The Father's Love
The Father's Emotional Involvement With Christians
Many Bible teaching churches seem emotionless. I think one reason for this is that they are built on abstract bits of information that cannot reach us emotionally. If God is presented as a Platonic God and not the emotionally rich God of the Bible, the church will function as a college classroom instead of a living fellowship.
God gave us emotions to use. Our emotions are analogous to God's emotions. His were first. We are made in His image. We have emotions because He does. God is emotionally involved with us, but many Christians have instinctively concluded that the God of the Bible is not emotionally involved with them. They're not even sure if He likes them. They just suppose He is neutral about everything. But nothing could be further from the truth. The God of the Bible is passionately in love with each of us! He likes us! If you are a lady, He'd take you for a walk and a talk. If you are a man, He'd go fishing with you.
He is a lover of men and women. Psalm 103:13 reinforces this:
Just as a father has deep emotional involvement with his children, so Yahweh has compassion, or deep emotional involvement, on those who have a respect for Him. For He Himself personally knows our frame. He remembers that we are but dust.
David uses the model of a human father for how God works. "Just as a father" implies a good father, assuming families in David's time were not as dysfunctional as they are in our time.
David says that the Lord has compassion like a father. The Hebrew word translated compassion is reghemim. As a noun in the singular, it refers to a woman's womb and to the intestines of a man. The Hebrew word is used of that which is felt deeply. As a noun in the plural, it refers to emotional involvement or deep compassion. Commonly the Hebrew language uses bodily organs to represent psychological states.
These verses are sometimes translated to say that the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. The Bible never endorses cringing fear. The phrase for fearing Him always refers to a deep respect for who He is and what He says.
The Christian's Emotional Involvement With God
In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, God commands us to have agape love for Him:
Hear O Israel, Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one [an absolute unity]. Since that is so, you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Agape love brings the entirety of who a person is into a harmony where the heart, soul and complete being of a person is properly related to someone else. Agape love is that which brings a person's emotions, thinking, and will into a harmonious healthy relationship with another.
Love is not knowledge--you can know everything and still not have love. Love is not faith--you can move mountains and still not have love. And love is not sacrifice--you can give your body to be burned and still not love. Agape love is where a person is properly emotionally involved, mentally involved, and volitionally involved with another. You can never have agape love by yourself. When we properly love someone else, we will be emotionally involved.
Agape love is more than just doing things. It is a whole-soul response to somebody else. We only have agape love when we feel it. Such is not a mental abstraction or a choice of the will.
God's Soul Is Involved In Loving Christians
God's love is wholistic. His soul is involved. The following are just a few of the many verses which express this truth:
- Leviticus 26:11 says: "God's soul abhors..."
- Isaiah 42:1 says: "God's soul loves...”
- Isaiah 1:14 says: "God's soul ..."
- Luke 1:78 says: "God's bowels of compassion are open to us."
Philippians 2:1 says: "If there is any tenderness, any compassion from love, be
like-minded to one another." The whole point is, God is emotionally involved with you. He is not distant. He is interacting emotionally with you. He has far more compassion for you than you have ever had pity for yourself. II Corinthians 1:3 says:
Blessed be the God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father of tender mercies and God of every variety of encouragement.
There are three different words for mercy in the Greek New Testament. One means "I'll have mercy on you." Another means "I'm going to graciously forgive you." But the word here means "to be tenderly merciful." It means He not only forgives, but He puts His arms around you and says, "It is all right. I tenderly forgive you. Don't feel guilty anymore. My Son died for you. Don't despair, and don't be afraid. Let me comfort you. You're worth more to me than what you've done wrong. I want you more than I want you to be perfect.” That's how God works. Think of every time you have been encouraged in life. That's what God does. He's the God of tender mercies and the God of encouragement.
Christians Are To Share God's Encouragement With Others
The one who is continually encouraging us concerning every particular tribulation, with the result that we'll be able to encourage the ones who are in every variety of tribulation, through the encouragement with which we ourselves have been encouraged by God. – II Corinthians 1:4
II Corinthians 1:4 tells us what results we can expect from experiencing God's tender mercies. If I really know that I have a Father of tender mercies, then I can trust Him as a tender, merciful and encouraging God. If I trust Him to be who the Bible says He is, then I'll be able to get through that problem with the result of being able to help someone else on the other side. When I see somebody in a problem I'll be able to say, "I need to talk to you about Dad. You've got a good Dad who is going to be with you in this problem. You can trust Him. You can know Him. He is tender. He is not responding to you based on your guilt. He's responding to you based on His love for you."
I became a believer at 17. I became a pastor at 25. All through my time as a pastor there was a question that I always avoided asking myself, because I didn't know enough about the Bible to have an answer. When I was growing up, my dad was an alcoholic. On a weekend, one of us would get cornered and we would be browbeaten for hours. The end result was that my internal emotional life was suppressed until it disappeared. Years later, I went into ministry with my emotions still repressed.
For a long period of time, a question nagged at me. It bothered me to think about it. Every time it would creep up into the back of my mind, I would push it back. I didn't have an answer for it. The question made me extremely uncomfortable. The question was this, "Where was God when I was cornered by my father?"
One day I was reading in Ephesians where it says that God is rich in compassion. That phrase triggered a train of thought that finally released me from the pain of that question. I finally had an answer. When I was too scared to cry, confronted with an alcoholic dad who could do anything to me, the God of the Bible was weeping for me. He was emotionally involved! He was there!
Perhaps you think that I'm over-dramatizing, but what that thought did for me was wonderful. I could finally face those fearful memories and realize God hadn't forsaken me. As I was frightened, He was weeping. At that point I granted God His emotions. When I did that, for some reason I had far more respect for Him. The other platonic, distant, uninvolved God was too much like my earthly dad.
The God of the Bible is richly emotional. He is the Father of all mercies; He is the source of every variety of encouragement. On top of that, He even likes you! If we set apart God as a Father in our hearts intelligently, imaginatively, and faithfully, it will change us.
This study is based on Becoming What God Intended, Chapter 3, Reading 5
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