“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Paul wrote these words to the people living in an area called Galatia long ago. His words really are quite extraordinary if you think about the culture at the time in which women had few if any rights.  I have never understood patriarchal societies, inequality of any kind between the sexes, nor limiting the roles that men and women can have.

I am who I am because of the women in my life.  Women have shaped who I have become in every area of my life.  I have been blessed not only by an extraordinary wife and daughters and of course a son, but I have been taught and mentored by astonishing women over the years.  This in part, is why I have always loved the Book of Esther. What a hero she was.

Esther’s story is about a woman, a woman of courage, guts, and doing the right thing even when the consequences of doing so could have been catastrophic.  But in addition to Esther, there are so many stories of amazing courageous women throughout scripture, so astonishing in fact it is unbelievable that any church got started without having women at the top of leadership.  Many of the greatest leaders, passionate faith followers, and engagers of bold action in the Bible were women.

Take the Samaritan woman at a well in John’s Gospel.  She was a foreigner and part of a despised religion. And yet, she does not run from a man named Jesus.  Instead she engages him, questions him, and takes the news of who he is to disparaging men. Take Deborah, an amazing leader at a critical time who was instrumental in military victories that freed the people of Israel.  Take Hannah who boldly prayed to God over and over again and dedicated her son to God’s service.

Take Abigail whose husband nastily rejected a request from King David.  It was Abigail who intervened in the situation with tremendous courage and insight that kept David from murderous revenge.  Take Mary, the mother of Jesus, who praised God in spite of the surface odds against her. Take Ruth who put commitment and integrity ahead of her personal interests.  Take Mahlah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah who went to Moses over a land distribution issue. Their actions expanded the rights of women when such actions were unheard of.  And the list goes on and on and on.

I share these stories because I believe we have a long way to go in our country when it comes, not only to eliminating discrimination based on gender, including within many communities of faith, but that men in particular need to continue working on speaking less and listening more.  

Not long ago I joined the Board of Response, the organization whose purpose is to support, educate and empower survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Tragically such issues are rampant in the Roaring Fork Valley. I believe we are compelled by our walk with Jesus to respond and confront these issues head on.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month  Quoting from Response, “The purpose of DVAM month is mourn those who have died because of domestic violence, celebrate those who have survived and to engage communities with those who work to end domestic abuse. Domestic Violence – or Intimate Partner Violence –  is a pattern of abusive behaviors including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion that are used by one intimate partner against another to gain or maintain power and control in a relationship. Batterers use a range of tactics to frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, blame and often injure and sometimes kill a current or former intimate partner.”  

Eighty-five percent of victims are women and 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.  It is also important to point out that men too suffer from inexcusable rates of domestic violence.

All of us are called, I believe, as people of faith, to celebrate and uphold women in our lives as fully equal partners, and work to model listening more than speaking and then acting upon what we hear from those who have suffered in a culture that often turns the other way in disbelief.