Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Jesus Compared a Woman to a Dog

Women don't seem to matter much in the Old Testament, at least for the most part.  And when they appear on its pages, too often they end up in books like Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible series.

Eve, Potiphar’s wife, Delilah, Bathsheba, Jezebel, Job's wife--even a society not well-versed in the Scriptures likely recognizes these names.  These women, their stories, and their sin stick with us and find themselves repeated in popular novels and movies.

Sure, there are the Ruths and Esthers who blow us away with positive lessons about faith in God, but for the most part, Biblical women get a bad rap.

What has always intrigued me, though, is how society can remember the bad women of the Bible but not (for the most part) the bad men.

Let's see....there's Jeroboam, King Herod, Pharaoh, and Judas.  That's four.

How many evil, sinful kings were there in the Old Testament?  Can you name them all, the ones who sacrificed their children, who murdered their way to the top, who slayed prophets who spoke against them, who God repeatedly said were "worse than their fathers before them?"  I sure can't.

But the women?  Yep.  Even I can name them all.

Julie Zine Coleman's Unexpected Love: God's Heart Revealed in Jesus' Conversations with Women offers a different look at Biblical women in the New Testament.   Specifically, she delves into nine interactions Jesus had with women.

Each chapter serves to confirm her primary argument that our Savior had quite a tender heart for women, that every woman (including the sinful woman caught in adultery) was important to Him and to the kingdom of God. 

Coleman begins her nine vignettes with a "how-it-might-have-happened" narrative, transforming the sparseness of Scripture's into a three dimensional work of art.  Then, she begins to dissect the interaction, asking questions, providing historical and cultural background needed to understand what was really going on, and drawing conclusions as to why He said the words He did (such as when he compared the Syrophoenician woman to a dog under the table) before concluding each chapter with a real life application for today's woman and journal / small group questions for discussion.

The text is conversational and analytical at the same time without being filled with a theological vocabulary one would need to go to seminary to fully understand.  Personally, I found myself challenged with information I had not before considered but never felt the book's meaning was beyond my grasp.

Throughout the text, Jesus' interactions serve to show how He was intentionally seeking a relationship with these women.  In several instances, that meant initiating a relationship with a woman caught up in the throws of sin.

Still, He met them where they were, but He didn't leave them there. Instead, He called them to repentance, to deeper faith, to a knowledge that they truly mattered to Him.

In a world of Twitter, Face book, the Internet, and various other social media outlets, where everybody has a cellphone and a camera to capture a person's solitary sin and then plaster it across the world in seconds where it will remain there for a lifetime...

In a world where one person can be then defined by that single sin despite a lifetime of pure actions, Coleman's book shows a Savior who values women (even fallen women) and who still says, "Repent. Come back to Me.  You matter."

As the author concludes,  "He will never fail to meet you where you are when you come to him."

**I have received no compensation from Thomas Nelson for my review of this book, good or bad.

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