“The women proclaiming the good news are a large army.”—PS. 68:11.
SONG 137 Faithful Women, Christian Sisters
1. What support do sisters give to the organization, but what challenges do many face? (See cover picture.)
HOW grateful we are to have so many sisters working hard in the congregation! For example, they participate at the meetings and in the ministry. Some share in maintaining the Kingdom Hall, and they show personal interest in fellow worshippers. Of course, they face challenges. Some provide care for elderly parents. Others endure opposition from family members. And still others who are single parents work hard to provide for their children.
2. Why consider the need to give support to sisters?
2 Why focus on giving support to sisters? Because the world does not always treat women with the dignity that they deserve. In addition, the Bible encourages us to give them support. For instance, the apostle Paul alerted the congregation in Rome to welcome Phoebe and “give her whatever help she may need.” (Rom. 16:1, 2) As a Pharisee, Paul had likely been immersed in a culture that treated women as being inferior. Yet, now that he was a Christian, he imitated Jesus and treated women with dignity and kindness.—1 Cor. 11:1.
3. How did Jesus treat women, and how did he view women who did God’s will?
3 Jesus treated all women with dignity. (John 4:27) He did not view women as did the Jewish religious leaders of his day. In fact, one Bible reference states: “No saying of Jesus ever denigrates or belittles women.” Jesus, however, had special regard for women who did the will of his Father. Significantly, he viewed them as sisters and mentioned them along with the men whom he viewed as part of his spiritual family.—Matt. 12:50.
4. What will we discuss in this article?
4 Jesus was always ready to help his spiritual sisters. He appreciated them and spoke up for them. Let us discuss how we can imitate Jesus in showing consideration to our sisters.
CONSIDER OUR PRECIOUS SISTERS
5. Why might some sisters find it difficult to benefit from upbuilding association?
5 All of us, brothers and sisters, need to have good association. At times, however, sisters may find it challenging to fill this need. Why? Note the following comments. One sister named Jordan* says, “Because I am single, I often feel that I can’t find my place in the congregation, that I do not really fit in.” Kristen, a pioneer who moved to expand her ministry, says, “When you are new to a congregation, you may feel alone.” Some brothers might feel similarly. Those who live in a religiously divided home may feel somewhat separated from their literal family and at the same time feel isolated from their spiritual family. Those who are housebound may feel lonely, as may those who must care for sick family members. Annette states, “I wasn’t able to accept invitations to gatherings because I was the main caregiver for my mother.”
6. How did Jesus help Martha and Mary, as recorded at Luke 10:38-42?
6 Jesus spent time with his spiritual sisters, and he was a true friend to them. Consider his friendship with Mary and Martha, both of whom were apparently single. (Read Luke 10:38-42.) By his words and actions, Jesus obviously made them feel comfortable. Mary felt welcome to sit at his feet as a disciple.* And Martha, disturbed because Mary was not helping, felt free to tell Jesus what was on her mind. In that informal setting, Jesus was able to help both women spiritually. And he showed his care for these women and their brother, Lazarus, by visiting with them on other occasions. (John 12:1-3) It is no wonder that when Lazarus fell seriously ill, Mary and Martha knew that they could turn to Jesus for help.—John 11:3, 5.
7. What is one way we can encourage sisters?
7 For some sisters, the meetings are their main opportunity to be with fellow worshippers. So we want to use those occasions to welcome them, speak with them, and let them see our concern for them. Jordan, mentioned earlier, says, “It means so much when others notice my comments, arrange to work with me in the ministry, or reach out to me in some other way.” We must let our sisters know that they are important to us. “If I miss a meeting,” says Kia, “I know I will get a text message to see if I am OK. That lets me know that the brothers and sisters care about me.”
8. In what other ways can we imitate Jesus?
8 Like Jesus, we can make time to socialize with sisters. Perhaps we can invite them over for a simple meal or for some recreation. When we do, we want to keep the conversation upbuilding. (Rom. 1:11, 12) Elders do well to keep Jesus’ attitude in mind. He knew that singleness could be challenging for some, but he made it clear that neither getting married nor having children is the key to lasting happiness. (Luke 11:27, 28) Rather, permanent happiness comes from putting Jehovah’s service first.—Matt. 19:12.
9. What can elders do to help sisters?
9 Elders especially need to treat Christian women as their spiritual sisters and mothers. (1 Tim. 5:1, 2) Elders do well to make time before or after meetings to talk with the sisters. “One elder noticed that I was very busy and wanted to understand what my schedule was like,” says Kristen. “I really appreciated his sincerity.” When elders regularly make time to talk with their spiritual sisters, they prove that they care about them.* Annette, mentioned earlier, highlights one benefit of regularly talking with the elders. She says: “I get to know them better, and they get to know me. Then, when I’m going through a difficult trial, I feel more comfortable reaching out to them for help.”
10. What can help our sisters thrive?
10 All of us, men and women, thrive when others acknowledge our abilities and tell us they appreciate the work we do. On the other hand, if our talents and work are taken for granted, we get discouraged. A single pioneer named Abigail admits that sometimes she feels overlooked: “I’m just seen as the fleshly sister of so-and-so or the daughter of so-and-so. Sometimes I feel invisible.” Note, however, the comment from a sister named Pam. While single, she served for many years as a missionary. Eventually, she returned home to care for her parents. Now in her 70’s, she is still pioneering. Pam says: “What has been most helpful to me is when others tell me that they appreciate me.”
11. How did Jesus show that he valued the women who accompanied him in his ministry?
11 Jesus valued the help he received from the godly women who ministered to him “from their belongings.” (Luke 8:1-3) He not only allowed them to have that privilege but also revealed to them deep spiritual truths. For example, he informed them that he would die and be resurrected. (Luke 24:5-8) He prepared these women, as he had the apostles, for the trials they would encounter. (Mark 9:30-32; 10:32-34) It is worth noting that though the apostles fled when Jesus was arrested, some of the women who had supported him were by his side while he was dying on the torture stake.—Matt. 26:56; Mark 15:40, 41.
12. What work did Jesus entrust to women?
12 Jesus entrusted women with important work. For example, godly women were the first witnesses of his resurrection. He assigned those women to tell the apostles that he had been raised from the dead. (Matt. 28:5, 9, 10) And at Pentecost 33 C.E., women may have been present when the holy spirit was poured out. If so, these newly anointed sisters could have received the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages and tell others about “the magnificent things of God.”—Acts 1:14; 2:2-4, 11.
13. What are Christian women doing today, and how can we show our appreciation for what they do?
13 Our sisters deserve to be commended for all they do in Jehovah’s service. That service includes constructing and maintaining buildings, supporting foreign-language groups, and volunteering at Bethel facilities. They assist in disaster relief work, help to translate our publications, and serve as pioneers and missionaries. As do brothers, sisters attend pioneer school, the School for Kingdom Evangelizers, and Gilead School. In addition, wives help their husband to carry a heavy load in the congregation and in the organization. These responsible brothers would not be able to serve so fully as “gifts in men” were it not for the support of their wife. (Eph. 4:8) Can you think of ways to support these sisters in the work they do?
14. In light of the statement made at Psalm 68:11, what do wise elders do?
14 Wise elders realize that sisters are “a large army” of willing workers and that they are often among the most capable preachers of the good news. (Read Psalm 68:11.) So elders look for ways to benefit from their experience. Abigail, mentioned earlier, appreciates it when brothers ask her what she has found to be effective ways to approach people in the territory. She says, “That helps me to see that Jehovah has a place for me in his organization.” In addition, elders recognize that faithful, mature sisters are effective in helping younger sisters deal with challenges. (Titus 2:3-5) Certainly, our sisters deserve to be appreciated!
SPEAK UP FOR SISTERS
15. When might sisters need someone to speak up for them?
15 At times, sisters may need someone to speak up for them when they face a specific challenge. (Isa. 1:17) For example, a widow or a divorced sister may need someone to be her advocate and help her care for some tasks that her husband used to do. An elderly sister may need help to speak to medical professionals. Or a pioneer sister who works on other theocratic projects may need someone to speak up for her if she is criticized for not being in the ministry as often as other pioneers are. How else can we help our sisters? Again, let us consider Jesus’ example.
16. How did Jesus come to Mary’s aid, as recorded at Mark 14:3-9?
16 Jesus was quick to speak up for his spiritual sisters when they were misunderstood. For instance, he defended Mary when Martha criticized her. (Luke 10:38-42) And he defended Mary a second time when others berated her for making what they thought was a bad decision. (Read Mark 14:3-9.) Jesus understood Mary’s motive and commended her, saying: “She did a fine deed toward me. . . . She did what she could.” He even prophesied that her kind act would be recounted “wherever the good news is preached in all the world,” just as this article is doing right here. How remarkable that Jesus mentioned the global extent of the preaching work in connection with this woman’s unselfish action! How his words must have reassured Mary after she had been misjudged!
17. Give an example of when we might need to speak up for a sister.
17 Do you speak up for your spiritual sisters when they need it? For example, consider the following scenario. Some publishers see that a sister in a divided home often arrives late to the meetings and leaves right away at the end. They note that she seldom brings her children along. So they question why she does not take a more forceful stand with her unbelieving husband, and they criticize her. However, the reality is that the sister is doing the best she can. She does not have complete control over her schedule; nor does she have the final say over her children. What can you do? If you commend the sister and mention to others what she is doing well, you may stop the negative talk.
18. In what other ways can we help our sisters?
18 We can show our sisters how much we care for them by offering practical help. (1 John 3:18) Annette, the sister who cared for her ailing mother, says: “Some of the friends would come over to relieve me, or they would bring food. This made me feel loved and a part of the congregation.” Jordan received help too. A brother offered her tips on car maintenance. She says: “It’s nice to know that my brothers and sisters care about my safety.”
19. In what additional ways can elders help sisters?
19 Elders likewise look out for the needs of sisters. They know that it matters to Jehovah how such ones are treated. (Jas. 1:27) They therefore imitate Jesus’ reasonableness, not making rules when it would be more appropriate to make exceptions. (Matt. 15:22-28) Elders who take the initiative to render aid make their sisters feel supported. When Kia’s group overseer learned that she was moving to a different home, he immediately arranged for help. “It took away so much of the stress,” relates Kia. “Between their encouraging words and their practical assistance, the elders clearly showed me that I’m an important part of the congregation and that I’m not alone when I have a difficult situation.”
ALL SPIRITUAL SISTERS NEED OUR SUPPORT
20-21. How can we show that we treasure all our Christian sisters?
20 When we look around our congregations today, we find countless examples of hardworking Christian women worthy of our support. As we have learned from Jesus’ example, we can help them by spending time with them and getting to know them. We can show appreciation for what they do in God’s service. And we can speak up for them when necessary.
21 At the close of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul specifically mentioned nine Christian women. (Rom. 16:1, 3, 6, 12, 13, 15) Those women were no doubt encouraged by hearing his greetings and commendation. Let us likewise support all the sisters in our congregation. We thereby show that we treasure them as part of our spiritual family.
SONG 136 “A Perfect Wage” From Jehovah
Christian women face many challenges. This article will consider how we can give support to our spiritual sisters by imitating Jesus’ example. We can learn from how Jesus spent time with women, appreciated them, and spoke up for them.
Some names have been changed.
One reference work states: “Disciples sat at the feet of their teachers. Serious disciples were preparing to be teachers—a role not permitted to women. . . . Mary’s posture and eagerness to absorb Jesus’ teaching at the expense of a more traditional womanly role . . . would have shocked most Jewish men.”
Elders exercise due caution when assisting sisters. For example, they should avoid going alone to visit a sister.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Imitating Jesus’ interest in faithful women, a brother helps two sisters change a tire on their car, another visits an infirm sister, and a third goes with his wife to enjoy family worship with a sister and her daughter.