Friday, June 19, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

"So God created man in his own image..." (Gen 1:27) There are a lot of ways to take this meaning. I grew up understanding that this meant I had an eternal, divine soul. I also believed because of this that all people are inherently good. Then I grew older, actually read the book of Romans, and learned this is not the case. Another way of looking at this verse is that our character reflect the character of God.

It was a novel, in fact controversial, idea when Jesus introduced the Lord's Prayer with the words "Our Father..." (Mt 6:9) and when he said "I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me." (Jn 8:18, emphasis added) he was speaking blasphemy. But it is clear from the Gospels that we can look at the God in Heaven as 'Father'. If we are created in his image, and that means we share his character, then as fathers shouldn't we look to his example for fatherhood?

There's a lot in the Bible that we can turn to, and I encourage you to study this out on your own. But I want to call attention to two of Jesus' parables to grasp a description of the father that I believe is central to fatherhood.

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Mt 7:9-11)

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (From the parable of the Prodigal Son, Lk 15:20b-24)

If you don't know the story, the Prodigal Son asks for his inheritance early, runs off and blows it all, feels ashamed about it and comes home. This is where I pick up the story.

What these parables have in common is unconditional love. That's hard as a father. My son is in the "fearful Fours" (though I've heard different versions of that first f-word, if you know what I mean). When he's being especially disobedient and is disciplined, he's quick to lash out in anger, "I don't like you!" The first few times he did that it hurt me greatly. But then I understood that he didn't mean it. I forgave him. He continues to say that from time to time. And each time I tell him that it hurts, but I understand and forgive him.

Isn't this that attitude that God has towards us? We sin, and sin, and sin. We reject him daily, only turning to him when we're in trouble. Yet we want everything he has to offer us. So what does God do? He tells us, "I understand. I forgive you. I love you."

It doesn't take my son long to get over his anger with me. Just the other night we were butting heads and clashing wills. After some time to cool off he comes up to me and told me, "I always like you." I was surprised! It wasn't ten minutes earlier that he told me the opposite! He surprised me again last night when he told me out of the blue, "You're always my friend." There's no better Father's Day present I could ever get. I pray this is always true.

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