Anne Herridge

Sharing God's heart through poetry, prose and prayer

Motherhood, the Heart of the Gospel

Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating this special day today! Whether it is Mother’s Day on your side of the world, whether you are a mother or not, I believe heaven is celebrating YOU today! I believe this because I believe that the essence of motherhood, is the essence and very heart of the gospel which we are all called to share, regardless of gender or parental status.

My own mother was a beautiful woman. She herself had a difficult upbringing with no parental models to follow.  She was adopted at birth and then orphaned, losing both parents when she was quite young. She had no family at all, but she knew and loved the Lord, and He was at the heart of who she was and how she lived her life.

She not only fulfilled her calling as a mother in our lives, but as a gospel spreader and disciple of Christ. She genuinely loved and accepted people without condition, and fulfilled Jesus’ command to love as He loved, (John 13:34-35), always putting the needs of others first and always seeking to draw others to Christ and love them. She was truly a friend to the ‘misfits’ and the broken. She had a real heart for the lost and the lonely, and the people nobody else wanted to be around. She modelled Jesus to them and loved them on His behalf in every area of her life.

Growing up, one of my brothers became friends with two teens in the community who were often in trouble with the law. These two boys would often come to our house at the suggestion of my brother, and I strongly disliked them! To me, they were bullies and up to no good. One of them had already spent time in ‘juvenile jail’. If the truth be told, I was afraid of them and felt that they simply did not belong in our home!

You can imagine my surprise then, when I came home from school one day to find them sitting around the kitchen table enjoying tea and cake with my mum! Sitting in my chair, eating our best cake! And my brother was not even present as he had missed the bus! There was my mum pouring tea from the best teapot and chatting with them like old friends. That was the first of many occasions. I noticed that they kept coming back. Countless times I would get home from school and there they were, enjoying my mum’s company in the kitchen. they came because she accepted them and listened to them.  They came because she cared about them and modelled Jesus to them. Their own home environment was not the best, and I believe that my mother became a mother figure to them. They trusted her and opened up to her as she gave them her time and gave them the best, challenging them to new ways of thinking and seeing life, new ways of behaving.

That, I believe, is missional mothering. I don’t know if they changed their ways ultimately, but I do know that during that season they found acceptance and love through our mum. To me and my child’s mind, they were the enemy, and yet there in the kitchen my mum regularly fulfilled Luke 6:27 and 28:

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – (Luke 6:27-28)

There’s a man in the Bible who was also welcomed and accepted by someone else’s mum.  He was influenced by a woman who he described as being like a mother to him too, and his own background was also questionable! Before his conversion to Christianity, he devoted his days to terrorizing Jesus’ followers, hunting them down, throwing them into prison and overseeing their executions.

We are talking of course about the apostle Paul. After his conversion, where he became one of the most important apostolic figures in the Bible, he offers a warm greeting in Romans 16:13 where after acknowledging his friends in Rome including Rufus, he also mentions the mother of Rufus.

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” (Romans 16:13)

Rufus was the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Jesus on the last leg of the painful Good Friday journey (Mark 15:21) We can imagine that Simon may well have gone home from that experience a changed man, and no doubt shared the details of that encounter with Jesus on route to his death, with his wife and sons. What deeply emotional and powerful moments those must have been for him.

Simon’s wife may well have shared that experience with Paul. We don’t know for sure, and we don’t know how they met or where, but we know from his words that she was clearly important to him in her motherly role.

Her care and love for him should inspire us all because without knowing who he would become, she was a mother figure to the most significant convert in the history of the church!

You never know who you are parenting or loving!

So, regardless of whether we are mothers or fathers, or parents at all, as Christians, we are all called to love one another and to be like a mother to those around us. God’s plan for motherhood was that it should be an active, worshipful, missional way of living, showcasing who He is and how he loves. Motherhood mirrors God’s love!

God’s plan for Christian living is exactly the same. That we would live an active, worshipful, missionallife, showcasing who He is and how he loves, as we bring the message of gospel to the world.

At the heart of the gospel is the message of new life. A gift God shares not only with mothers (to whom he’s given the ability to produce new life), but with all who follow him and call him Lord. We not only receive new life, but we show others where to find it.

As we saw earlier, in John 13:34, Jesus said to love one another as he loves us.

How does he love us?

Like a mother actually! And of course, a Father. I don’t mean to distract away from the fact that God chooses to be called our Father, but He certainly has maternal qualities.

He loves us, with a sacrificial, unconditional, life-giving love.

Motherhood is woven into the very fabric of creation, and the very fabric of who God is. He describes himself as being like a mother as well as a Father:

“As a mother comforts her child,
  so will I comfort you;
  and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13)

The church is also described as being like a mother. When a person is born again and receives Jesus, God doesn’t leave them to themselves but cares for them and nurtures them through His church. Old Testament Israel was often thought of as a mother too, and her citizens as her children.

Paul, describing the way he and other elders had served the Church, wrote, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).  Such maternal imagery!

Jesus also spoke in motherly terms in Matthew 23: 37, saying how he longed to gather Jerusalem’s children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”

Christian living, like motherhood, is a missional life, and a calling for us all regardless of gender, age, or whether or not we have children. It’s built into every one of us because every one of us bears God’s image and it’s part of who He is.

In her book, Missional Motherhood (Crossway 2016), author Gloria Furman says, “Every Christian woman is called to the spiritual motherhood of making disciples of all nations…God’s design for all mothers is to make much of him to the children entrusted to them. Their mission then, begins and ends with the gospel.”

She is speaking to mothers, and I wholeheartedly agree, but I think we can take it one step further and say that God’s design for all Christians is to make much of him to the people entrusted to us.

“Our mission begins and ends with the gospel.” 

We are called into every relationship we have! Every person we encounter has, I believe, been called into our life by God.

How does life change when you consider that? I was horrified when somebody first suggested that, because not all of our relationships are good. Some are difficult! There are those whom we see as ‘bad’ people…like the young offenders in my brother’s life. Like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion. Like the person who might be unkind or condescending to us at work.

When I was young, I used to think God didn’t want me in difficult relationships because He wants us to be happy, but He does! Because that is where we grow and learn, and lean on His strength. But more than that, He wants us in those relationships because every one of us is a missionary!

Jesus said: Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

He’s made us missionaries! Every one of ushas been tasked with sharing the gospel and making Him known, making ‘much of Him’ as Gloria Furman says, especially in the difficult relationships!

How heaven rejoices when we understand that! We are in a partnership with heaven! We are no mere mortals as C.S. Lewis once said! We exist to share Jesus and to show His glory, to advance His Kingdom, and to love unconditionally! To receive His love and give it away. We were built to share Him and make Him known. What an incredible privilege! Even the angels don’t get that privilege, but we do! Don’t ever underestimate your value or worth in this life! Every relationship you have ever had, every job, every chance encounter, every day ordained for us was ordained so that we could show Jesus to the world, and show that the new life he came to offer is real and is the way, the truth and the life!

Don’t ever underestimate who you are and who God made you to be! Even your tastes and choices, your character, your quirks and every single, funny little thing about you was designed by God to share Him. Every last bit of you!

You were chosen for this time and this generation…this is your moment! It’s our turn right now to impact the world for Jesus!

And what a needy world it is right now.

The call to go and make disciples may start with the daily grind of raising kids, and then teenagers, who often seem to have their own customs, culture and language! Then our work continues with the daily grind of work and life and dealing with people in general, in a world that is filled with diversity and difference, where we often encounter others with their own language, culture and ideas which seem to constantly evolve.  As missional people we are on the front lines, loving people into the Kingdom. Advancing God’s Kingdom is front line work and not always easy! Gloria Furman has a wonderful expression for that work in her book. She says that we have been given the “cosmos moving ministry of reconciliation.”

I absolutely love that phrase! You are of cosmic importance! Don’t ever think for one moment that you are insignificant! You have a cosmos moving ministry which is both life changing and life giving.

Gloria says, “In grace-empowered love, we live on mission, imploring our children and our neighbours to repent of their sin and worship the Lamb who was slain for them, so they might taste and see that God is good.”

“Would we learn to make much of Christ in our bedrooms, around our dining tables, on our Facebook walls, in our children’s schools, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, in foreign lands, and anywhere that Jesus would be pleased to send us.” (Missional Motherhood)

The essence of Motherhood – the business of nurturing new life and loving people unconditionally, is the business of the gospel.

So today I want to remind you that you are all missional mothers, called to share the gospel with the love of God.

You don’t need to be an actual mother to be like a mother! My own daughter who is 23, currently has no desire to be a mother (yet!), but like her grandmother before her, spends her life loving people whom I confess I often shy away from. Those whose culture and beliefs are very different to mine, and yet she opens her home to them and prays for them and shares her faith. Like a mother!

So, as many around the world celebrate mothers today, I believe that heaven celebrates each one of you, regardless of motherhood status. You who are no mere mortal. You who exist to share Jesus and to advance His Kingdom. You, who were made to receive God’s love and give it away, to share Him and make Him Known. You who have a cosmic moving ministry of reconciliation to declare. What an incredible privilege!

PRAYER:  Lord, we thank you first of all for our mothers on this day as we celebrate them and give you thanks for the life you’ve given us through them. We ask you to bless our mums and to bless mothers everywhere whether they are biological mothers, adoptive mothers, spiritual mothers, or honourary mothers. I ask you to bless and encourage each one reading these words as missional mothers, fathers and citizens of your kingdom. I pray that we would all be excited about the fact that we are called to missional mothering in partnership with you. These are exciting times Lord, help us to grasp that and to have a fresh inspiration for our ministry for you. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

© Anne Herridge 2022

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