The Day that Jesus described God as a Woman

Have you heard God called “The Good Shepherd?”  Have you heard God portrayed as the father who runs out to meet the prodigal son?  These are two parables that Jesus told the religious leaders who were annoying him because they did not get that God was all about loving the world and not condemning it.  They are brilliant parables – the very heart of Jesus’s message where God pulls out all of the stops to love us.  But sandwiched in between these two parables is the parable of the lost coin:

What woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9 NRS).

Do you notice anything really really really weird about this parable?  In it, Jesus describes God as a married woman who has lost the equivalent of her wedding ring.  The ten coins were most certainly the coins she received at her wedding and wore around her head on a chain – our equivalent of a wedding ring.  One of the coins must have fallen off.  We tell this story over and over.  And yet, no one ever points out that Jesus was not ashamed to compare God to a woman!  What does it say about us that we are okay with God being “The Good Shepherd who lost his Sheep” or “The Father of the Prodigal Son”?  But which of us doesn’t flinch when we hear that God is “The Woman who Lost her Wedding Ring?”

In a moment where Jesus is revealing God to us, he describes God as a woman who is willing to go into the dark, dirty places and search until she finds the thing that represents the covenant love she has for her husband.  Is that not beautiful? God as female.  God in love.  God who values us and searches to be reunited with us until she finds us?

This is the gospel. God lost us – and we are so precious to her that she is willing to go into the dark, dirty places to search for us.  And she does not stop until she is united with us again.

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April describes herself as a Red Letter Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs.  

4 thoughts on “The Day that Jesus described God as a Woman

  1. Ken Bailey has some insightful ideas on this triple parable. A shepherd could be of either gender, the woman is female and the father is male. In all 3 cases, part of understanding the parable is that these 3 images represent God and then going a step further, they represent Jesus! In other words, Jesus had no problem using a female metaphor to represent himself, and he did it deliberately, as the story could have been told with a man searching for a lost coin. I have seen some Bible teachers that do not believe in gender equality claim that the woman represents the church; I think that in this case they simply could not see the mapping because they were not looking for it.

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    1. I see in these parables Jesus is making comparisons of God’ s love for us. He did all that was necessary to save us. In the bible we have God the Fafhet God the Son God the Holy Spirit all being refered to as He. I see the point you are making and I respect your views.

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      1. In Hebrew and Greek, the use of a pronoun depends on the grammatical gender of the noun and grammatical gender has no necessary relation to biological gender. In the Hebrew, the words for Holy Spirit are grammatically feminine and in Greek the words for Holy Spirit are grammatically neuter, so the correct corresponding pronouns would be she and it, but in English an it is not a person, so translators make a choice and use the generic masculine he. That is, God is spirit and not gendered.

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