God as a Woman: Two New Testament passages characterizing God and Jesus as female
As I’ve mentioned previously, I gave a talk a few weeks ago in sacrament meeting on the love of God. I liked this topic, as it allowed me a lot of freedom to discuss particular scriptures that resonate with me as a woman.
The following two passages from my talk discuss some ways God and Jesus are characterized as female in the New Testament.
In Luke 15: 8-10, Jesus tells the parable of a woman who has 10 silver coins, one of which she has lost. Jesus says, “Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully for it? And when she finds it she calls her friends and neighbors together and says ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
This parable doesn’t tend to receive much attention, since the famous prodigal son and lost sheep parable appear in the same chapter. Also, the story of a poor woman searching for a coin may not seem as interesting to us or as filled with pathos as a father welcoming home his lost son, or a shepherd finding his lost sheep. However, in these three brief verses, verses that discuss something that might seem quite mundane – a woman sweeping for a lost coin – I see a compelling metaphor for the love of God.
Let me give you a little more background on this parable.. Biblical scholars tell us that a silver coin in Jesus’ days would have been equivalent to about a day’s wages. Thus the woman, whose wealth consisted of only 10 coins, was very poor. Also, at this time and place in history, women couldn’t inherit, so whatever money this woman did have of her own, possibly from her dowry, was terribly important to her. Probably vital for her security. And this may explain Jesus’ description of her diligent search and subsequent public rejoicing.
When I read this parable I see the woman representing God and his love for us. Just as this woman, with great dedication and perseverance and finally great joy finds that which is lost, so God unceasingly reaches out to us, seeks us ,and rejoices when his children return to him. I love this image of God’s love – his vital concern, his active seeking, and finally his joy over our return.
Additionally, this parable is special to me as a woman because I see Jesus, directly addressing, understanding, and validating women in it. He knew that at least half of his audience consisted of women, so he very carefully inserts a parable in which a woman represents God and his love, to complement his other parable of the male shepherd representing God. And I, As a woman who was raised by a widowed mother, attended a women’s college, and is vitally interested in women’s issues, I am particularly impressed by the care and attention Jesus shows to his female audience through these verses….
And later in my talk
…As the building block of my own testimony, Jesus stands as the perfect exemplar of God’s love. In both words and actions, Jesus continually epitomizes a love that transcends race, class, gender, age, marital status, etc. One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus is one in which he characterizes himself as a mother hen. He says in Matthew 23:37 “oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings.” This image of Jesus, as a mother hen, offering all Jerusalem sanctuary under his protective, nurturing metaphorical wing communicates to me a godly love and concern that is proactive and personal….