In the Bible, the supreme feminine image is ascribed to the church. Before the church is ever seen as mother, though, she is first revealed as a bride. In the Old Testament, the commonwealth of Israel is the bride of Yahweh. In the New Testament, the church is the bride of Christ.
The resulting familial imagery is somewhat strange. God is the Father; Christ is the Son. As the Son of God, Christ is then referred to as our Elder Brother. The church is His bride. In the language of family, this would then mean that the church is our sister-in-law. But no one speaks of holy sister-in-law church.
We, both men and women, are given the title “bride of Christ.” I am male, yet I am part of a body that is described in feminine terms. What is stranger is that the same entity that is called bride, of which I am a part, is regarded as my mother. I cannot be my own mother.
These images are not the result of a jumbled mass of nonsense or confusion. It is not a matter of nonsense to refer to the church as mother. Though we are born of the Spirit, it is chiefly within the cradle of the church where we are birthed into spiritual life. If the church is not our birthplace, it is surely our nursery. It is in her bosom that the means of grace are concentrated. The church nurtures us unto mature faith.
Reflect on how God has used the church to birth you, nurture you, and mature your faith. Thank God for this divine process that is at work in you.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 3:1-2