Motherhood, God and the Gospel

wifeThat's Jen, my best friend, wife and the mother of our children. It's Mother's Day, and I hope you'll make the most of the opportunity this day affords. As our culture sets apart a day to honor our mothers I was thinking about the connection motherhood has to God, the gospel and ministry. I believe that by understanding motherhood and honoring our mothers we are better equipped to know God, understand the gospel and minister effectively. It's sad that a growing segment of our culture views motherhood as something oppressive. It does not serve the self-centered life well, and many are opting to not have children at all. The exalted and beautiful role of motherhood is fading away in our culture and is often overlooked even in the church. But having children is an immeasurable blessing. Mothers occupy a place of honor, and with their husbands are the teachers of their children. Mothers care for and protect their children; they demonstrate mercy and compassion in unique ways that God calls us to emulate. And if we miss the honor a mother deserves, we can be crippled in how we function as Christians. For example - in how we relate to other women. Paul wrote, "Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity." (1 Tim 5:1, 2).

But our understanding of motherhood does more than help develop Christlike relationships in the church. It also connects to our understanding of God as comforter. In Isaiah 66 God says he will comfort his people with motherly care. "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." (vs. 13) Why would God use this picture? I believe because most people understood this aspect of mothering. Most still do. After all, as a child who did you cry for when you fell down and got hurt?

John Gill said,

Now the manner in which the Lord comforts the saints, especially young converts, is the most kind, tender, and affectionate; as a tender hearted mother comforts her child; when it has fallen and hurt itself, and cries, she takes it up in her arms, hugs it in her bosom, and speaks comfortably to it, to still and quiet it. The children of God often fall into sin, and hurt themselves, their peace and joy, break their bones, and lose the enjoyment of God; when, being sensible of their evils, they roar as David did, and weep bitterly as Peter; then the Lord speaks comfortably unto them, and bids them be of good cheer, for their sins are forgiven them.

Even the gospel itself is expressed in the picture of motherhood.

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 13:31-35 (ESV)

Hear the heart of God, of the Savior, of the Gospel itself. He gathers the broken and willing under the wings of his grace, as a mother hen gathers her brood. The glory of Christ shines in his love for his people, like a mother's for her children.

We then follow the example of Jesus in the work of ministry by demonstrating motherly love and compassion.

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 1 Thess 2:7, 8

Pastoral ministry does require strength and even fighting, but it is very often a gentle work - especially with the young in faith. It requires real affection and the sharing of our lives with the people God has sent us to lead and love. The first place we are likely to learn such care is from our mothers. For many of us, our first pastoral training began with "mom" and we had no idea.

Let's honor our mothers today, and every day, as God commands and remember that the character of a good mother is reflected in God, the gospel and the ministry.