I Can Call Him Father!
When you pray, say ‘Father…’ (Luke 11:2)
All across the world, millions of children are growing up without fathers. For some, it is because of AIDS or war; for others, because of a broken marriage or an "absent father;" for others, because their fathers were themselves not fathered properly and so have no concept of fathering. In such a world of "fatherlessness," then, Jesus’ teaching that we can know God as Father comes as a breath of fresh air.
Seeing God as "Father" is not simply a human projection or personification; rather, it is the other way round: the human race has fatherhood only because God Himself is a Father. One of Paul’s prayers puts it like this: "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" (Ephesians 3:14-15). There is a play on words in the Greek here; the word for Father is "pater" and the word for family is "patria." Paul’s argument is that "patria" flows out of a "pater," not the other way round. If there is no "pater," there can be no "patria;" if there were no "Fatherhood" in God, there could never have been fatherhood (and family) in human society. This understanding of God as "Father" is, then, not simply a reflection of patriarchal society nor a human projection; it is a fundamental assurance of what God is like and therefore of how we may approach Him; it is an assurance of His fatherly care and loving authority.
Calling God "Father" doesn’t mean He is "male" of course (indeed, when he created us, it needed both male and female to even begin to reflect His image); nor does it mean he is a bigger version of our own earthly father. (You may have had a good father; but he wasn’t good enough in comparison to God! You may have had a bad father and may still have unhappy memories of that, but God certainly isn’t like that.)
To know what God’s fatherhood is truly like, think of how Jesus related to Him and trusted Him, loved Him and was loved in return. That’s how God wants to relate to each of us today!
"I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me." (Jeremiah 3:19)
© Copyright 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont