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The Motherhood of God

• Greg Boyd

On this Mother’s Day, Greg preached about the vital importance of women and moms and about how they reflect God.

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On this Mother’s Day, Greg preached about the vital importance of women and moms, and about how they image God. Greg shared that Mother’s Day has been a very important holiday throughout his adult life because it reminds him of the motherly love that God provides to him. This expression of love was missing in his life growing up, but God filled that need. Greg stressed that in preaching this sermon he will stereotype male and female characteristics. However, he cautioned not to understand these as always precise. There are exceptions, some females manifest more stereotypical masculine traits and vice versa. Though these stereotypes are not always accurate, they assist to frame the sermon.

As Greg’s experience illustrates, God’s love can be motherly. When Greg says, “God’s love is motherly,” he is not calling for a radical expression of feminism where hatred of men occurs simply for being male. Instead, he is appealing for a balanced view of God where God is understood to manifest both masculine and feminine characteristics. Greg shared that the Bible primarily uses stereotypical male imagery to depict God. However, this tendency needs to be connected with the verses that use feminine descriptors for God (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 1:2; and Psalm 91:3-4). This will help us to have a holistic understanding of the God revealed in Scripture.

Greg shared three reasons to focus on the motherly characteristics of God. First, God is not male or female, but instead is Spirit (John 4:24). God as Spirit means that both females and males are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Unfortunately, throughout history most cultures and the Church have not affirmed this reality. Men viewed women as individuals who lacked capability and gifts. Men saw women as “accessories” or tempters to evil instead of full partners in the ministry of the Gospel. Greg preached that this perspective must be confronted directly by saying to women and mothers, “You have tremendous value. You are made in the image of God. If you are called by God to leadership roles wherever that may be and in whatever capacity that may be, then you should go for it” (see Galatians 3:28 and Acts 2:17).

Second, understanding the stereotypical view of God’s femininity impacts one’s view of God. Throughout Church history, God’s attributes have typically been understood within stereotypical male categories. For example, God’s omnipotence has been viewed as God aggressively getting whatever God wants whenever God wants. Similarly, God’s immutability (unchangingness) and impassability (without emotions) has followed closely to what has been seen as ideal male characteristics. However, Greg wondered, “When reading the Bible how can a person conclude that this is all that describes God?” God’s immutability (though it is true that God’s character never changes) fails to express that God changes in relation to what happens in the world (e.g. God’s sorrow at having made humankind in Genesis 6:5-6 and God’s change of plans after the city of Ninevah repents of its sin in Jonah 3:10). In addition, Scripture depicts God as expressing emotions (e.g. Hosea 11:8 and Jeremiah 31:20). However, more than all this, Greg stressed that as Christians we need to focus on God as revealed in Jesus Christ who as a male demonstrated many stereotypical feminine characteristics. In Christ, we see God as strong in vulnerability, consistent in character yet adaptive to his environment, and expressing strong emotions.

Third, understanding the motherly love of God affects our relationship with God. Scripture depicts God’s love as compassionate (Isaiah 49:15-16), nurturing (Isaiah 46:3-4 and Hosea 11:3-4), comforting (Isaiah 66:10-13), and protecting (Hosea 13:8 and Isaiah 42:14), all by using feminine imagery. Most profoundly, God expresses love through the cross. There is nothing weak about the cross. Instead, the cross demonstrates infinitely strong love.

God provides the love that we commonly associate with mothers. In fact, God is the source of such love. Through this more holistic understanding of God, we can say with confidence that God is our All in All.

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 4:24

    24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

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