Summary: Understanding the Fatherhood of God clarifies and brings healing to all our other relationships
The father of five children had won a toy at a raffle. He called his kids together to ask which of them should have the present. "Who is the most obedient?" he asked. "Who never talks back to mother? Who does everything she says?" Five small voices answered in unison. "Okay, dad, you get the toy."
Fathers. Fathering. The Fathered. The Fatherless. God our Father.
When you spend much time at all in the Bible, pretty quickly you encounter the idea of fatherhood, particularly the Fatherhood of God. For some that’s a good thing. It opens doors to really understanding who God is and who we are.
For others, it’s something we can trip over and struggle with. Fatherhood as it relates to God is one thing. As it relates to humans, it’s a mixed thing. Some of us have been hurt by our fathers.
Some of our fathers truly failed us - sometimes profoundly. Some of our fathers never figured much out in life, so they were a problem to themselves and, unavoidably, a problem to their children.
For all of us, fatherhood is something that God wants to redeem in our lives. Like every area of human existence, fatherhood needs to be redeemed.
My parents had 4 kids. They meant to have 3, but then there was an ‘Oops!’. I am the ‘Oops!’, I’m proud to say. I’m proud to say it because human ‘Ooopses’ are God’s on-purposes, God’s “that’s how the person I wanted to be here got heres-ses”. I’m sounding a bit like a Tolkien character. Let’s move on.
I’m sure that at least some of us here today, when we think about our dads, are pretty aware of the hurt that we’ve experienced or still experience in relations to our dads. Our idea of father, of fathering, needs to healed. Fixed. Redeemed.
And our understanding of the Fatherhood of God needs to be strengthened because, I believe, it is the key to all of our relationships.
It moves me that Jesus really cared about you and I coming to understand who God really is.
Most of what Jesus talked about had something to do with revealing God’s character - His love, His justice, His righteousness, the things He values, the things He loves. At one point, the disciples, who were people who prayed and who, being good Jews, knew how to address God, nevertheless asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.
It was a key moment. It was a chance to raise the bar. It was a chance to add insight and enrich their understanding. They asked because they were ready to know. People who teach love these moments. As some of you know I’m a jazz musician and I’ve got a good background in music theory. When someone I know who is already a good musician with a good understanding of theory, asks me a question about music theory, or the intricacies of how music works , it’s exciting because I know the person is ready, willing and able to go a lot deeper in their understanding of music. It’s a truly teachable moment. This was a teachable moment for Jesus, and so, speaking to people knowledgeable about prayer, He began by revealing not how to pray, but to Whom they prayed. And how did He begin?
Jesus began with “Our Father”. Jesus, in that moment, replaces a lot of misinformation about God with a key truth about God, He supplants a dominant picture of God with another, very different picture.
Today we’re going to look at how understanding God as our Father is the key to the healing of all of our relationships. I need to credit the writer William Barclay with many of these ideas/the direction of this message.
Our Relationship with the Unseen World:
We know that we live in a post-Christian world. Than means that once the dominant influence nearly everywhere in our society was the Christian faith. Everyone knew about the Christian faith, at least superficially. So the idea of “God as Father” is not strange to most people. It is an idea that is ‘borrowed’ from Christian faith, like, frankly, most of what is good about our culture.
Just an aside: Notions of justice and fairness, the idea behind our free medicare (“we are our brothers’ keeper), equality in the law and many other things have also been ‘borrowed’ from Christian faith - borrowed but not generally acknowledged. So the idea of God as Father is not too weird or revolutionary to us. But without that understanding, we are left with what people once believed and in some places of the world still believe.
Missionaries tell us that one of the greatest reliefs which Christian faith brings to the mind and heart of people and cultures who believe in many gods (animist cultures in Africa, Hindu culture in India and elsewhere), is the certainty that there is only one God. In animism and other religions there is a strong belief that there are a huge number of gods, that's every stream and river, and tree and valley, and hill and wood and every natural force has its own god.