When Value and Gender Intertwine

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“So that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'”- Galatians 4:5-6

J_Rachel-750The idea of being valued by God and adopted like a son, used to sound sexist and unimportant to me. I have two sisters and a brother and my parents make it exceedingly clear that we are equally valued and, if there is anything left, will receive equal amounts of an inheritance. I felt no gender-based shame and never worried that I might be overlooked or neglected by my parents. So I skimmed over those promises about sonship in the Bible and thought, “Oh, that’s nice.”

Until I lived in country where value and gender are intimately intertwined. Until I became conscious of my gender every single time I step out our front door because kids shout at me.

“White lady.”

“Infidel white lady.”

“Infidel prostitute white lady.”

“Infidel prostitute white lady who doesn’t wear underwear.”

And worse.

Until I realized that I thought about my gender before I stepped out the door because being a woman meant I had to pay more attention to my clothing–length, tightness, see-through-ability. Until my husband and I recognized how differently we are treated. Being a woman here can often be a liability, a weakness to be exploited. Being a woman here means there is a risk of exposing too much skin, voice, opinion and bringing shame on others, especially my husband or father (read: male relatives).

I didn’t much care about being valued like a son until I lived the reality that being a woman sometimes means bearing the supposed and inherent shame of an entire gender. 

I didn’t much care until my friend’s maternal grandfather died. While her uncles fought over the inheritance, her mother struggled to feed the children, uncles, and guests in town for the funeral, and lost her market stall (their only source of income) because she couldn’t pay the rent during the crisis. My friend’s father didn’t provide income for the family, he was too overwhelmed caring for his second wife and other children in Saudi Arabia.

I didn’t much care about receiving the inheritance of a son until I saw the reality that being a woman sometimes means a smaller or non-existent inheritance, which can lead to being ignored and neglected.

I read verses about honor and shame and inheritance and sonship again. This time, I cried. There is power in recognizing the cultural values at the time of Jesus that males were more highly favoured and received a better inheritance. This is about as Jesus Feminist as things get. God values women on equal footing with men, He bestows equal honor, equal inheritance.

I grew up hearing the story of Adam, Eve, the tree, fruit, and serpent as a story of sin and mercy. I grew up hearing the correlating story of the cross and resurrection as a story of sin and mercy. Humans sinned and God poured out mercy.

I still believe this is all true.

But.

Imagine! The truth that I can walk outside our gate with my head held high because I am a child of God. The truth that I bear in me the honor of human-hood made in the image of God.

The truth that God doesn’t demean me, that God, in fact, honors me, chooses me, dwells with me. So unlike the ways of the world.

Imagine! The truth that every spiritual blessing is mine in Christ, that I am a co-heir with Him. Me of the selfish heart and lazy attitude, me of the greedy and judgmental thoughts, the envy and cruel words. Me, who has done nothing to earn it, who can’t even boast in an accident of birth. I am not a firstborn son. I have done nothing to earn mercy.

And yet.

That is exactly what the good news is, and infinitely more. Mercy in place of sin. Honor in place of shame.

Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” – Isaiah 61:7

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Image credit: Helmuts Guigo

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Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones has written for the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, EthnoTraveler, the Desiring God blog, and Skirt. She lives, writes, and runs in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She blogs at www.djiboutijones.com.
Rachel Pieh Jones
Rachel Pieh Jones

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