Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Clement, Salvation of the Rich - The Feminine Side of God

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book on the Salvation of the Rich Man. If you are unfamiliar with Clement or his book, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.
"And then thou shalt look into the bosom of the Father, whom God the only-begotten Son alone hath declared. And God Himself is love; and out of love to us became feminine. In His ineffable essence He is Father; in His compassion to us He became Mother. The Father by loving became feminine: and the great proof of this is He whom He begot of Himself; and the fruit brought forth by love is love." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
We don't often think of God in feminine terms and, for some, such a thought is shocking. However, it is not without precedence. Paul refers to his way with the church as both masculine and feminine. "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8) It is also said of God that, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:27) Both man and woman were created in the image of God, showing us that God is both masculine and feminine in His nature. While God has chosen to reveal Himself to us as a Father and as a Son, this does not negate the fact that He is also feminine. One of the chief qualities born of the feminine side of God is love. Of this love Clement writes,
"For this also He came down. For this He clothed Himself with man. For this He voluntarily subjected Himself to the experiences of men, that by bringing Himself to the measure of our weakness whom He loved, He might correspondingly bring us to the measure of His own strength. And about to be offered up and giving Himself a ransom, He left for us a new Covenant-testament: My love I give unto you. And what and how great is it? For each of us He gave His life,—the equivalent for all. This He demands from us in return for one another." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
Jesus came and loved us, not only to satisfy His own desire, but also to teach us that we too should emulate the feminine side of God and learn to love one another. In the early church, their love for one another was witnessed by all and was a mark that they too had been loved by God. An how shall we love one another? By laying down our lives for our brethren.
"And if we owe our lives to the brethren, and have made such a mutual compact with the Saviour, why should we any more hoard and shut up worldly goods, which are beggarly, foreign to us and transitory? Shall we shut up from each other what after a little shall be the property of the fire? Divinely and weightily John says, 'He that loveth not his brother is a murderer,' the seed of Cain, a nursling of the devil. He has not God’s compassion. He has no hope of better things. He is sterile; he is barren; he is not a branch of the ever-living supercelestial vine. He is cut off; he waits the perpetual fire." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 37)
There are many ways to show love one for another but, for the rich man who has the worlds goods, why should he not rather choose to use those goods in the service of those whom he loves; In meeting the needs of his brethren? Paul wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8) The same could be said for those who despise the household of God and withholds its help when it is in their power to help. Clement describes such people as being sterile, barren, and without hope for better things in their lives. How much better to give to the aid of others then to withhold to the harming of our own soul? The benefits of love are many. Clement writes,
"Love comes to completion, and grows more when that which is perfect has been bestowed. If one introduces it into his soul, although he be born in sins, and has done many forbidden things, he is able, by increasing love, and adopting a pure repentance, to retrieve his mistakes. For let not this be left to despondency and despair by you, if you learn who the rich man is that has not a place in heaven, and what way he uses his property." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 38)
Love is the path forward. It may mean that some of us will have to learn to be more feminine in our nature, but its rewards are limitless. God is love and, as His children, He is calling us to be people of love. This is our calling and our destiny.

David Robison

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