You probably wouldn’t notice anything special about him. He’s an average man—already a bit thinner on top and thicker in the middle than he used to be. He works hard, but he isn’t rich. He lives in an ordinary house and drives an ordinary car. He has average talents and a good personality but not a sparkling one.
What made him memorable to me was watching him in his relationship with his children. He was affectionate and caring, encouraging, even-tempered. He was reluctant with his anger but ready with praise and helpfulness. Most children would rather play than work, but this father insisted that his children do their part, even when they complained.
He supervised them through life gently but firmly. Yet whether a situation required him to be cheerful or stern, no-one could doubt that he was motivated by a deep, self-sacrificing love.
A father like that helps us to understand why, when He needed a metaphor to describe what sort of Being He is, God asked us to think of Him as “our Father.”
An angry Father?
Throughout Christian history there has existed a great misunderstanding about God. People sampled a certain few Old Testament stories and prophecies that seemed to portray God as angry and unkind. They imagined Him peering down at them from heaven with a suspicious eye, ready—maybe even eager—to mete out a reprimand or a punishment. They blamed God when things went wrong in their lives, even though the Bible says that God is not responsible for evil (James 1:13).
Some have used—or misused—this conception of God to scare people into the church.
When early American preacher Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” his listeners screamed and fainted. He shouted, “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked.”
People came to the altar by the thousands, but not because they loved God. They were terrified of Him!
Some people have concluded that Jesus is the nice Member of the Family. He healed sick people, loved children, encouraged forgiveness and rescued the down and out. But God? They’re not sure they really like God very much—or that God likes them.
It was precisely this misunderstanding that Jesus came to earth to correct. He wanted us to know that His love for us is the same as God’s love for us. “I and the Father are one,” Jesus explained (John 10:30). “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
To illustrate the point, Jesus told the story of a rebellious son who squandered a huge chunk of his family’s fortune as he descended into a life of shame and squalor (Luke 15:11–32). A father with any pride in the family name would resoundingly reject a child like that, wouldn’t he? But in Jesus’ story, the opposite occurs. When the rebellious son stumbles home, his father forgives him without hesitation, welcomes him back into the family and even throws a “welcome home” party for him.
That, said Jesus, is what God is really like.
A loving Father
Following are some ways in which God shows Himself as a loving Father:
From the star-spangled heavens to the multihued palette of the earth (Psalm 19:1), everything God created demonstrates His love. God could have made the earth plain and utilitarian. Instead, he made it endlessly fascinating, with as many kinds of beauty as there are seasons of the year; locations on the globe; interesting people with their foods, fragrances and music; and varieties of plants, birds, fish and animals.
Have you ever wondered why God chose to make us in His own image (Genesis 1:27)? It’s because He wanted us to be as much like Himself as possible so that we could have the closest possible relationship with Him. God created us for no other purpose than for Him to be in love with us and for us to be in love with Him!
Most of us have more blessings than we can ever be properly thankful for. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” Every valuable thing in your life—friends and family, health, intelligence, the ability to work and make a living, talents and skills, and countless blessings of every sort—is evidence of God’s love.
“Though I walk in the midst of trouble,” writes the psalmist, “you preserve my life” (138:7). We’ll never know how many times God has safeguarded us when we were unaware that we were even in danger. Just following God’s wise rules helps keep us out of trouble: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Children may resent rules, but a good father makes sure they learn good lessons about life, even if it sometimes causes them discomfort. And so does God.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke,” says Proverbs, “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11, 12).
God’s rules may at times seem restrictive, but they make us happier than we would be without them (Psalm 19:8).
The Bible often joins mercy and love together when describing God. “Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old” (Psalm 25:6). We will always make mistakes. But just as a kind father forgives his children, so God forgives us. “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Psalm 86:5).
What makes John 3:16 the most beloved passage in the entire Bible is its assurance that God doesn’t merely consent to save us. No, no! He loves to save us! Far from being reluctant to take us to heaven, God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The home that He is preparing for His faithful ones overflows with love. John describes the new heaven and new earth as delightful “as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” And best of all, God will abolish death, sadness and pain (Revelation 21:1–5).
A perfect Father
I once met a man whose father had never shown him love but had only beaten and abused him. I’ll call him Albert. At first the Bible’s description of God as a Father made no sense to him. Why would he even want to be acquainted with Someone like that? Then he discovered what kind of Father God really is.
“After I was adopted into God’s family,” Albert told me, “it was like growing up a second time, only this time with the best Father in the universe. I was, in a sense, refathered.”
Having God as his spiritual Father has helped to heal the emotional wounds left by his biological father.
Now Albert is certain that nothing in all creation “will be able to separate [him] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus [his] Lord” (Romans 8:39).
You can have the same assurance. For the love of God is as certain a constant in the spiritual world as gravity is in the physical. And God’s love is not just words. It’s demonstrated in a million blessings, including the assurance that we will live with our loving Father God for eternity!