Gender, Jesus and Identity; some ‘what ifs….’

I hope that I am not about to be labelled a heretic by both sides of the debate about the gender specific words we use to describe God!

I don’t object to, in fact I would welcome, more feminine ways of describing God. If I am honest I often subconsciously seek to minimise gender specifics. I might introduce intercessions with a phrase like ‘gracious God,’ as opposed to ‘loving Father.’ But as I have been reflecting over the last two days other concerns have come to mind.

My most serious concern is the mental image ‘we’ carry of God and, especially of Jesus. Now it seems to me an inescapable fact that Jesus was, biologically, a man. To believe otherwise would be to buy into one heck of a conspiracy theory!  So for me the bigger issue is what sort of man was Jesus?

Who is the Jesus that I am commanded to love? Who is the Jesus whose love I am asked to accept?

Jesus always asks questions of me and perhaps the most fundamental is this: ‘who do you say that I am?’

And, maybe in asking this Jesus wants us to go beyond words and phrases such as ‘Son of God’, ‘Son of Man,’ ‘The Son,’ and straight to the words Immanuel and Messiah; or ‘God with us,’ and ‘anointed one.’

These words are in one sense wonderfully nondescript. They invite us to enter, without pride less we become entrapped, straight into the ‘imagination of our hearts,’ to create an image of the type of person we are prepared to love, unconditionally, and be loved by; again unconditionally.

The temptation of course is to construct an image, no idol, of the kind of person we could like to love and be loved by. The problem gets worse for in creating our very own Immanuel we also, uninvited, construct God’s Messiah.

For many years the kind of Jesus I wanted to worship was pretty alpha (male). My Jesus was a kind of first century Captain America. And then life got difficult and the image let me down and, it dawned on me that I needed to discover the real and authentic Jesus. And so onto my ‘what ifs:’

What if Jesus rather than being Captain America was a tad effeminate? What if he had a speech impediment? What if he had two left feet, mobility problems, and was really, really bad at sport? What if he had learning difficulties? What if he had terrible eye sight and atrocious hearing? Or, heaven forbid, personal hygiene issue? What if he was the sort of person who struggled to make ends meet and consequently ended up isolated and imprisoned? What if we take His self-description in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats so seriously that it shatters every conception we might want to have of Jesus? What if bizarrely, paradoxically, ‘our fallen on hard times Jesus,’ was still the epitome of love, wisdom and sacrifice; the most unlikely personification of salvation?

And if we end up with a less than picture perfect image of Jesus we have five final, unresolved, questions to answer:

  • Could I love such a saviour ?
  • Would I permit a seriously fallen, non perfect, but all loving saviour to love me?
  • How would I feel about God (the Father) anointing as the chosen one someone who might look like the very epitome of weakness, failure and even fallen humanity.
  • Could it just be that a weak, effeminate, disabled,isolated, imprisoned, smelly and intellectually challenged Jesus might look pretty attractive to those desperate for a Jesus they can truly relate to? 
  • What breadth of ‘Christian company’ do we keep?

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