From May 14, 2017
This year, Pastor Joy went through some verses where maternal imagery and metaphors are used to help us understand God better, and in turn, help us learn how to be more like Him. God is beyond gender; the gender pronouns are simply metaphors to help us understand God who is always beyond our full understanding.
Most of us have pictured God as our Shepherd, going after His lost sheep. Luke 15:8-10 compares God to a woman looking for her lost coin, “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
What does all of this maternal imagery mean for us today? God is beyond gender; the gender pronouns are simply metaphors to help us understand God who is always beyond our full understanding. As theologian Lynn Japinga wrote, “Language about God should help us to understand and encounter God, but we should not confuse the reality of God with the limits of our language.” (Feminism and Christianity: An Essential Guide, Abingdon: 1999, p. 64)
God possesses both male and female attributes and we receive those traits from Him. No different than male imagery does not mean women do not have those traits, female imagery does not mean men do not have those traits. We are complete in Him. The images used today focus on the maternal side of God but there are countless verses waiting to be explored using paternal imagery. As we strive to be more like Him, the more we learn about who God is helps us on our journey.
Mother’s Day seems like the perfect time to recapture the biblical maternal images of God to help us learn more about God’s nature. Lynn Japinga goes on to say, “People described God in feminine terms, not because God is actually a woman, but because feminine or maternal traits say something true about God and about their experience with God” (p. 66). The same must be said of masculine and paternal images for God. The Old Testament merges images and metaphors of God our Father with maternal compassion and love; it is not one or the other but both. We must not confuse these metaphors with God’s reality. He is MORE than we can imagine in our humanness, however, we can learn from all of the biblical images of God. This year, we highlighted some of the maternal images of God, in honor of Mother’s Day. As you go from here, know that you are embraced by the love of God; a love that is sweeter and more tender than any you have ever known.
While there are MANY verses using maternal imagery to describe God, here are a few to read on your own:
Isaiah 46: 3-4