On the calendar of obscure holidays today, February 3rd is designated as National Women Physicians Day.
It’s also the day that officially observes the birthday of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., in 1849. In fact, she graduated #1 in her class.
In the past 173 years, women have made great strides in the field of medicine, and especially so in the past 50+ years. My daughter-in-law, April, who’s a family practice physician, once told me that women now comprise more than 50% of all medical school students.
We have also have witnessed more women in prominent positions in every profession and occupation. In business, industry, entertainment, education, finance, and politics, women are serving, excelling, and occupying leadership roles.
Both in religious and secular circles, many feel that the Lord’s church is out of touch with the role of women. In fact, some believe that the Bible and Christianity belittles, demeans, and devalues women. While the Scripture does place restrictions on the leadership role of women in the church and in the public assembly, the Bible and Christianity respect and honors the role of women serving God.
In an era when the Greco-Roman culture regarded women as little more than a piece of property with no rights, even presenting them in mythology as mere sex objects, Christianity elevated and exalted the role of women engaged in the Lord’s work.
Women played a prominent role in the ministry of Jesus (Lk. 8:1-3). They followed Him, served Him, supported Him, and worshiped Him. In all of Jesus’ interaction with women during His ministry, He only spoke to them and about them with kindness, respect, and admiration.
In fact, the disciples were surprised when Jesus openly and publicly spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), which was a cultural “no-no” in the first century. Simon, the Pharisee, was appalled that Jesus allowed a woman who was known as a sinner to wash His feet and worship Him (Lk. 7:36-39). Furthermore, He refused to allow a woman, even caught in sin, to be used by the self-righteous as a pawn for their own purpose, when they overlooked the man involved (Jn. 8:1-11).
The first-century church was filled with women who faithfully served and made a difference in the spread of the gospel and the ministry of the saints. In Romans 16, Paul recognized several Christian women.
There was Pheobe, who he called “a servant of the church,” and said that she had been a helper of many people, including Paul.
Priscilla was a “co-worker in Christ” and labored alongside her husband, Aquila.
Persis is spoken of as “beloved,” and as having “labored much in the Lord.”
There was a woman named Mary that we don’t know much about, but she is said “to have worked hard for you.” And Juna, who was well known among the apostles.
Tryphena and Tryphosa, are mentioned together and praised for their hard work. Some commentators believe they were sisters. Maybe twins.
Then there was the mother of Rufus whom Paul said had been like a mother to him. Finally, he mentions, Julia, and the sister of Nereus. These women, like Phoebe, were all involved in the ministry of the church.
Of course, there are more familiar women like Dorcas, Lydia, and Mary, the mother of John Mark, about whom Luke writes with affection and commendation.
Christianity elevated women to a place of equality with men, as being “one in Christ” (Gal.3:26-28). Important co-workers with their husbands who served as Shepherds (1 Tim. 3:1-7). And “as heirs together of the grace of life” (I Pet. 3:7).
Today women are finding more and more opportunities to teach through blogs, lectureships, writing books, workshops, marriage seminars, and retreats. Only God knows the good that our Sisters are accomplishing through these various means.
Not only are there many Christian women who are Physicians, but think of those who are Lawyers, Teachers, Principals, Counselors, Engineers, Business Managers, and Pharmacists. And many more occupations. All of these are shining their Christian light in their various professions, making a difference in the world, and all the while serving the Lord.
Finally, this post is not intended to devalue those women who’ve decided to work from home as “Domestic Engineers,” but to recognize and honor our Sisters in whatever profession they’ve chosen.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman