Jesus changed a lot of things. Everything really. One big thing he changed is the way we refer to God. With his instruction for us to pray to God as “Our Father” he drastically changed our view of who God is.
God had been called Father before. There are a few notable places in the Old Testament where he calls Israel his child or where he is called the Father of Israel. But these were metaphors, Jesus tells us to call him Father. Like, address him as Dad.
So what exactly does this change? Why make such a big deal about it? Before Jesus, humans were the definition of what a Father was and God borrowed that definition to describe himself. After Jesus, God is the definition of what a father is and we borrow it to describe ourselves.
These relationships were given to us to be a mirror of who God is to us. And, in my opinion, we have no right to call ourselves father if we’re not modeling the behavior of the true Father.
Moms, you’re not being left out here. You can be like the Father too. The father does lots of things that are motherly. The image of being “born-again” is the clearest reference we consistently make to the motherly attributes of the Father. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” God gathers and comforts the way a mother does.
God is the perfect embodiment of everything that is masculine and fatherly and he is the perfect embodiment of everything that is feminine and motherly.
When I graduated college, I worked at Child Protective Services for just under two years. These kids at best had absent fathers and at absolute worst had rapist fathers. Imagine trying to explain to them that God is like a Father.
Want to know the best way to communicate to your kids who God is? Be like the Father.
Paul told the fathers in the city of Ephesus, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The implication is that the opposite of bringing them up in discipline and instruction is provoking them to anger. Showing your kids love and grace is the discipline and instruction Paul encourages.
I had good parents. Great parents even. One night I came home late. Well, I came home late several times, but this one time sticks out. When I came in my mom was sitting on the couch waiting for me. She asked, “Wil, do you know what grace is?”
I was used to these Bible study quizzes. “It means free gift.”
“But do you know what it is?”
“Yeah, it’s what we get from Jesus.”
“Grace is that even though you were wrong by coming home late again and I would be right for taking away your keys for a month, I’m not going to just because I’m glad you’re home safe.”
That is being like the Father. In all my theology classes and bible studies I have never understood grace any better than I did in the moment I sat there in the living room and saw my mom acting as the Father.
But it’s not just about letting your kids off the hook. We have rules in my house. A lot of rules. Rules about when we go to bed, what we eat, how we handle being frustrated and upset, what toys we can play with, what movies we can and can’t watch, when we can go outside, what words we can and can’t say. That doesn’t even begin to cover the rules. There has not been a single day in his entire life that Soren has followed all the rules in our house. He has never met the standard we set and when he doesn’t meet that standard he is sent to “the corner.”
When he comes out of the corner the first thing he does is get a hug. He is reminded that we care for him and that our primary feeling towards him is love.
Right now he doesn’t understand why he has to eat broccoli and can’t have ice cream every day. He doesn’t even understand why he can’t yell at his mom when she says its naptime. As far as he knows I just sat down one day and decided I wanted him to suffer through carrots and squash and learning how to read.
But he has never questioned my love for him and one day he’ll comprehend that not only were these rules and punishment not an exception to my love, they were driven by it. They’re to protect him, and not just protect him but also to make him better.
That is being like the Father.
One day I’ll be teaching Soren who God is and I’ll say, “He’s all the good things about Dad and Mom and none of the bad things.” If I’ve been like the Father, he’ll know exactly what that means.