“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
- Exodus 20:12
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
- Luke 10:21-24
“I have heard it seriously argued that the thought of a divine fatherhood can mean nothing to those whose human father was inadequate, lacking wisdom, affection or both, or to those many more whose misfortune it was to have a fatherless upbringing. …
”… in the first place, it is just not true to suggest that in the realm of personal relations positive concepts cannot be formed by contrast – which is the suggestion implicit here. Many young people get married with the resolve not to make the mess of marriage that they saw their parents make: can this not be a positive ideal? Similarly, the thought of our Maker becoming our perfect parent – faithful in love and care, generous and thoughtful, interested in all we do, respecting our individuality, skillful in training us, wise in guidance, always available, helping us to find ourselves in maturity, integrity and uprightness – is a thought that can have meaning for everybody, whether we come to it by saying ‘I had a wonderful father, and I see that God is like that, only more so,’ or by saying, ‘My father disappointed me here, and here, and here, and God, praise His name, will be very different,’ or even saying, ‘I have never known what it is to have a father on earth, but thank God I now have one in heaven.’ The truth is that we all have a positive ideal of fatherhood by which we judge our own and others’ fathers, and it can safely be said that the person for whom the thought of God’s perfect fatherhood is meaningless or repellent does not exist.”
- J. I. Packer, Knowing God
The quotation from Packer comes from his chapter on ‘Sons of God.’ I may get to God’s adoption of us later. I left a few words out of the quote. It may be ‘silly’ for a theologian or a philosopher to reach the logical conclusion that Packer states at the beginning of the quote. It is not silly to reach that conclusion when overwhelmed by grief and pain, even though the conclusion is false. That grief and pain is no allowable excuse for rejecting God, but many have rejected Him on those grounds.
We have all resolved in parenthood to not make the mistakes our parents made, and then, we made our own mistakes. No parent on earth is perfect. This does not mean that we no longer honor our parents when we wish to not make their mistakes. One of my resolutions was to be there for my children rather than working on the road or on rotating shifts. I lost some financial opportunities with that decision, but being raised by a mother, grandmother, and then a one long weekend per month father was a memory that I did not want my boys to have. There were other things that I changed in the realm of communication. My boys heard the words, “I love you.” My boys and I discussed why they were about to be punished. And there were other things.
Yet, I have seen drastic contrasts in other people and their relationships with their parents or children.
I was mistreated by my father, in my eyes, but in his eyes, he was probably much more lenient than his father – of whom I feared. Really, most of my Dad’s punishment was due to my mother’s catch phrase ‘wait ‘til your father gets home.’ That may be acceptable when your father has a day job and will be home in a few hours. When my father getting home wasn’t for three weeks, and on rare occasions three months, I had forgotten what made my mother angry – sometimes when she was having a ‘bad day’ never knowing in the first place, and my Dad never knew why the ‘beating’ was necessary. And my mother watched from a distance, so he couldn’t fake it.
But to call it abuse might be a stretch, even in my view. Some people are abused by their father, in many different ways. We’ll just leave it at that. And when the father claims to be a Christian, claims to be forgiven, and then continues the abuse, it is natural for the child to lash out at the father. They also lash out at God, for allowing the father to do that and giving him the idea that it was okay to do that. I would argue that it is not okay, especially in God’s eyes, and that the father was either mentally ill or the father was not a true Christian. Being forgiven for future sins does not give us the right to ignore repentance of old sins or a license to start new ones. As many theologians have said, “The truth is not in him.”
But I have heard a totally different story that disproves the theory postulated by the theologians that Packer quoted.
I have mentioned before the old Indonesian couple who opened their house to us, when we first moved to the Pittsburgh area, once each month for a first century church style worship service. The elderly father of this little church (no more than a dozen people in a small living room), our host, would always give his testimony, as if we had not heard it once each month for several years. It never got old.
He had lost his parents some time before, and this was Djakarta, Indonesia, with no social programs. He was the eldest son, although barely a teen-ager, and had younger siblings for whom to care. He was setting up a stand to become a street vendor when a man came by and said that the worship service was about to start. In the man’s invitation, he mentioned, “Would you like to meet your heavenly Father?” At that point, he would love to meet anyone who would be his father. He followed the man to the worship service and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He not only got Jesus as his Brother, he got the Holy Spirit inside him, and he got what he strongly desired, a Father.
When we say that we will not make this mistake or that mistake that our father made, we are comparing our father to an ideal. Yet, if we take God at His word in His Word, the Bible, we can see that ideal spelled out in the Scriptures. People may argue that the God of the Old Testament is an angry God, but if you look closely, God is holy, thus hating sin. God loves us. God can see a perfect plan for us. God is clearly everything that Packer mentioned in the quote above.
Which of those attributes of a perfect Father do, or did, you desire the most in your father? ”… the thought of our Maker becoming our perfect parent – faithful in love and care, generous and thoughtful, interested in all we do, respecting our individuality, skillful in training us, wise in guidance, always available, helping us to find ourselves in maturity, integrity and uprightness…” I could lament that my father was none of these, but I would miss the rare times when he did show love and care, was generous and thoughtful, did have some mild, non-committed interest in what I did, (let’s skip respecting individuality. My mother wanted that removed from me, and he was her instrument. “The beatings will continue until the morale improves.” – thought to have an origin of a Japanese Naval Captain), was rarely willing to teach his skills, and was occasionally wise in guidance. Don’t get me wrong. My Dad was never a Ward Cleaver type, but he had his moments when he came close. And I loved him, and I miss him.
Maybe God gave me the burden to write this because my Dad passed away about this time nearly ten years ago, but it could be that someone out there is hurting. They may be angry at God for what their father had done to them. They refuse to believe in a God that requires us to honor such broken people, but they fail, in their pain and sorrow, to see that they are broken themselves. They need something, someone. God, the perfect father, is waiting. And His Son is standing at the door, knocking (Revelation 3:20).
Do you need a perfect Father today?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.