The Good Father
A couple of days ago an insightful young man asked me, “Why do you think God chose to reveal himself as a father? Could it be that a perfect father is something we are all missing? Do you think that God the Father sent more than the Son? Maybe it was also about sending the relationship.”
Adam, the first father of all of us sinned. What was the nature of his sin? I wonder if it was the failure to be the father/caregiver God intended him to be.
I think Adam demonstrated three failures as a husband and father that set patterns which cause men to struggle with their identity to this day: passivity, shirking responsibility and a lack of courage.
When the serpent tempted Eve (with the oldest lie in the book, “Did God really say…?”) Adam was with her. (Gen 3:6) He had the opportunity to say, “Step away from the snake, Honey,” but he did nothing. He could have loaned her his strength to resist, but he became passive. He chose to disengage.
When God asked Adam what he had done he said, “That woman…that woman YOU gave me made me do it.” (Gen. 3:12) He was saying, “Hey, I’m just the victim here. I’m a victim of another human and a victim of God.” He could have taken responsibility, but he chose to shift the blame.
Adam and Eve chose to hide from God. Who told them they were naked? Obviously the one who has been capitalizing on shame ever since. Again Adam and Eve chose to listen to that voice and the result was living in shame and fear. Adam’s legacy is the tendency to hide in shame and live in fear.
When fear becomes the motivating force in our lives we either hide or become bullies. When we are shame-based we are easily offended. Shame on a larger scale leads to a hopeless society with a desire to escape responsibility or accountability. Bullying on a national scale leads to exploitation and war. In the hands of the wicked the manipulation of the masses through shame and fear leads to every form of depravity we’ve ever seen –and passivity and the shirking of responsibility keep it entrenched.
God chose to use the symbolism of fatherhood to convey the nature of the relationship he desires with us. I don’t think he chose it because the character traits of a good father are exclusive to one gender. (Several passages also speak of the “feminine” characteristics of God like nursing, nurturing, birthing, and comforting ) I wonder if he chose the image of father because fundamentally we all suffer the consequences of father Adam’s inadequacies. Most –no, I think all– of the patriarchs failed as fathers in some way. We see patterns of passivity, disengagement, shirking responsibility and cowardice passed down from generation to generation all throughout the Bible.
A person cannot give what they have not received.
But why would God want to associate himself with these guys who missed the ideal in so many ways? Perhaps it is because he also wants to redeem the whole concept of father. Perhaps if we look at what Jesus accomplished in relationship with the Father we can have a better idea of what a father is meant to be.
Adam was passive and silent; Jesus engaged by speaking truth in love. He never denied the reality of the consequence of sin, but always acted with compassion, and provided a way out.
Adam shirked responsibility; Jesus took responsibility for our sin. He was the ultimate example of “The buck stops here.”
Adam hid in shame and fear; Jesus courageously walked into shame and submitted to the humiliation of a mock trial and a cross of shame. Jesus agonized and sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, but he courageously delivered himself to bear the consequence of our sin when he willingly went to the cross. Do not mistake his silence before his accusers as passivity. Never did he disengage. His actions were deliberate. He was still in total co-operation with the authority of the Father when he laid his life down.
Jesus demonstrated how to use authority both when he tipped over the tables of the money changers and when he stripped down to his underwear to wash his friend’s stinky feet. He faithfully responded to God the Father’s favourite cause: concern for the widow, the fatherless, and the refugee. He loved them, healed them, blessed them, fed them, and confided in them. (James 1:27 calls this “Pure and undefiled religion.” It’s not the legalistic hypocritical attempts to appease an angry God type of religion, but the Bible does talk about religion here in a positive sense, so I personally think we need to use that term carefully.)
Jesus said that when we look at him we can know what God the Father is like. In him we find everything our lonely, unloved, orphaned, refugee souls crave. The perfect father. Someone who will fight to the death for us. Someone who will fully engage with us and speak truth into our lives. Someone who is willing to be both a warrior and a servant. Someone who embodies Love.
I believe God wants to restore fathers to their children and children to their fathers and he has shown us what this looks like. Trusting and co-operating with the type of leadership Jesus showed is not a struggle with submission to a potentially abusive patriarch. It’s a joy and relief. Women, children, and the disenfranchised long for such leadership.
… looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
A lot of the thoughts in this blog were gleaned from an excellent sermon I heard this week. You know the speaker is listening to the Holy Spirit when you forget he is your son and hear only the message. God is good.