The Woman Who Touched God

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There came a day when a woman, ritually unclean, dared to approach Jesus, and with trembling hand, reached out and touched His rabbi’s garment¹. Defying all convention, disobeying the Law, risking sudden and violent death, she carried within those tremoring fingers years of hope unrealised, nights of anguished tears, and one last act of final desperation.

She hoped, no doubt, that no-one would notice: that she could just brush those fingers momentarily against the fringe of His robe and slink away, face covered, unknown and undiscovered within the pushing, trampling mass of bodies pressing together to see Him, hear Him, and petition Him.

And so she would have if He had been any ordinary rabbi. But He was not.

Who touched Me?” she heard Him call out as she struggled to make her way back through the crowd. But they, trying to hear what He was about to say, only pushed back harder, enclosing her like a trapped, frightened rabbit in a cage of flesh and human odour. She turned fearfully towards His voice, part of her desperate to hide in anonymity among the swirling mass, another part of her longing to throw herself at His feet begging for forgiveness and mercy.

She had come searching for Him that day in one final attempt to end the misery of her daily life. She had no right to be among this crowd. Indeed, if they knew her condition they would draw back in horror: some would take up stones. She had wondered if that should happen if it could be any worse than returning to this life that was not life that had seemingly become her destiny.

It had been many years since she had felt human touch, even from those closest to her.   Like the lepers confined outside the city gates, her condition had made her untouchable. She was unclean and nothing could deliver her from the stigma of that uncleanness except a miracle from this strange and unfamiliar rabbi.

Now He was making His way through the crowd, moving towards her. Without looking up, she knew that He knew what she had done. She knew also that He had healed her, for she sensed the change in her body. Having received her life back, would she now be condemned to lose it? “Rabbi, it was I” she blurted, her voice breaking with sobs as the story of her long shame and despair tumbled out.

We are familiar with the rest of the story. That same day the woman with the issue of blood was restored to her community. That same day the word ‘unclean’ was replaced with another word: “daughter”. And on that day, in word and action, Jesus made clear to all who witnessed, that a woman’s life, wellbeing and dignity were as deeply valuable to Him as any man’s. On that day God affirmed a woman as His own beloved daughter.

On that day a woman touched God and God was not in the least offended.

And yet, there are those in the Body of Christ who would still, by various means, infer that women are in some way ‘spiritually unclean’. “Woman is a temple built over a sewer” stated church father Tertullian, and similar sentiments have been uttered by male church leaders throughout history². Recent statements from influential male leaders such as Mark Driscoll (former pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle), and teachings regularly churned out by others (see here and here) bear witness to the truth that women are still regarded as ‘less than’ by many Christian leaders, who continue to pass on their biased opinions to the crowds who follow them.

This post is not about debating the scriptures that are still regularly used to limit the ministry and gifts of women in church life. Pat Joyce and I have provided a full examination of those scripture passages elsewhere. (Furthermore, there are abundant materials available from respected theological scholars that competently and forcefully challenge the traditional interpretations of such passages for anyone who wishes to undertake a serious study on gender issues.)

But I am moved, when thinking again about the woman with the issue of blood, to ask when will the daughters of God be recognised by some sections of the Body of Christ as full and equal joint heirs in all areas of church and family life?

If Christ Himself was not offended by the touch of a woman, in a culture where a ritually unclean woman may not touch a man, when will women be allowed to touch the spiritual Body of Christ freely and fully, without limitations being put on what they may do and to whom they may minister?

Moses, who was called a friend of God, sought to see God’s face and was granted only a glimpse of His back. But a woman, deemed unclean by her religious leaders, touched God and was received, healed, restored and affirmed as His daughter. It’s the difference between Law and Gospel we are talking of here my friends. It’s the finished work of the Cross. It’s the miracle of being ‘in Christ’ where there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. It’s the power of the Blood of Christ that makes all who will believe clean, worthy, righteous – equally.

To those who still believe they have a right to limit the ministry of women: who taught you that you may call unclean that which God has called clean? Though you may not say it in those words, and may even object loudly at such a suggestion, in effect that is what you do when you continue to dictate exactly what women may or may not do in Christ’s Name, based on your, and their, gender.

A grave injustice is taking place in the Body of Christ. The elevation of male over female is bearing horrible fruit. The tree is bad and thus its fruit is rotten. Women are suffering ongoing abuse because they are ‘biblically’ counselled to remain with violent husbands. Children are suffering trauma and life-long injury at the hands of abusive ‘heads of the family’. Little girls are being primed by extreme submission teaching to enter marriages in which they will suffer emotional, sexual, spiritual and/or physical abuse, and fear of displeasing God will keep them there.  All in the Name of Christ.

If you are a woman reading this, whether you are in such a situation or not, know that in God’s sight you are not ‘less than’. God has not limited His love, His giftings, His calling on you because you are female. God does not condone destructive relationships or require that you continue to submit yourself or your children to a relationship in which you or they are unsafe.

Friends, who the Son makes free is free….indeed. It’s time for hearts to be examined, and for the war against women that has been plaguing the Body of Christ for centuries, to be confronted, called for what it is and outrightly rejected.

It’s time for the daughters to go free.

¹Mark 5:25-34

²For more such negative statements about women see here: http://ishshahsstory.com/2014/08/13/who-do-we-think-we-are/

Further Reading: Are Women Also Sons?

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.



Categories: Gender Issues, Life in Christ, The Bride of Christ, Words of Grace and Truth

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14 replies

  1. A needful thought provoking post indeed Cheryl!

    The story of the woman with the issue of blood, when lifted out of the sense realm, looks a lot like the bride of Christ pressing her way through the crowd of organized religious zealots, in order to receive a healing touch from her Bridegroom.

    Men who claim to be followers of Christ, but who treat the female members of His body like anything but bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, are still eating the fruit of the wrong tree; thinking that it’s still ok “in Christ” to…rule over women (Genesis 3:16) What better way for men to counter their evil with their good than to lord it over the “weaker” sex.

    There is a leading world religion (and I’ll be PC by not naming it) that makes lording it over women an actual legal code. But, unlike the earth bound organized version of Christianity, they make no bones about not hiding it behind a bunch of disjointed scriptural verses.

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    • Thankyou for your comments. I agree. Religion is religion, whether it be found in Christianity or other religions. It may take different levels of brutality, but it is all from the same tree. Those who shout the loudest about the ungodliness of other non-Christ following religions are often completely blind to their own religious biases. It is impossible to truly love Christ and hate your own brother….or sister!

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  2. Cheryl,
    I want to say, as a man, that we have failed our female counterparts miserably, and that the blame lies in us that a natural submission of the wife to the husband cannot occur in an un-Godly home. Submission itself is not a bad word and to be avoided by the woman.
    80% of men in the general population view pornography, which translates to the church as well, much like the national divorce rates insignificantly differ in the churches. This perversion of the role of submission to the carnal aspects of a relationship are at the very heart of the problem. It is not that submission, especially to God is bad, but is rather essential to our walk with Christ Jesus.
    Jesus submitted himself to death on the cross. The Apostles followed suit. There is a humility that comes with submission, which is far harder for a man to learn than a woman.
    All that being said, Under Christ, there is neither man nor women as Paul wrote:
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28) As New creations in Christ Jesus, we are to restore our rightful relationship (pre fall) of man and woman. That is, that woman completes the man, as she was taken from the rib of Adam, so too she is now joined to man as “one flesh”. This has nothing to do with the carnal, but everything to do with the spiritual union of men and women in a God pleasing relationship.
    When Paul writes about wives submitting to Husbands, he is also talking about the Bride of Christ, which consists of men and woman. Submitting is not a bad word in our relationship with Jesus, we need to remember that, and also remember that men are victims as well to modern culture which has de-masculated them and hypersexualized the relations they have with woman. This two fold attack on men has hurt the relations between men and woman, and men need to “Man up” when it comes to loving the woman with Agape love. When men are not speaking up and saying what need to be said, then the woman needs to do so.
    God bless.

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    • Hi David and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s interesting that your comments are mostly in relation to wives submitting to husbands when I barely touched on this subject in the post. The only mention I made of submission was in regard to the ‘extreme submission’ being forced upon young females from childhood up in some sections of the church which in my opinion is abusive. The post was about the broad problem of women being ‘subjected’ by a pervasive culture in many churches that teaches men were created to lead and women to follow. However, as you have brought up the subject of submission in marriage, my own views on that can be found here: https://ishsharsstory.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=928&action=edit and here: http://www.womenforthenations.org/#!three-three/chxh
      If people wish to follow a model of male headship and wifely submission in their own marriages that’s their business and they may do as they like. However, I believe the Word of God and the Spirit of God teach a mutuality of submission one to the other, not based on gender, but on being “in Christ”. I do not agree that a Godly marriage is evidenced by the ‘natural submission of the wife to the husband.’ Please see the above links for what I believe the Bible does teach on this.

      By the way, I entirely agree submission itself is not a bad word to be avoided either by women or men. The creation of the woman did complete the man but not as an ‘add on’. A thorough study of the relevant scriptures in Genesis indicate in the original Hebrew there is no indication of inferiority or a secondary, assistant position for the woman. There is also no idea of separation of the male and female into different spheres of responsibility, authority, or social position. More on this for anyone who would like to follow up here: http://www.womenforthenations.org/#!one-two/cedn . In fact the woman was not taken from Adam’s rib, but from his side, or flank. This is an important difference. More on this here: http://www.womenforthenations.org/#!one-three/c7j9

      I believe what has hurt the relationship between men and women far more than modern culture, after the Fall, is nearly two thousand years of unbiblical male dominance over women. The church, historically, missed a God given opportunity to change cultures in which women were already seen and treated as inferior. Instead the church, for the most part, joined with the world on this and is still doing so. In light of this sad and unacceptable history, to suggest that Christian men are ‘victims’ who simply need to ‘man up’ for everything to be restored to how God would have it I think is naïve at best. This idea that male Christians need to ‘man up’ is based on the idea that manhood is about filling certain roles, and womanhood is about filling other certain roles, when the Bible does not teach this at all. If any group of people could rightfully be called ‘victims’ it is Christian women who have endured spiritual and other manners of abuse for far too long. However, we are called to be overcomers, not victims, which is why the church as a whole needs to seriously confront the issues I raised in my post. As I said, it is time, indeed past time, for women to take their rightful place as equal partners.

      Thanks for an interesting discussion.

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      • Cheryl,
        The Lord just gave me a dream regarding this, not a pleasant one. (Not ready to share yet, but for now, read Matthew 24:9-14, and Luke 21:12-19)
        As for natural God created roles, I know that I am not very good at mothering my children. As hard as I may try, that is not IN ME, nor will it ever be in me. I think you are heading down a path that you will one day regret. But sometimes He allows us to fail, so that he can show His strength in us. Believe me I have failed many times. You are in my prayers.
        You need not post this, as it is for your eyes only.
        In the Love of Jesus Christ. “Jesus is the Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3)

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      • Hi David, Actually when you post in the comment section to one of my articles, it’s me who gets to decide whether your comment does or does not get posted. I am unsure why you asked me to read certain scripture passages. Have you read the numerous links to articles I have provided in my responses to you? When you do that then I will also read your recommendations.

        I hear what you’re saying about not being good at mothering your children. Do you know there are many men who make wonderful nurturers? So it would be wise not to assume you represent all men. There are also women who do not wish to be mothers, for various reasons, and women who do not make good mothers. This is the problem with cultural ‘roles’ that some Christians try to label Biblical, when they are not. I know a man who is a great hunter and fisherman, but also loves nothing more than being creative in the kitchen. I know women who hate cooking (I’m one of them) but are gifted leaders.

        I too have failed many times and no doubt will continue to do so. I have no idea what path you’re referring to that I’ll one day regret and didn’t actually ask for your opinion about what I may or may not regret in the future, but I’m comfortable with the Lord in the ways He is leading me. I think it’s somewhat presumptuous when another believer tells someone who they don’t know personally, nor do they know the spiritual or other details of that believer’s life, that they are heading somewhere they’ll regret.

        I am happy to discuss any articles on Bread for the Bride with you but please refrain in future comments from advising me on my personal spiritual life because you have no authority to do so.

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    • Cheryl,
      I agree, And am sorry I veered from the topic. I saw the title (did not need to read more) of the Mars hill pastor’s article. Carnality rose to the surface and I felt compelled to address the concept of submission in a healthy relationship. I agree with you that this submission is mutual.
      I believe that Jesus is the head, even in the marriage relationship, but the man and woman are given different roles, so I am not advocating paternalism in the traditional sense.

      On the flip side of submitting to one another is controlling and manipulating one another. This is both a male and female trait of the fall as well. As Gen. 3:16 speaks of: ” and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

      In my experiences, and Spiritual battles, I have come to understand that Satan fights from two opposing towers (apparently opposing). This can come in the form of legalism, or lawlessness. The narrow way is where we walk that leads to Jesus and we must constantly turn to him, and look to him, as Satan does not care which way we fall off the path so long as we fall. This whole issue of male and female roles is another one. It is not about which is the head, but about Jesus being the head, and we both male and female submitting to his will. It can be real easy to bounce from one side to the other on this debate, but in both sides we are falling from grace to where Satan wants us to dwell, in carnality.

      For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15) This verse should take on a deeper meaning in light of this conversation. If men can become the bride of Christ, so too can women become the “sons” of God. This is a new creation in Christ.
      God bless.

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      • Hi David, I agree that legalism and lawlessness are both things Satan has a hand in as far as Christians are concerned. I don’t think that confronting the abuse that takes place in the church against women is ‘bouncing from one side to the other’ of those extremes. These things can no longer be swept under the carpet or trivialised and need to be confronted not from a stance of either legalism or lawlessness, but a stance of defending the vulnerable and speaking out about injustice. There are those of us who feel compelled by the Spirit of God to call these issues out into the light.

        Again, I fail to find anywhere in the Bible where men and women are given different roles apart from the culture of the day. The statement in Genesis 3:16 was not a curse, or a punishment, but a prophecy that has, of course, historically proven true. Whether paternalism is traditional or otherwise, it is still paternalism. Most of what is taught in western, especially American, evangelism as Biblical male roles and Biblical female roles is founded on Western culture.

        I am glad we do agree that we are all of us, women and men, new creations in Christ. I recently addressed the issue of women as sons of God in an article on our sister site, Ishshah’s Story here: http://ishshahsstory.com/2015/08/19/are-women-also-sons/

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  3. Good post. This is a message which really needs to be amplified in the church especially in developing countries where culture is a great contributor to the denigration of women. Many scriptural references that talk of the prostitute or adulterous woman have been taken literally by many. Many fail to see that this is often in reference to the church, compounding the bias further. I have heard many snide remarks in regard to women especially from the book of Proverbs. But I believe God is bringing this issues to the fore as He seeks to liberate His daughters to function to their full potential.

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    • Hi Lydia, You are right, these things need to be brought out in the open and when necessary wrong, unbiblical viewpoints need to be challenged. I agree with you that God is bringing this to the fore and it’s not going to go away!

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  4. Thank you Cheryl for another wonderful post. I am so grateful to the Lord for the teaching He has given through you over the years and that He bought me out of the church system.
    Such a beautiful passage told in a refreshing way and once again He has touched me with His delight in His daughters:)

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  5. You can also read the book “The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking how we read the Bible” by Scott McKnight. It is a good read and sheds light on this same subject in a very scholarly but readable manner. Be blessed.
    Mike

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