

Christianity is sometimes accused of oppressing women. When truly following Christ, not judging Christianity by those who have abused Scripture and misrepresented the gospel, we see Jesus actually stepping into a culture that disregarded women and He valued them instead. The truth is that the Author and Perfecter of our faith elevates the status of women.

Throughout Jesus’ life, from His birth to His death and resurrection, Jesus was surrounded by women, and He elevated their status the entire time. His birth was first announced to a woman. He entered our world through the womb of a woman. When Jesus taught, He didn’t exclusively use illustrations with men; He used illustrations with women. He interacted with and performed miracles for both men and women. In a society in which women were viewed as property, in which women weren’t even allowed to give testimony in a court of law, Jesus pursued men and women. He healed men and women. He called men and women to Himself. Much about how Jesus included women was counter-cultural in His day.

In fact, there’s one surprising narrative in which Jesus visited the home of two sisters named Mary and Martha. During the visit, Martha did what women in that culture were expected to do. She was in the kitchen, and she served. Martha was serving Jesus and providing for His needs. Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, did what males were expected to do in this rabbi/disciple culture. The guys were expected to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from the Rabbi. But Mary joined in the sitting. Mary went to the feet of Jesus, essentially saying, “I want to learn too.” Martha actually asked Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help with the housework, but Jesus answered, “Mary has chosen what is better.” Jesus invited Mary to sit at His feet as a disciple like the male disciples.

This theme continued throughout His life. At the cross, Jesus spoke to women. The first people to learn of His resurrection and the first to announce His resurrection were women. When you consider the life of Jesus, He frequently elevated the status of women in a culture that consistently belittled them.

That posture moved on from Jesus into the early church. The early church cared for, valued, and elevated the status of women in the culture. Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology, wrote this about the early church: “The early church was attractive to women, including women of high status, because within the Christian subculture women enjoyed far higher status than did women in the Greco Roman world at large.” This is a sociologist explaining that women found their best treatment in the church. They found the highest status in the church. The early church followed the example of Jesus and continued to elevate the status of women.

This article is an excerpt from On the Table, a Bible study from Eric Geiger, Ed Stetzer, and Steve Bang Lee. Download a free sample of On the Table.

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