You're Loving Jesus Wrong (or The Existential Crisis of a Genderless God)

I could write a love song
Tell you what I think you wanna hear
But it wouldn't be good enough

Those are the opening lyrics to a somewhat popular and recent Christian song called "All I Can Do (Thank You)" by the group, Mikeschair. You can probably guess that I'm not a big fan, but not for any other reason beyond my general loathing of all pop music (ok, their name and the story behind it are pretty terrible). However, I've been hearing a lot criticism leveled against this band that has nothing to do with their insipid music. Instead, some people are attacking how they've chosen to express their love for Jesus.

Now I understand when Christians take artists to task for theologically unsound lyrics (both Chris Tomlin and Michael W. Smith have been particularly careless). But in this case, the argument is founded on the erroneous claim that "Jesus is not our boyfriend." And that this song is promoting an inappropriately feminized (i.e. emasculated) relationship with him. And to that I say, there is nothing wrong with having a romantic relationship with Jesus.

Most women reading this are probably chuckling at how obvious that statement is.

Really, it's no secret that women seem to have an easier time achieving spiritual intimacy. Being in Christian radio, I can vouch for the fact that women make up a vast majority of its listeners. That's something the Christian radio network, K-LOVE, has made a killing at ratings-wise. Because they appeal primarily to the middle-aged soccer mom by playing songs like the one mentioned above.

Men, on the other hand, find those kinds of songs distasteful. Thinking of Jesus as their lover freaks them out. And why wouldn't it? What could be more inappropriate than a homoerotic love song between a man and his God? And there it is. The reason most Christian men struggle spiritually is because the idea of intimacy with another man feels awkward to them. Or simply, most Christian men are intensely, if not subconsciously, homophobic. But I have news for you: if gender is an obstacle between you and God, you don't understand God or his love at all.

It's true: Jesus came to earth as a man. And as much as some folks today would like rewrite the Bible with more gender-inclusive language, the original texts are pretty clear that God is our father, not our mother. But when we start arguing for the priority of the male gender based on a poor reading of 1 Timothy 2:13, then we must admit to holding the untenable view that God is male.

photo credit: Mr. Imperial via photopin cc
And the problem with that is it's simply untrue. God is spirit; he transcends gender. In fact, since both male and female contain the image of God, one could argue that gender is a concept that proceeds from God. That within his being exists all the characteristics that have come to define the two distinct genders. Scripture bears this out, frequently personifying God as things like a mama bear or a nursing mother. Jesus even refers to himself as a mother hen.

So why did Jesus come as a man, and why is God primarily called our father?

Transport yourself back in time to those ancient, patriarchal societies and ask those questions again. Can you imagine if Jesus came as a woman? No one would've listened to her let alone followed her. Women have been oppressed and under-appreciated for thousands of years. Is it really that surprising that God chose to reveal himself as a father during such callous times, all the while leaving us subtle hints throughout the Bible that gender doesn't matter in how we relate to him (even Jesus thought so)? Or have we already forgotten that God has always spoken within the confines of culture?

That being said, if we can accept that the concept of gender proceeds from the being of God, then things like intimacy, romance, even sexuality naturally follow.

I'm not saying that Jesus wants to have sex with you. But I am saying that sexual intimacy was created by God to illustrate the kind of relationship he wants with each of us. Just as God is Israel's husband, so the church is the bride of Christ.

Is romance, then, so far-fetched an idea as we grow closer with God? Or must we continue to denigrate a brother's lack of sterile, politically correct, and comfortable terminology? I, for one, would suggest that there is only one appropriate response to the person who loves God like a lover.