When we think in terms of freedom, thoughts of the freedom found in escaping traditional legal and moral chains that bound us, may understandably invade our minds. I suppose it is to be expected because women have always exerted strength in declaring their rights.
One of the earliest accounts of women boldly seeking fairness is found in the book of Numbers. In the ancient near east women had no property rights. If a father died leaving no sons, his daughters did not inherit what he left. The first women to declare their rights on the death of their father were the five daughters of Zelophead. They boldly marched before Moses and the congregation and stated their case publicly. In order to be fair in the settling of the daughters’ case, Moses went before God; a God of justice.
It is interesting to note that Moses did not tell the women about their “role” as women or give his opinion according to the customs of their day. Before passing judgment, he consulted God. If men through the years had followed Moses’ example of going to God before passing judgment on what women should or should not be allowed to do, women would not have to struggle so desperately to obtain what is legally and morally right and what, we are destined to procure anyway.
Moses went before God and when he returned, he returned with a new law stating that if a man without sons dies, his inheritance passes to his daughters (Numbers 27:8).
The daughters of Zelophead had filed one of the earliest reported lawsuits on record. It is my understanding that it has been declared one of the oldest decided cases that is still cited as an authority. In the American Bar Association Journal, February, 1924, there appears an article by Henry Clark in which the decision of the daughters of Zelophead is quoted. So, women through the ages have stood to declare their rights.
But what I am here suggesting is that securing justice and winning rights is not freedom. Freedom, in the context of the Christian faith, is the power to become what God intended for us to become. And it is only when we understand the fundamental nature of our life as rooted in God, do we begin to comprehend the true character of our opportunities and responsibilities as Christian women. Having recognized our creaturely status, we begin to see our life both in its true nature and in its proper perspective. It is God’s high purpose which gives meaning to our lives. This and only this, saves us from any sense of triviality or insignificance. There always has been and always will be a divine plan which gathers up our lives within its mighty sweep.
The role of women of Faith is to receive this plan and obey God rather than man. We must so live that our conduct will not belie our convictions. A Christian life is a faithful life and a faithful Christian life is a liberated life.
You see, when we accept our dependence upon God and relinquish ourselves entirely to Him – He brings us into a relationship with Himself in which all things impossible miraculously become all things possible. What we could never do for ourselves is done for us by God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Matthew’s account of the Syro-Phoenician woman. This woman exemplified profound awareness and understanding. She understood the actuality of both her station in life and her circumstance. She realized without distortion who she was and what she was. She knew she was among the despised Gentiles. She knew that she was hated and looked down upon by the Jews. But, unlike far too many women today, her perception of reality did not lock her into actuality. In other words, her view of her life was not a static one; her concept of reality included possibility. Freedom, in the Christian sense includes possibility.
This Canaanite woman of faith knew herself, she understood her circumstances; she had all the data concerning her situation clearly in mind. But, she also believed in possibility with God and she bequeaths to us the certainty of the impossible becoming possible through Jesus Christ.
Impossibilities become possibilities when we know who we are and who God is. When we exercise faith in the possibilities of what God can do, we are enabled, like the Canaanite woman, to make a proper assessment of ourselves in relation to others.
There are many of us who are not “ourselves.” In a sense, we are the “theyselves.” Instead of living our own lives according to God’s will and God’s purpose, we permit the multitude of “others” to tell us how things ought to be. In lieu of being still and listening to the voice of God, we allow others to dictate to us what is best for us. We obey man rather than God.
Now do not misunderstand me. God does speak to us through His children. But even then, we must go to God in prayer seeking His guidance and advice validation, if you will.
The Syro-Phoenician refused to let anyone, even men, prevent her from reaching her goal. She believed in possibilities and acted upon it. Had she listened to the disciples, she would have given up her plight and meekly returned home. You remember the disciples told Jesus to send her away, she’s disturbing, she’s a nuisance, she’s making a spectacle of herself. Her countrymen no doubt warned her not to have anything to do with the Jew (Jesus); Jews and Gentiles cannot get along. But this woman had a faith that could not be shaken. God had a plan for her life. She received His plan and driven by an inner compulsion, relentless perseverance and steadfast faith, she was able to witness God’s healing power through her daughter.
If we as Christian women realize our own insufficiency and see that neither our own worth nor our efforts can win us an enduring future, yet trusts in God and cast ourselves upon His resources, then our relationship with God is what it ought to be. It opens the way for wholly new possibilities in the freedom of the Holy Spirit.
When all is said and done, Christian women ultimately recognize that human life is intrinsically related to the creative Power who is its source and who gives it meaning. The source of our lives is in God, and the proper perspective for appreciating our nature is provided by His eternal purpose. The primary aim and function of faith is to gain a new standing with God and to enjoy the freedom found in it.