taking the words of Jesus seriously

There is a feminine side of God. I always knew this. Even before the feminist movement demanded that I use inclusive language to publicly declare this truth, I saw this side of God in the Jesus who approached the world with what we would call a feminine sensitivity and appreciation. The way our Lord considered the lilies of the field and the way He gave pause to the smallest bird that might fall dead from a tree made me see the feminine side of God most clearly.

If the male side of God’s character was expressed by Jesus’ strong declarations of truth and pronouncements on morality, the female side of God was clear in His gentle sense of wonder while enjoying what the less perceptive would call the simple things of life. If I could have been around in Jesus’ time, I do not think I would have so much wanted to see Him perform miracles and defy the self-righteous religionists as I would have enjoyed sneaking along after Him as He took His private walks.

I would have loved peeking at Him from behind some boulder on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee and watching Him be charmed by all the sights and sounds that surrounded Him. I would have liked watching the way Jesus looked at all the people He met and seeing how he delighted Himself with simple food and the taste of water.

The Melody That He Gave to Me

The masculine side of God is something to be admired. But it is the feminine side that draws love out of me. It is this feminine side of God I find in Jesus that makes me want to sing duets with Him. When I think about the feminine in Him, I want to throw out my arms and be loved.

Related: How Much Money Does it take to be a Good Christian Woman?

When I was younger and tougher and trying to be a dead serious prophet (and what young preacher doesn’t have some desire to play such a role?), I was offended by a hymn that was loved by many of the elderly members of the congregation at the church I pastored. During the hymn singing in our Sunday evening services there was a time for requesting favorites, and I could count on one of them asking for “I Come to the Garden Alone.” But the more I, myself, become an old guy, the more I understand why they requested that hymn. In my younger days, it seemed to reek of mushy sentimentality, and I always felt that there was some neo-Freudian lovemaking going on between some of the elderly ladies and Jesus. Maybe I was right, but in my narrow and perverted thinking, I failed to see how pure and beautiful that could be. As I give up my messianic tendencies and more and more simply surrender to the Messiah in love, this hymn becomes increasingly meaningful to me:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear;
The Son of God discloses.


He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.


I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.


And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

In my youth I wanted to be like Martin Luther King, but the older I get, the more my role model becomes Saint Francis of Assisi. Of course there was a lot of Saint Francis in Dr. King and a lot of Dr. King in Saint Francis. But now it is the loving of Jesus in the Spirit that is becoming more and more a preoccupation of my life.

Recognizing the Feminine Side of Myself

Not only do I love the feminine in Jesus, but the more I know Jesus, the more I realize that Jesus loves the feminine in me. In a day and age when so many women are trying to rediscover the side of their humanity that the world deems masculine, I find Jesus is helping me to appreciate those dimensions of me the world calls feminine.

I find myself wanting to be the bride of Christ. I want Him to find in me; or, if need be, to create in me, a sweetness and a sensitivity for all things and all people. I want more and more for Him to find in me, or to create in me, a gentle heart and an awareness of the goodness that lies in people around me and especially in my enemies.

Once I wanted to be the enemy of the enemies of Jesus. But little by little I am realizing that Jesus refuses to declare any of us to be His enemies, even though there are those who would like to dignify themselves by assuming the title. And the more I become aware that our Lord does not view His enemies as His enemies, the more it becomes difficult for me to define them as my enemies.

I want to learn to love those people who stand on the other side of the struggles in which I am engaged. I pray that Jesus will bring out in me that blessed trait, which some disparage as feminine weakness, that will enable me to find the good in the racist, the homophobe, the fascist, and the militarist. The side of me that the world calls masculine would want them destroyed. But as Jesus draws out the feminine in me, He makes me want to see them rescued by having the goodness that is in them overcome the evil.

There is that feminine side of me that must be recovered and strengthened if I am to be like Christ. And it is in the recovering of that side of my humanity that I find myself more and more willing and less and less afraid to be called “a bride of Christ.”

Also by Tony: Why ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ Doesn’t Work

Society has brought me up to suppress the so-called feminine dimensions of my humanness. But when Jesus makes me whole, both sides of who I am meant to be will be fully realized. Then, and only then, will I be fully able to love Jesus and be fully able to accept His love for me. Until I accept the feminine in my humanness, there will be a part of me that cannot receive the Lord’s love. And until I feel the feminine in Jesus, there is a part of Him with which I cannot identify. What I long for in the end is to know the way He can love Himself through me and I can love myself through Him. Only when I know Him in His wholeness and am myself made whole will this happen. And when it does happen, I will be fully alive in Him and He in me. It is not yet, but it will be. And this is the good news:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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