He, She, It, What Is God Anyway?

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We are about halfway between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. (An interesting bit of trivia about Mother’s or Father’s Day.) The Illinois Bell Telephone Co. reports that the volume of long-distance calls made on Father’s day is growing faster than the number on Mother’s Day. The company apologized for the delay in compiling the statistics, but explained that the extra billing of calls to fathers slowed things down. Most of them were collect.

A child is not likely to find a father in God unless that child finds something of God in his/her father. Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?

In seminary a student is required to take Clinical Pastoral Education. I had to do 700 hours at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. Three hospitals cooperated in this C.P.E. program. About 80% of the students in my group were from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the orientation, the speaker started his prayer with the words, “Heavenly Mother….” There was shock across the room.

What is God anyway? To understand things that are beyond our understanding we put them in human terms. The whole reason that we have the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) is to understand God. So it is not unexpected that the Bible uses human terms to explain God. The Hebrew and Greek languages like most languages are very gender oriented. Almost every word has a gender assigned to it and most are male.

In the scheme of creation, the establishment of a gender and the giving of sex was for the purpose of procreation. However, when we turn to Heaven, procreation appears to have no place. Jesus said, At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Paul writes to the Church at Galatia, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In the Bible the Father is an exalted position. The social structure described in the Old Testament is known as a “patriarchal” society. The word patriarchy means “the rule of the father.” The father commanded a high position in the family of Old Testament times; his word was law. The fifth commandment carries this idea of the importance one step further when it states, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). The word honor refers to one’s response to God. In other words, this commandment suggests that the parents should receive a recognition similar to that given to God.

Along with the honor of the position as head of the family, the father was expected to assume certain responsibilities: spiritual, social, and economic. The New Testament brings the fact of the Fatherhood of God into greater prominence and distinctness then in the Old Testament. In the NT God is more than just the creator and judge, he is our Father. The term thus used refers to the natural relationship between God and His creatures. Christ taught His disciples to address God in prayer as “our Father,” He did not use that form Himself. He spoke of God as “My Father” and “your Father,” but at the same time He made plain that He distinguished between the relation in which they stood to God and that in which He Himself stood. The first words of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty,” are first of all a recognition of this deep truth of Holy Scriptures.

To be brought into God’s family, the believer must be “born from above” or “born again” (John 3:3,5). Because a person has God as his Father, he must realize that other believers are his “fathers,” “mothers,” “brothers,” and “sisters” (1 Tim 5:1-2). The body of believers known as the church are also referred to as the “household of God” (Eph 2:19) and the “household of faith” (Gal 6:10). Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

Therefore, we call God “Father” not because God is of the male sex, but because of a relationship. God transcends all gender classifications. Whether we use terms such as “Father, Son or Holy Spirit,” God is more about a relationship with us, than can be defined in human terms.

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