A woman’s dignity

Many of my most impactful experiences took place in Bangladesh.

From the colorfully clothed Bengalis to the jumble of competing noises to the multilayered smells to the brightly painted buses and rickshaws jockeying for road space, my mind is filled with special memories.

We drew the immediate attention of those warmly curious people. It was not unusual to be surrounded by a giggling group of street children.

There to help train Christian leaders, we crammed into a cement building with a thin mat covering the floor. Shoes were left outside. Flies were invited in. A few small fans valiantly whirled the humid air.

Four hundred men and women sat on the floor, separated by gender. Plastic chairs were provided for us, but I made my way into the group of women and sat among them. By morning’s end, some young ladies kindly taught me to arrange my dupatta and placed a bhindi sticker on my forehead as an expression of friendship.

One woman sitting next to me would not make eye contact, despite my efforts to break through her reserve. But, the next day, I felt a gentle touch on my forearm. As I looked down, she snatched her hand away. Reaching out with a smile, I held her hand for the remainder of the meeting. By the end of the conference, we tearfully shared a long embrace.

I have never forgotten her and hope that I left her with a tangible demonstration of her value and significance.

As is common in many countries, females in Bangladesh are often considered a liability, sometimes resulting in gender-based infanticide. Girls, at high risk for arranged child marriages, are often eventually discarded, with begging or prostitution their only options for survival. Gender-based violence is socially accepted.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Yet, in the USA, an average of three women are murdered every day by a partner. We are ranked as one of the worst places for human trafficking. According to the Rutherford Institute, every two minutes, a child is bought and sold for sex as often as 20 times daily.

That is absolutely appalling and completely evil. Not a politically correct word today.

Any culture without restraint spins rapidly downward into debauchery.

What is taking place worldwide is not unlike the culture of the Greeks and Romans during the time of Christ. Life had no value. Infanticide was practiced. Pedophilia was common. Women were held in low regard, “owned” by their husbands and deprived of basic freedoms and rights.

Many people are unaware of how the Christian influence literally changes cultures. An ancient scholar of Rome said, “The conversion of the Roman world to Christianity brought a great change in women’s status.

“Before Christianity arrived century upon century had brought little or no freedom or dignity to women in any pagan culture. In short, where else do women have more freedom, opportunity, and human worth than in countries that have been highly influenced by the Christian ethic?”

— Alvin J. Schmidt

Jesus Christ is the true liberator of women. The Gospels record multiple encounters with women when he demonstrated that they were significant and valued.

In John 4, Jesus took the time to speak with one such woman, a despised Samaritan. Probably shunned by her community, she came to the well in the heat of the day. As Jesus spoke with her, she admitted to having had five husbands. It is likely that those five men rejected her, one after another, as a man could divorce his wife for simply having bad breath or not fixing his meal how he liked it.

Used and discarded, she now lived with a man who did not even offer her the union of marriage. That was the identity life had forced her into.

Jesus looked beyond her life mistakes and circumstances. He listened to her, answering her questions. He was undoubtedly the first man to ever show her that kind of dignity and not demand something from her.

Instead, he reached deeply into her heart to awaken a new identity within her and to draw her to his Father’s redemptive love and mercy.

Jesus answered her: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him: “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus extends the same mercy and redemption today. He looks beyond our failures, offering us a new identity and the cleansing waters of eternal life.


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