Thanks to a fb friend for this prompt: “How does your interpretation of God’s gender influence your relationship with him?”
This post is based on the premise that I believe God exists, the bible is true and that I have a relationship with God. If you are commenting below, please take these as a given for this post.
We can debate these points another day 😉
So, we start back in Genesis, and it is clear from the outset that God has both masculine and feminine sides:
Genesis chapter 1 verse 27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
So, ‘man’ is the species, and the species is in God’s image and they are male and female. Both sexes are in the image of God therefore God must be the source of the characteristics of both genders. He must have a feminine side.
But yet, there are masculine pronouns all over the place, although some feminist theists do alternate or change them to “she”. Despite having feminine characteristics, God has traditionally been thought of as male, and this seems to be easier to conceive of. There are, however, instances of feminine imagery to broaden our understanding of the nature of God:
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
Job chapter 38 verses 28-30
As God lays claim to his creation, imagery of both parents is used – the fathering of the dew and the birthing of the frost. There are many other references, where God is compared to traditional forms of the feminine – caring for children – usually Israel.
I think that God totally transcends gender. Everything that is came from God and, as mankind is made in the image of God, so each person has the capacity to reflect something of the nature of God.
So, saying – Jesus was male, and God was his Father. I see no problem with the virgin birth, if you accept that God is God – and can do whatever he wills. So, he sets Jesus within Mary as his son – but entirely God. (I have no degree in Theology so hope I am not trampling into any major heresies??)
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is seen to refer to God as his Father – intimate to the point of blasphemy. And in the Lord’s prayer, we are taught to pray “Our Father”. We are drawn alongside Jesus and gathered into his family, and standing to inherit – even as a female I am considered a ‘son’ as I stand to inherit – as females 2000 years ago would not. The Holy Spirit also has the masculine pronoun, but he seems less easy to “see” as being gender specific.
So, how does this interpretation influence my relationship with God?
Well (despite the fact that I know God is omniscient), I feel that God has an understanding of me, my life and my concerns. I don’t have a problem relating to a distant deity with a notional grey beard. God transcends so much – probably time, definitely limitation – but he is involved in the mess and heartbreak of the human world.
And then came Jesus as Immanuel – God with Us. Even more so, I can identify with him, as he embodied how we should live and he taught us to think differently about priorities, the self, community, love… so many things. And again, he draws us into his family as brothers and sisters with him.
This then takes a turn – as those believers are “the church” who in turn become, corporately, the “bride of Christ” – thus bringing the image full circle – that the believers love Jesus, and he loves us enough to die for us. This then gives us the pattern for Christian marriage.
And in all this, what about the Holy Spirit? He (despite the use of the pronoun) seems least fixed to a perceived necessary gender. His role is to comfort, to teach, rebuke, lead in truth – and I tend to think of him as Spirit, rather than male or female, apart from when referring to him – for the sake of a word to use as a pronoun. He’s male in references in the bible – but a pronoun was required I guess.
So, my relationship with the Holy Spirit is, just the way it is, regardless of the gender issue. I am never alone and I am helped to figure out what the bible says and what that means for me in how I cope, how I live and how I treat people, face challenges, regard problems and resolve them.
I like Galatians 5 and 22 where it says:
The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
I like this because it leaves me with no excuse. The Spirit produces these qualities – but it is down to me to access them and put them into practice. They are all great “fruit”. None of them are gender specific.
I’m more interested in God’s agenda.