Ruminations on the Love of God

A week and a half ago, I gave a talk in sacrament meeting on the love of God. It seemed to be pretty well received. One old lady even said it was the best talk she had ever heard in Sacrament Meeting. (Whoohoo! Though that may be more of a reflection on the general quality of talks in our ward rather than on the quality of my talk.)

My talk heavily focused on Jesus and women, and I used the term Heavenly Parents a number of times. Here’s an excerpt from my Jesus section:

….Jesus Christ is the lynchpin of my own personal testimony of God’s love. The darkest moments of my life have occurred when I have doubted the love of god – when I’ve looked around at the world and seen certain inequities things that are painful to me. Which have then made me wonder about the goodness of god, whether he is a respecter of persons, whether he does have more love for some, more trust in some than he does in others.

But it was after these moments of doubt, when my faith in God’s love was crushed to its core that I was, over the space of years, able to step back evaluate for myself what seems good and truthful and right and to from there build up the beginnings of a belief system that is individual and authentically mine. And the building block for that faith has always been the life of Jesus Christ. My faith journey has had many twists and bends, and no doubt there will be more in the future, but I’m happy to get to this point where I’ve come to understand that it’s the world and human society that are hopelessly warped, not God or Jesus’ love for me and others.

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.

The personal nature of Jesus’ love for us is shown not only in the way Jesus describes himself, but also in the way he treats other people. Throughout the gospels, Jesus continually sets the current mores of 1st century Jerusalem on its end, as he over and over again reaches out to those whom his society would most like to forget. The blind, the disabled, little children, even women suffering from excessive bleeding are not beneath his notice.

My favorite story of Jesus showing his transcendent, godly love for all people is the story of Jesus and the bent over woman. In Luke 13:11-17, we read:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had the spirit of infirmity for 18 years; she was bent over and could not straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her “Woman you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God.”

This story is so rich. In it I see Jesus proactively and personally reaching out to a disabled woman. He does not wait for someone else to point her out, or for her to grab his robe. He does not ask her about her morals or her righteousness. He sees her, he knows her needs, and he takes action. And he frees her. “Woman, You are freed.” What a powerful statement of this new religious movement, a movement that treats every person as important, a religion that shows justice and consideration and love to the least in society.

The expansive, personal nature of Jesus’ love for us is nicely illustrated in the second verse of our hymn “O saviour, thou who wearest a crown.” Karen lynn Davidson, the hymn’s author, writes:

No creature is so lowly, no sinner so depraved, But feels thy presence holy, and thru thy love is saved. Tho craven friends betray thee, they feel thy love’s embrace; the very foes who slay thee have access to thy grace.”

I love this depiction of Jesus’s love which is freely extended to all creatures, sinners, even his own betrayers. Ultimately, Jesus, who himself was love incarnate, was able to reach beyond societal boundaries to extend his message to everyone, rich and poor, female or male, gentile or Jew, sinner and non-sinner. His teachings and example reached out to all people. And this is my image of God’s love. A love that reaches beyond our superficial biological or cultural differences and encompasses the entirety of the human race and experience. A love that transcends everything we tend to think that separates us.


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Sally says:

    After listening to Richard Neitzel Holzapfel speak at Education Week, and reading his book “Sisters at the Well” I have been overcome with gratitude and appreciate for the Savior’s treatment and love of women and what a tremendous part of his ministry women were. I loved your talk, Caroline. Any chance of you posting the entire talk?

  2. Caroline says:

    Thanks, Sally. Glad you liked it! I also enjoyed reading Sisters at the Well. If you liked that, you may enjoy a little book called Jesus and the Freed Woman. It’s not written by an LDS person, but it is filled with inspiring interpretations of Jesus’ interactions with women.

    As for the rest of my talk, stay tuned… I’ll be posting the rest of it on this blog in the next week or so.

  3. older singer says:

    Beautiful, Caroline!
    I’m going to share a little scripture re-write which I gave my daughter this Christmas. It accompanied a beautiful portrait of Judy Law’s “Mary and the Star” (available at Deseret Book I’m not posting this on the place I’m a permablogger because it’s so personal and, frankly, more for women than men.
    My daughter has an eating disorder, and I’ve been trying to help her see beauty in herself and to get a sense of exactly what your talk addresses wo well. I know that posting this on a blog makes it public property, but I’m requesting that this particular post not become TOO public.
    As I’ve prayed over this daughter, it became clear to me that she needs to experience the love of God far more than she needs therapy sessions. (But we’ll still keep her in therapy.) So this is my re-write of scripture for her:

    And the angel came in unto Julie and said, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

    And when Julie saw him, she was troubled.

    And the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Julie, for God loves thee.

    “God hath given thee a caring and wise heart, a probing mind, a faithful spirit.

    “God knew thee in the worlds before this one, and knew how you would bless others through the gifts He gave you.

    “You shall grow through pain and through experience, and shall recognize the quiet voices that remind you of who you are and how deeply you’re loved.

    “You shall develop the gifts God has already given you and shall marry and conceive in your womb, and bring forth sons and daughters who will be emissaries of the Lord in many lands.

    “You shall testify that God has prepared miracles for them that love Him and love His children. You will bear witness of Christ through service and through words, and will stand as a witness of Him at all times and in all things and in all places.

    “When you suffer, you will learn to hear the promptings of the Spirit and to seek and to recognize the light which will never be extinguished, even the light of Christ.

    “You shall be a queen and a priestess, and your radiant spirit will illuminate dark corners in places you have not yet dreamed of.

    “You will reign with your husband for eternities, and will grow together in the priesthood unto the renewing of your bodies and your spirits.

    “Your name will be blessed through all generations of time, and many will say, “’My life has been touched by Julie, a handmaid of the Lord.’”

  4. AmyB says:

    I wish we had more talks like this in sacrament meeting!

    older singer, that personalized reading of scripture you made for you daughter is beautiful. I’m also sorry for the tragedy of an eating disorder that is affecting your family.

    I wonder if we recieved more messages about divine love than divine judgment if life would be a little easier to navigate. I know that would have made my adolescence a little less rocky.

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