Point of Reference
by Fred Price
I believe in equal rights for women but am not a women’s libber; I believe in equality between all people but don’t ascribe to many of the various “movements” today because of their propensity for radicalism. I am most certainly against the idea of gender fluidity and/or neutrality and vigorously oppose the attempt by some to render God as void of masculinity.
I have however, come to a more nuanced appreciation of the “image of God’ as related in scripture that is easily overlooked. Jesus referred to God as “Our Father’ in a prayer he specifically modeled for his disciples; a title he used to describe his relationship with God repeatedly throughout his ministry. I believe Jesus intentionally chose this characterization in part, because so many grow up without fathers in their lives and need a steadfast, faithful, loving, kind, compassionate, merciful, present individual in their lives.
Mothers can and often do model these same attributes in partnership with husbands or in their absence. But this should never be the goal, scripture and society testifying to the heightened stability and success of families with a father and mother. The influence of each tempered and enhanced by the specific gender tendencies of both, each offering something unique to the effort of building a successful family and society. And while that doesn’t always happen, God can be the great equalizer in redeeming the worst of circumstances.
It’s worth noting again that men and women bring individualized physical traits, mental abilities and emotional capabilities to jobs, marriages, friendships and families. But there is a rich flow between the sexes as to what they are capable of and desire to do within the male/female framework.
In describing God’s attributes, we are limited to using human metaphors to explain the unexplainable, God transcending all our descriptive terms for him. But they are useful in giving us a picture, however incomplete it may be, of who God is and the relationship we can have with him. There was obvious importance in Jesus’ use of the title Father in addressing God, as it is by far the most frequent term used when approaching him in prayer or explaining his will. The over-riding sense of maleness in proclaiming him “Our Father, who art in heaven” making him no less the God of us all.
God may very well transcend any strict interpretation of what it means to be male or female. Genesis 1:27 records God’s creation of humankind, saying “…God created man (kind) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Blessed with varied, different – at least by degrees – capabilities, they none-the-less represent God effectively as a combined entity; joint over-seers of the families God blesses them with. The act of becoming “one flesh” signifying more than sex, it’s a combining of mind, body and spirit – which takes time but is never-the-less achievable. (See Matthew 19:4-6)
If both sexes were created in God’s image, then he apparently embodies masculine and feminine characteristics. (Which lends no credence to any transgender argument!) God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-encompassing; unlike anything else we know or experience, yet nowhere characterized as having a male “face” one time and a female “face” at another. He is emblematic of us all, in one being; upon whom we are all individually modeled. A concept similar to the trinity, one God manifested in three “beings”.
Isaiah quotes God as saying, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you…” Is. 66:13 Which is often associated with femininity – as opposed to, “Get up, walk it off, you’ll be fine!” Yet the sometimes caustic Paul wrote similarly, “…we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7 Describing God as the father of compassion and comfort in 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Again, God combined these two characteristics when he scolded the Israelites for, “…desert(ing) the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Deuteronomy 32:18 (See also Hosea 13:5,6) Similar imagery can be found throughout the New Testament as converts to Christianity were described as having been “born of God” and “born again.” (See John 3:3,5 & 7; 1 Peter 1:23 & 1 John 5:14) Jesus comparing his concern for Jerusalem and its people to that of a “…hen (who) gathers her chicks under her wings…” Matthew 23:27
Having established that our Father God is the template from which all human beings were created, I believe we get a hint of both genders expressed in the way he deals with us afterwards He embodies the expectations of the Law as well as its fulfillment in grace, he demands justice while providing the means for our justification, he is capable of jealousy concerning his place in the lives of those claiming him as their Lord yet is forbearing in his love, and tempers his call for righteousness with an understanding of our weakness – providing a righteousness based not on works but on faith that leads to faithfulness.
“…like a mother caring for her little children… as a father… encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God,…” 1 Thessalonians 2:7 & 11,12
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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