We had the privilege of attending the El Carmen church for Father’s Day last Sunday. Pastor Jorge preached an excellent sermon about fatherhood. It was the kind of sermon that spawned further thought throughout the week. It prompted us to think beyond the typical Father’s Day rhetoric to some deep theological truths. We love sermons like that! Part of what made pastor Jorge’s sermon so thought invoking was the context in which it was delivered. A kid enrolled in the Children of Promise sponsorship program in the El Carmen church lost his father two weeks ago. We had spent some time crying with the family in their time of mourning. We had heard how they couldn’t even bury their loved one until they secured enough loans and donations from friends and family to be able to pay for a grave plot. Until enough money was raised this child’s father lay in wait in their living room for several days. It was in light of the pain of loss and conspicuous absence of this father that pastor Jorge’s words invoked in us a sense of peace that there is a Heavenly Father who will never be separated from us by the ghastly spectacle of death.
The two complementary themes of adoption and fatherhood are quite illuminating in Christian theology. The theme of adoption elucidates the position of men and women once adrift in sin, separated from God through actions of our own and of our forefathers, now grafted into God’s family. Through adoption we who were lost and are now found call the Creator God by the most endearing term, “Father.” In fact through the Biblical language of adoption we are encouraged to view God not only in terms of the sometimes generic and distant “father” but in the warm familiar “Abba,” a word that invites closeness and intimacy. Abba is in fact the way that Jesus addressed God in his hour of need in Mark 14:36.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. ~Mark 14:36
The Apostle Paul picks up the Divine Fatherhood and adoption theme in both Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father. ~Romans 8:15
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ~Galatians 4:6
Whereas the theme of adoption illuminates our position before God, the theme of God’s fatherhood illustrates His character. Jesus is reveled in Scripture as the Son of God and through belief, (not mere mental credence but life changing understanding), in him we become children of God as well. We are born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” ~John 1:13.
God’s love is fundamentally too grand for us to understand or even imagine. But the love of a father makes God’s care and forgiveness concrete.
In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells a story that is esteemed as the best literary work in the western world. It reveals deep truths about God’s love when understood as Jesus’ original audience would have understood it.
A rich man had two sons, his younger son asked the father to divide the expected inheritance between him and his brother. Immediately, this would have horrified Jesus’ original hearers because the son was essentially saying he wished his father would die! The younger son should be disgraced, disowned, even killed for such behavior; the father’s honor should have been restored.
But instead of restoring his honor the father honors the request, and the selfish son abandons the family with his portion of the inheritance. While sojourning in a foreign land, the son squanders his inheritance, becomes poor, ends up taking a job feeding pigs, and even hungers for the food they eat. He finally decides to return home, and ask his father to accept him as a servant because he realizes he is no longer worthy to be a son.
As the son is still a long way off, his father who was apparently watching against all hope for his lost son to return, runs to him. Jesus’ audience would be astonished at this. In the first century culture at that time, it was considered undignified for an elderly man to run, because he would have to tuck his robe into his belt, exposing his legs (and a bit more).
The father is so elated to see his son that he embraces public disgrace and humiliation in order to welcome him home. And all of this for the selfish son who dishonored him and wished him dead! But the father isn’t finished. Before the son can finish reciting his rehearsed repentance speech asking to be made a servant in his father’s household the father orders the immediate restoration of his son and a celebration to be held in his honor. He then puts a ring on his finger giving him not just acceptance but also authority.
The portrait of God as loving father is revolutionary both to Christ’s original audience and to us! How deep the father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He would send His only Son to make a wretch His treasure!
In this lost and broken world good fathers are sometimes hard to find. Thank God for good fathers, and thank Him doubly that He Himself is The Good Father!
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