April 24, 2019
2 John 3-4
Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
I was preaching the Prodigal Son story to a group of college students, the one N.T. Wright says should really be called the Running Father story, because it’s is really about God’s steadfast love for us no matter what.
There was one girl who was just not having it. I could see in her eyes she didn’t want to hear about God as a loving, caring Father who runs to his rebellious kids. And in what could only be a Holy Spirit inspired moment, I suddenly went off script and blurted out, “This story sounds great unless you had a terrible father.”
At that moment tears came to her eyes, and I realized something I had never given much thought to before: a child forms their primary ideas of God from how they are parented. So for many of us, we struggle with Jesus teaching us to pray by first calling God “Our Daddy.”
Some of us had wonderful relationships with our fathers and can see God as caring, safe, and loving. But because of our experiences, for many of us to think of God as a father causes us to see him as distant, angry, abandoning, or even abusive.
As two of my friends wrote, the ache is there because deep down inside we know what a good father should be like. What many tend to do is throw out this image and language of God as father altogether. But if grace, mercy, and peace come to us between a Father and Son relationship, what do we do?
We look to the truth… we look at Jesus. When we see the nature of Jesus we see the nature of the Heavenly Father. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus says, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
The key phrase is “how much more.” How much more perfect is the Heavenly Father than any of our earthly fathers could ever be? Just like we pray, “your Kingdom come,” even though world history is full of violent and oppressive kingdoms and leaders, we still pray to embrace God’s rule as a kingdom because of how much more perfect it is being made on earth as it is heaven through Jesus Christ.
I suspect that many of us are somewhere in between embrace and ache because our fathers loved us, but also operated out of their own sin and wounds. So the best we can hope for is the way Ron Reagan described his relationship with his father, the 40th President of the United States: “We all grow up idolizing, [then] dethroning, and with luck, later befriending our fathers, but can we really know them? Do they care to know us?”
Look at how Jesus describes the relationship in the Message translation of Matthew 11:27: “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.”
There is grace, mercy, and peace found here between the Father and the Son… the kind that can heal the ache and longing we’ve had for the daddy we’ve always wanted, and change things between all of us.
Jesus, remain in me and I will remain in you. Please show me in a real way how the love between you and me comes from the love between you and the Heavenly Father. Amen.
Has seeing God as Father been a blessing or a curse, and how might Jesus heal that image?
For the awakening,