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How the gospel can transform life for women in India

The first mention of women is in Genesis 2 where God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him” (2:18). Since these words were first penned, cultural bias and views have skewed what this really means. The word for helper is “ezer” in Hebrew, which beside describing woman twice in Genesis, is also used 16 times in the Old Testament to describe God himself.

Genesis also tells us we were made in the image of God, men and women. We also see from the very beginning the promise made through Eve (and future women) that God would bring about the One who would crush Satan’s head. God begins history and his Word by making clear both genders have an equally vital and unique role in his redemptive plan.

In the Old Testament, women play a major role in the story of the Israelite people. We see Egyptian midwives who fear God and are used to save Moses, the instrument of the Israelites’ delivery from slavery. We see Deborah as a prophetess and judge for the Israelites, calling out their idolatry and leading them into victory in battle. In the New Testament, we see out of all the names in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, five of those names are women. We see in the gospels how crosscultural Jesus was in how he valued and esteemed women—healing, befriending, discipling, and sending them.

God begins history and his Word by making clear both genders have an equally vital and unique role in his redemptive plan.

Jesus let a “sinful” woman wash his feet with perfume and her own hair despite breaking numerous cultural and societal norms. Jesus said because of her faith, the bleeding woman who touched his robe would no longer be seen as unclean but would be healed.

Jesus sat down and talked with a woman—a cultural outsider—to share about the living water he provides, despite knowing her scandalous past. After rising from the grave, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene, and in Acts, we see Paul mention numerous women as important leaders and servants in the church.

The value given to women in Scripture is undeniable and could be used as an apologetic to the authenticity of Scripture, as it was so countercultural to the time in which it was written.

Women in South Asia

This biblical esteeming and valuing of both sexes is still outside of the norm, especially in certain parts of the world. The highest concentration of unreached people groups is in South Asia, and one of the clearest evidences of the lack of the gospel there is the treatment of women. In 2018, India was named the most dangerous country in the world for women, factoring in lack of resources, sexual and physical violence, cultural practices, and human trafficking. This starts in the womb, as some sources say there are 63 million missing girls in India, many missing because of gender-selective abortions.

In the home, family resources are prioritized for the boys including education, healthcare, and later in life, job opportunities. Often, girls are married off as children, with 44 percent of child marriages taking place in South Asia. Women are often viewed as initiators of sexual violence because of how they dress, talk, look at men, or because they choose to be out at certain times of the day. According to the BBC, there are over 100 rapes every day in India, and those are just the ones reported.

Physical and sexual abuse in the home is rampant and even normalized as its viewed as just a private family matter. More statistics and stories could be shared, but the point is, women are routinely dehumanized and devalued. This is a human dignity issue which means it is primarily a gospel issue.

Gospel transformation

What does this issue have to do with the gospel? There has been no gospel ethic guiding the way Indians see gender issues for centuries, and because of this, norms run deep into the culture. But there is hope in the gospel!

I lived in South Asia for some time and vividly remember sitting on the floor of a home watching a Jesus film while the husband served my friends and I (all women) tea and snacks. Typically, hospitality is the woman’s job, but this husband had been so dramatically transformed by the gospel and wanted so badly for his sister-in-law to watch the film that he was more than willing to serve us.

What if this kind of transformed life multiplied a million times over? We could see men treat women as they should be, as they are made in the image of God. That would be an incredible testimony to the lost world around them, of light penetrating the darkness.

Would you pray for men like him? Would you also pray for the women—that they would hear the stories of Jesus and know how much he cares for them? I pray women in India would know they are remarkably and wondrously made and are worth their Creator dying and raising back to life for them. Would you pray to this end? And if God calls you, go and share this radical gospel message with those who desperately need it.

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