Honoring the Church as Mother
The prevailing view of the Church today is not that great. Instead of viewing the Church as God’s ordained institution for bringing the kingdom of God to the world, the Church is largely considered to be just another voluntary organization that makes its claim on our time and money. As a result, any compelling commitment to the Church is lacking.
There are a number of reasons for this situation. One has to do with the fact that the Church shares many of the failings and unmet expectations common to any group where human beings are involved. Another reason is that the idol of individualism has made its way into the Church, so that any attachment to the people of a local congregation is viewed as optional.
Related to this, there are some doctrinal weaknesses that have led to a diminished view of the Church. For example, while the need for individuals to have a personal relationship with Jesus is true, this emphasis seems to have displaced the accompanying truth that to be committed to Christ as one’s Head also means being committed to His body, the Church.
Another critical doctrinal weakness is that we’ve overlooked the place that the Church has as Mother. We are used to the idea that God is the Father of believers, but how about the biblical concept of the Church as Mother?
The Bible tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ, and the New Jerusalem. As such, she is the Mother of all Christians (Gal.4:26,27). As Mother, the Church is to be honored.
The understanding of the Church as Mother has existed throughout history. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin states in reference to the Church: “God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith.”
Calvin adds, “’For what God has joined together, it is not lawful to put asunder,’ so that, for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother. And this was so not only under the law but also after Christ’s coming, as Paul testifies when he teaches that we are the children of the new and heavenly Jerusalem.”
The early Church Father Cyprian made the case even stronger when he wrote, “You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother.”
The reason that the Church is considered to be the mother of believers is not arbitrary. It’s because of the mothering role that she plays in the lives of Christians. Like an earthly mother, the Church provides the instruction, reproofs, and nourishment that God’s children need.
Like any mother, of course, the Church is not perfect. But that is not an excuse for abandoning her. Despite her shortcomings, the Church as Mother provides the kind of care that every Christian requires, and all who desert her will surely suffer harm.
Honor the Church as Mother. Find and devote yourself to a local congregation. It’s not an option, because it’s through the Church that God provides ongoing grace to sustain His people, and it’s by way of the Church that He brings life to the world.