Is The Church Your Mother?
I’ve been reading the early Latin church father Cyprian this week, namely his work On the Unity of the Church. On several occasions Cyprian makes reference to the church as the Christians’ “mother”.
Some of you may read that and scratch your head, but first read what Cyprian had to say:
“…she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.” (Chapter 5)
“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.” (Chapter 6)
If you’re still scratching your head you may be surprised to know that this isn’t a concept restricted to the third century but is one espoused by the esteemed Reformed theologian John Calvin. Calvin writes:
“I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith…for those to whom he is Father the church may also be Mother.”
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book IV)
The question I have for you is this: do you experience what Cyprian and Calvin describe? Is the church your Mother?
I trust you all find yourself in a church where you do hear the gracious words of the gospel each week and you are indeed “nourished” by her milk as Cyprian worded it. Sadly, I fear many experience the church not as their Mother but as a kind of unloving Uncle who is a taskmaster, leaving those under his care with the bellows of the Law and their work for the coming week. Then there are those who have such a low view of the church that it would best be described as a Mother they only visit on special occasions if at all. I sincerely pray you don’t find yourself in either scenario.