Most of us can remember our fathers, to some degree or another. For most people, our Dads shape our vision of who God is. When we speak of God as “Father,” our minds immediately return to the visions and emotions we had of our earthly fathers when we were growing up, whether they be good or bad.
And as we turn on the television we don’t find many examples of good TV dads. We find a lot of Homer Simpsons, fathers who mean well, but would sooner be caught with a beer in hand, watching the game, than to have any real connection with the wife and kids. We find Ray from “Everybody Loves Raymond:” a really nice guy, but ultimately uninvolved and essentially detached from his family’s lives.
I know far too many people who have grown up without the kind of good father that I have (and even that’s assuming dear old “dad” was ever even in the picture to begin with). So I understand that for some, to speak of God as “Father” might seem a little warped.
In the book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller writes:
My father left my home when I was young, so when I was introduced to the concept of God as Father I imagined Him as a stiff, oily man who wanted to move into our house and share a bed with my mother. I can only remember this as a frightful and threatening idea. We were a poor family who attended a wealthy church, so I imagined God as a man who had a lot of money and drove a big car. At church they told us we were children of God, but I knew God’s family was better than mine, that He had a daughter who was a cheerleader and a son who played football. I was born with a small bladder so I wet the bed till I was ten and later developed a crush on the homecoming queen who was kind to me in a political sort of way, which is something she probably learned from her father, who was the president of a bank. And so from the beginning, the chasm that separated me from God was as deep as wealth and as wide as fashion.
Many people share some similar experience. But there’s good news.
In the pages of scripture, God has chosen to reveal Himself as a Father. Though this image was less common in the days before Jesus (mostly, to avoid confusion with the fertility cults of the ancientworld), we find words such as those of the Psalmist, who describes God as “a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace” (Psalm 68:5).
In the New Testament as well as the early church, God’s Fatherhood is an expression of intimacy. Jesus speaks of the love between Father and Son (“the Father loves the Son,” John 3:35, 5:20; “my Father loves me,” John 10:17).
The gospel teaches us that regardless of who our fathers are on earth, we can rely on a Father who loves us and desires relationship and connection. The gospel allows us to no longer see God as distant, but teaches us to call His name Abba (Mk 14:36; Ro 8:15; Gal 4:6), a term used to express both reverence and intimacy.
Which is a way better gift than a tie any day.