Ministry to the Weak (3)

3. Compassion in spite of weakness due to gender

Women, according to 1 Peter 3:7 are the weaker sex. Peter refers here to the physical aspect of a woman. He means that physically the woman is weaker than a man. Consequently, a man can take advantage of her. Instead, says Peter, we should respect her.

The Samaritan Woman

That is what the Lord Jesus does in John 4. No doubt you’re familiar with the passage, for it is a well-known one.

We read there that the Lord Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. The fact that he does that is in itself highly unusual. It was the convention in Israel that a man would not talk to another woman in public without others being present. Especially a rabbi would not do that. He would not talk to any woman in the street, not even with his own wife or daughter. This was totally contrary to the customs of that time. But, the Lord Jesus will go against any custom that that goes against the will of God. He is not against customs or traditions, but only against those customs that are man-made, and that do not show love for God and your neighbour.

In the society of Jesus’ day women were marginalized. They were treated as inferior, as if their contributions were not as important as a man’s.

The Lord Jesus’ attitude towards women was quite different from the society of that day. He used them in many capacities. He was often surrounded and served by women.

A Place for Women

And that is something that should make us think. It is quite clear from Scripture that women are not allowed to be office bearers. That goes without saying. The Lord Jesus himself did not make any woman an apostle either. But does that mean that they cannot be used in other capacities in the church? Especially as it concerns those with special needs? The Lord God made women to be nurturers. Women are more relationally inclined than men. And we should use them as office bearers to help us. For we need help. That is why God gave us the woman as a counterpart, as we read in Genesis. Women bring a different perspective on things. We men need help. Without them we are incomplete. Let’s use them to the full extent that God allows.

Reaching Women

For a speech that I held at the conference for ministers last November dr. Arjan de Visser from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary sent me an article by Rev. Niemeijer of Den Helder, who describes how he uses the women in the congregation to help other women without having them ordained to any special office. He writes that the consistory looks for women who have some expertise or training in the area of counselling, or extending help, and assigns them to certain wards.

They are sworn to keep matters confidential, and serve as assistants to the elders and deacons. They help the office bearers in difficult situations which could be better dealt with by a woman.

The church is made aware of the role of these women, and the reason for their involvement in the congregation. They are appointed for a few years after which their role and position is reassessed. Rev. Niemeyer finds it very helpful to be able to call upon these women of the church.

This is something which we could think about as well. I really do believe that the women in our churches are underused. It seems to me that the early church used the women in the church much more extensively than we do.

Appoint Wisely

However, having said that, please note that they only use women who have been appointed for the special task by the consistory. In other words, these women have the confidence of the rulers in the church that these are godly women who are wise and well respected by all. They were given a specific task with which and ably worked with the elders of the church.

However, be careful with using women who themselves have been abused and who have not fully worked it all out. Such women, understandably, are on a mission. They see all kinds of dangers, real and imagined.

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