By Dot Bowen
This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NIV)
On May 6th Cup of Joy hosted a showing of Focus on the Family’s documentary “Irreplaceable,” which explores the question: What is family? I was overwhelmed by the interviews and statistics regarding the modern family within our culture. In response to the question, What does your father mean to you, some of the answers included:
“My father means nothing to me.” “I do not know my father.”
These responses are simply heartbreaking!
The American Psychological Association reports, “Research on the role of fathers suggests that the influence of father love on children's development is as great as the influence of a mother's love. Fatherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning. Moreover, children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioral or substance abuse problems.” If this is true, America is facing a crisis because 24 million children in America have no biological father living in their homes. Many counselors believe the views children develop about their Heavenly Father are in direct correlation with their view of their earthly father. If this is the case, the church is in danger as well. I believe every child longs to have the perfect father, and many fathers long to be the perfect father. However, there is only One perfect Father, and He is God.
You don’t have to read much in the Bible to find strained relationships between fathers and their children. David and his son Absalom had a troubled relationship that exploded into open rebellion. Noah cursed Ham for exposing his nakedness, which resulted in an estranged relationship. Jacob manipulated his father Isaac to give him what rightly belonged to his brother Esau. Even Eli who served as a priest failed as a father. One of my favorite New Testament stories is when Jesus talked about an unnamed father and his two sons, one loyal and the other one prodigal.
It is very clear family relationships are difficult. Being a perfect earthly father or having a perfect earthly father seems impossible. Given the apparent difficulty related to having and being a good father, why did Jesus direct us to see God as our Father? Did Jesus not understand our view of the earthly father could drive us away from desiring a Heavenly Father?
At one point Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11) Jesus knew there was a tremendous difference between being an earthly father and having a Heavenly Father. To compare our earthly father to our Heavenly Father is to not see God correctly. God the Father is nothing like an earthly father, even if one has the greatest father on earth. Our Heavenly Father is love. He is long-suffering. He is powerful. He is merciful. He is the grace and the power that allows us to love our earthly fathers. God the Father is good. He is our protector and the only Father who will never leave or forsake us. However, remember as great and powerful as our Heavenly Father is, Adam and Eve still made the choice to rebel. God is not the problem. God is the perfect Father who continues to love His imperfect children who will potentially grow up to become mothers and fathers.
As we celebrate this Father’s Day, we can call God our Father, our Abba, our daddy! If you are like me and can’t talk to your earthly father, join me as I begin this Father’s Day by talking to my Heavenly Father. It’s easy to talk to God. Start with, “Our Father, who is in Heaven…” He truly is seated on His throne in Heaven. What an amazing reason to celebrate our perfect loving Father this Father’s Day and every day!
Further Reading 2 Samuel 14:24, 2 Samuel 15:1-12, Genesis 9:20-27, Genesis 25:28, Genesis 27:1-40, Luke 15:11-32, Matthew 7:9-11