What is a Woman Worth?

This post was originally written for and published in The Light Times Magazine, with Khmer translation done by the magazine editors. — Jonathan

wiaww3

All over our world today, women are treated like trash. They are abused. They are neglected. They are desired only for what they can give (their bodies, their service, for example). They are not desired for who they are.

In our churches, it should be different. For those who follow Jesus, it should be very, very different.

What does Jesus think about women? How did Jesus talk with women? How did Jesus treat women? Before we look at how Jesus treated women, we need to look at how Adam treated Eve.

 

Blame
In the beginning, there was intimacy and freedom and trust. But sin shattered that intimacy. Sin broke the trust between Adam and Eve, and we are still suffering because of it. The moment sin entered the world, men started blaming women. (See Genesis 3:12) And we’re still blaming women for our sin.

Have you ever heard a man blame a woman for tempting him? Men hit women and then say, “She wasn’t respectful enough.” Often, men lust and then blame women. “She wasn’t wearing enough clothes. She was not modest.” I would like to say something very clearly: if a man lusts after a women, it is the man’s sin. If a man sins, it’s the man’s sin. Christian men must stop blaming women for their sin. Men have been doing this since the beginning, but we need to stop now.

I believe Jesus wants to restore intimacy and freedom and trust. But first, men must learn to value women like Jesus did.

 

The Value of Women
Jesus grew up in a culture where women were seen as property. But Jesus comes along and treats women with dignity and respect, as equal heirs of the Kingdom. Loved.

Jesus’ actions were very strange.

The culture in Jesus’ time treated women very poorly. Like slaves. The Romans did not allow women in politics or sports. Women were not allowed to go out in public alone. A woman was not allowed to learn under a rabbi and could not call a rabbi “Teacher.”

But Jesus often went out of his way to talk with women. He taught women. He allowed women to follow him. He treated women like they were worth his time, because they were. And are. In one case, Jesus even allowed a woman to return to her village as a missionary, spreading the good news about what Jesus had done for her. Jesus believed this woman was valuable enough to carry the most important Message the world has ever seen. (See John 4)

And when it was time for people to find out that he was alive again, the first people to know were women. Women were the very first people to announce the resurrection of Jesus. This was very strange. In that culture, women could not be legal witnesses in a court of law, but now, they are witnesses of the greatest event in history. And they’re telling men all about it. (See John 20)

There is one more story that we must talk about. In John 8, a very vulnerable woman is in front of very powerful men. And Jesus stands in between. Because that’s where he always stands. Jesus always positions himself between religious men and hurting women. When the men want to throw stones, Jesus stands there, protecting, wanting to heal hearts.

We must follow his example.

Ladies, hear what Jesus says to you,

You are loved,
You are valuable,
You are precious to me. 

I made you on purpose, and I love you.
If you have been hurt or abused, I am so sorry.
If you feel shame, remember that I came to erase shame.
When I see you, I do not see shame.
I see the girl I Iove, the girl I died for. 

My daughters are shameless and blameless.
Perfect in my sight.

It is my hope and prayer that the Church in Cambodia would be a place where all people are respected and loved and cherished. Old and young. Rich and poor. Men and women.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

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Market Day, Harvest Time

by Elizabeth

We recently decided that in order to minimize the time stress in our lives, I should make solo trips to the grocery store (instead of all 6 of us going). Because I don’t drive, I have to take tuk tuks. This week, after I return home and pay the tuk tuk driver, he demands more. I call Jonathan to bring me the extra 2000 riel I need (that’s only 50 cents, but I’m out of riel). Before he can bring it to me, the tuk tuk driver sighs, trudges to his moto, and drives away (possibly because I have already given him a fair wage??). Jonathan suggests that I walk to the drivers’ loitering place to give it to him.

So I do.

But I can’t find my driver. The other drivers tell me that he has gone home.  And I’m not sure, but I think they say I can wait for him. (I’m working in Khmer here.) As I stand on the street trying to decide whether to return home or wait longer, an older woman approaches me and begins shooting questions in Khmer. Am I a Christian? Do I go to church?  Do I know Christina, who is Catholic? I try to answer the questions, but that only leads to more questions. Am I Baptist? When do I go to church? Who do I go with? Lok Dtah, over there, he speaks English well, can I go talk to him? (Lok Dtah is the word for Grandfather, and although this man is her husband, that’s the respectful way to address him.)

So I follow her to meet Grandfather. He says he has been a Christian for 4 years; he no longer goes to the pagoda. He speaks to me in both English and Khmer; I speak back mostly in Khmer. I learn that it is Lok Dtah’s grandson who invited Jonathan into his home 2 weeks ago (before viral meningitis took over our lives). He also says he is a Christian and even wants to go to church with us. I never do figure out if the grandmother is a Christian. I am, however, gone long enough that Jonathan worries and calls to check on me.

During this conversation I smile pleasantly and behave as if everything is fine. I appear to believe their confessions of faith.

But there is a war in my mind.

We’ve learned that the entire structure of Cambodian society – for a thousand years – is built on corruption. Bribes. Cheating. Poor people seeking wealth, and seeking to use people to gain more wealth. Even if those people are Christian missionaries. Our training with Team Expansion teaches us never to allow money to be involved in church planting. But these people aren’t asking for money — or a job. They are simply giving me confessions of faith. How should I treat them? Shouldn’t I believe them to be Christians? Shouldn’t I treat them as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 13:

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.” Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.  Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

I am determined to fight the skepticism planted in my heart. I am committed to believing confessions of faith. I refuse to allow money to be an ingredient in church planting. But I will love my neighbors as myself. I will accept their testimonies. And I will certainly leave the judgment in the hands of the Son of Man.

ricefield

Ministry Lessons . . . from a French Catholic Priest and a Khmer Worship Service

A scene from the Alsace region

Earlier this week we invited one of Jonathan’s language school friends to our house for dinner. He is a newly ordained French Catholic priest who has been assigned to Cambodia for life. He hails from the Alsace region of France. When Jonathan asked him about the most beautiful place he’s ever been, he answered that it was his own region. His home in Alsace, the place of his roots.

He told us he believes that if you cannot love the place you come from, you cannot love the place you go to. So I dropped out of the dinner conversation for a few minutes to contain my emotion. What a beautiful thing to say. He loves his home, but he has sacrificed living there because of love for his God, and his heart is open to love this place and its people as well.

I am not sure whether it is the French-English language difference, or simply because he comes from a different faith tradition than me, but his words were filled with grace and meaning for me. Tears welled up in my eyes. Yes, I love my home. Yes, I love the people who live there. Yes, I love my God, and yes, I love this place. I fully intend to love the people of this place. I want my heart to be open to love.

Then this Sunday I experienced my first non-English church service. Jonathan had attended non-English services before — in Cambodia and also in Russia and Germany — but I had not. I had not expected it to impact me quite so much (not because I thought I was immune to such things, but because I had not taken the time to think about it, silly me, mother of 4 young children, too busy getting ready for church to stop and think).

John 1:1-5

I could reliably understand only a few words: “thank God,” “Jesus,” “love,” and “hallelujah.” I could not read the Cambodian song books; I did not recognize the melodies. But I worshipped all the same. It was at this service that I finally understood, at my very core, that Jesus does not speak only English. His offer of salvation is for all nations. Oh, of course I “knew” that before, but there, in that small gathering of Cambodian believers, I truly realized that God speaks all languages with the same perfect skill. He understands each Christian across the globe, no matter their language. He does not understand me better than He understands a Khmer Christian — even if I do not understand that same Khmer Christian.

What I said to my kids later was, “Isn’t it neat that everyone can talk to Jesus? Isn’t it neat that Jesus can understand everybody?” I hope they can grow up strongly convicted of what I am just now learning.

I haven’t blogged for a while. I tend to wait until something significant happens, something that really affects me. I had two of those events this week and wanted to share them with you. As always, thank you for praying for our family and for the people whose language we are trying to learn. We want to communicate the Gospel to them in their own words. We want to communicate the Gospel to them with much love. And this week God sent me those two little reminders, much-needed missionary lessons.