A United Methodist church outside Nashville sparked controversy and gained publicity by posting on its outdoor sign: “Jesus Had Two Dads and He Turned Out Just Fine.” In media interviews, the pastor insisted no political statement was intended and the aspiration was only to affirm children in non traditional families. But in our current cultural and political climate, the sign’s message was interpreted in obvious ways.
Several United Methodist general conferences ago, delegates approved brief language for the church’s Social Principles affirming the importance of both mothers and fathers. I had written the petition. The language was quietly deleted at a subsequent General Conference. Mothers and fathers have become controversial! That a female parent uniquely complements a male parent and vice versa is a concept threatening to the new Gnostic gender-bending zeitgeist, in which each self-actualized individual as a matter of right may reinvent his/her gender reality.
The Methodist sign affirming Jesus’ two dads omitted one key participant in Jesus’ parentage: His mother. Was Mary inconsequential? She bore, gave birth, reared, protected and revered her Son. There was no physical incarnation of the Savior without Mary. Jesus had His Heavenly Father, His earthly step father Joseph, and His faithful mother, who lived to see Him complete His mission and grieved His suffering but atoning death on the Cross. Can anyone understand Jesus without His mother?
Obviously the circumstances of Jesus’ virgin birth were unique to Him as Savior. But the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, living under the protection of the Heavenly Father, faithfully serving and complementing each other, is the lofty example for every family. There are many tragic examples in our fallen world where the traditional model is absent. But celebrating that absence to the extent of declaring mothers and fathers unnecessary to each other and to children rejects God’s order of creation and hurts countless people.
Mary is everlastingly Jesus’ mother, for which she will always be honored on earth and in heaven. Jesus is eternally the only begotten Son of the Father. Each of us, if the Gospels are true, will forever have, like Jesus, a resurrected body. There is no sexuality in heaven. But there is decidedly male and female. There is no gender bending in heaven. Instead there is Christ the eternal bride groom, and His Church, the eternal bride. Heaven we are told is a wedding feast that lasts forever. And everyone is invited. But attendance is not compelled. By God’s grace, it is chosen.
Likely the church will need to re-explain the basic Christian cosmology if it is to persuade a confused audience of what was once manifest about the complementarity of male and female, physically and spiritually. And maybe central to that explanation will be a focus on Mary as mother of our Lord.
A new professor at evangelical Wheaton College explains here his popular course on Mary, which includes the very high regard for her by Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley. He writes:
And so she remains a leader and teacher to us Protestants as well. Mary, once known as “Destroyer of Heresies,” can similarly protect Evangelicalism from its own set of foes: from Protestant liberalism’s dated conceits; from tired neo-Gnostic assaults; from stubborn divisions that weaken the mission of the Church; from a lingering, unholy patriarchy within the Christian tradition; and from the siren song of secular feminism, which has bargained with the devil on the wrong side of the sanctity of life.
Maybe future provocative Methodist church signs, instead of tongue-in-cheek citing Jesus’ two dads, will instead spotlight His mother as central to God’s redemption of the world.