Monday, 20 June 2016

A Father like no other

What image comes to mind when you hear the word God? And as you picture Him, what exactly is it that He is doing?  Is He standing?  Sitting?  Moving or stationary? Is He looking at you? What expression is on His face?  What about His hands?  Are they clenched in a fist?  Are His arms crossed or on his hips?  Is He pleased?  Is He powerful, or does He look like a kind old grandpa?  Is He strong or weak?

How we see God plays a powerful role in how we respond to him. At various points in my childhood, I thought God was like a cosmic force in the sky ready to zing a bolt down to strike me if I misbehaved. Yet the Scriptures present a very different picture of God. In the Gospels, Jesus exhorts us to call God, Father, “our Father.” The picture of God in the Scriptures is of a Father who is good, loving and kind, which is not often how we think of God. If it isn’t as the strict disciplinarian more akin to a Sergeant Major then we think of Him as the dozy grandfather all cuddles and smiles. Neither of these depictions faithfully matches the description of God as a good Father given in the gospels

Perhaps part of the challenge is the fact that fatherhood today is not esteemed in our culture. Think, for example, of how dads are often portrayed on TV – e.g. Daddy Pig in Peppa, Ben in My Family, Phil in Modern Family and off course Homer in Simpson – bungling and lazy, oblivious to the needs of the family and irrevocably incompetent. This has led in various ways to fathers who are either ruthless (and who in the worst cases abandon their families) or to dads who are ‘around’ but not that focussed on serving and blessing their families and who are not that bothered to try.

How vastly different this is to our heavenly Father. Neither harsh nor disinterested, God is the concerned Father who seeks the wellbeing of all His children. One of the clearest descriptions of God’s goodness comes from the Psalms: As a father has compassion on his children so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. To fear the Lord is to esteem Him as our Creator and King. He made the heavens and earth, you and I and therefore deserves our joyful adoration. But far from being aloof and austere (as the high and mighty sometimes come across), God is compassionate and loving. Nowhere is this more visible than in His gift of His Son to be our Saviour. Greater love has no Father than this that He gave His one and only Son to die for our sin. Hallelujah!

Parish magazine article for June 19th 2016

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