One day, in downtown Montgomery, I saw a homeless stranger sitting on a bench. Because of his haggard appearance, I walked past him without acknowledging him. A half-hour later, a friend and I were walking toward a coffee shop. Suddenly, he sat down next to somebody. To my astonishment, my...
Question: What does it mean for God to be our Father?
Answer: Clearly this is an analogy, and analogies work by comparing something that is hard to grasp with something that is very familiar to us and that we can easily understand. God does this by comparing the relationship he seeks with us to the relationship of a father to his own son or daughter.
A Two-Way Analogy
This marvelous analogy works in two ways and both are important. The first is that you learn about being a father by looking at God. You find this in Ephesians 3:14 where Paul says, “I bow… before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” God gives us the template of what it means to be a good father. If you want to know what a good father looks like, you will learn it from the way God deals with his children.
But in Luke 11, the analogy is being used in the opposite direction. Not only is it true that you learn about being a father by looking at God, but you learn about God by looking at what it means to be a father. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11). Notice Jesus says, “What father among you…” So he is drawing our attention to our own experience of fatherhood.
Now we live in a world of very imperfect fathers, and some are clearly better than others. But our Lord is saying that even in the world of fallen fathers, who come up short in so many ways, reflecting on what a son or daughter means to a father or mother will give you some insight into what God’s children mean to him.
“Think about what your children mean to you,” Jesus is saying, “and that will give you a little window into what you mean to God.” Jesus is inviting us to reflect on our own experience of a father’s love for his son or daughter.
1. Our Father God finds joy in his children.
God has given to Karen and me the marvelous gift of two sons, Andrew and David. Some people call me pastor. Most people call me Colin. But there are two men in the world who call me Dad. They have a unique relationship with me; I have a unique relationship with them.
My two sons are a joy and a delight to me. If I have been in a meeting, and find when I come out that several people have left a text or a voicemail, and that one of them is from my son, there is no question which I will look at first – My son called!
There is a delight, a bond, an affinity, and Jesus is saying, “You have that even among you.” You can understand something of what God’s children mean to him, and you can understand this by looking at human fatherhood in this fallen world. So use that to get some sense of the joy and delight that is in the heart of God in regard to his own children.
If we go back to an earlier stage of life and think about what a younger child means to a father or mother, we get another insight. A daughter brings a painting she has done to her mother. “It’s a horse,” she says, and the mother is glad she said this, because all she can see are a few squiggly lines!
The mother doesn’t say, “Well, this isn’t a very good horse.” She receives it with joy and puts it on the fridge! She puts it on the fridge, not because of any inherent artistic beauty, but because it was her daughter who drew it and it was drawn for her.
This will give you some insight into the love of God for you. You may wonder, Have I done anything good for God? You are his child and he views you—and all that you do—through the lens of his great love for his own children, and the Father finds joy in his children.
2. Our Father God gives generously to his children.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. (Luke 11:13)
Jesus is speaking to fallen fathers and fallen mothers, and he is asking, “What would you not give to your own children?”
The only limits to what you would give them are: that you would not give them what would spoil them, and you cannot give to them beyond your own capacity. But there is no limit to the capacity of God!
You are for them. You are always seeking their good. And you are always in their corner, especially when they are at their worst. They are your children.
So Jesus says, “If you fallen fathers know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts, and supremely the good gift of the Holy Spirit, to those who ask him.”
3. Our Father God lavishes love on his children.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1 NIV)
How much does a child mean to a father or to a mother? Ask any parent who has lost a child. You can’t put it into words. In our series on grief, earlier this year, I talked about some families who had lost a son or a daughter. The pain of their loss is indescribable. If you have lost a child, you have a unique insight into the depth of love that God has for you. You are his child; he is your Father. The depth of your pain is a reflection of the strength of your love.
Who is God to you? A stranger? A power? A tyrant? Or have you come to see that in Jesus Christ he is your loving heavenly Father? Have you come to see that God delights in his children, that he gives good gifts to his children, and that he lavishes his love on his children?