Few words can evoke such powerful emotions from all directions — joy, sorrow, anger, laughter, regret, longing, fear, security, homesickness, hatred ...
So why? Why did God reveal himself as Father? Why did Jesus teach us to pray to "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name ..." (Matthew 6:9 NIV). Why did Jesus, in his most difficult moment pray, "Abba, Father, ... everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mark 14:36).
Maybe, though I cannot be sure this side of seeing God face-to-face and knowing him as the Father knows me (1 John 3:1-3), God chose to reveal his essential identity to our earthbound minds as Father because of the powerful emotions that name evokes.
Those who have had a good daddy and have lost them to death are filled with deep emotion and longing. Those who have been hurt by bad "father figures" carry wounds too deep for words and human touch to heal and stumble through much of life looking for someone who can fill the void and heal their hurt. Those who have had distant fathers walk through life longing for the approval and tender touch of a daddy who loves them and will sacrifice for them and who will make it clear that they love their "little girl" or "little boy" fearlessly and fully. Those who have been abandoned by a "daddy figure" hunger for the presence of a father — or better yet, the Father — that they can depend upon no matter what life brings. And those who enjoy a precious-but-imperfect relationship with their dad get glimpses of grace and whispers of a deeper treasure than they have yet to uncover.
So Jesus tells us a story he entitles, "A Man Who Had Two Sons" (Luke 15:11-32). But, this man is given a name ... father! Jesus uses the word father twelve times in this story. The father is the focus of the story. One son leaves and comes back to his father — not back home, not back to his brother, not back to his stuff, but "he got up and went to his father" (Luke 15:18; Luke 15:20). When the father saw him coming, he ran to greet his returning son — father's in Jesus' time didn't run, but in this story the father hitched up his fatherly robe and ran to welcome his son home with a great display of emotion (Luke 15:20) and then threw a big party to welcome his son home (Luke 15:22-24). The other son refused to go into the party for his returning brother and the father went out to him and pleaded for him to come in and have a good time at the party (Luke 15:28) — fathers in Jesus' day didn't put up with ingrates like this older boy and they sure didn't beg their sons to do anything.
You see, in this story, the father is the focus. He bears the shame of the younger son's initial rejection and insults (Luke 15:12). He is willing to risk the ridicule of his neighbors for running to welcome the returning son home and throwing him a party. He bears the hurt and scorn of his older son to beg him to come into the party.
Why? Why do we need to know about our God who wears the father's clothes in this story Jesus told? I can't be sure of all of the reasons, but I do know what he tells us through this story.
This Father ...
- ... is willing to bear shame to have his children at his table and in his home.
- ... loves to have parties to celebrate family and restoration.
- ... cares enough to listen to his children even when their words hurt and sting.
- ... welcomes us back when our hearts are truly turned to him and we want to return to him.
- ... loves us even when we are petty and mean and selfish and small.
- ... leaves the door open to come home to the party of grace whether we are younger sons or older ones.
- ... shares what he has generously so we can enjoy the bounty of his grace.
- ...displays his emotions for us openly and without hesitation.
Somewhere in the middle of this story is the Father you need ... or miss ... or never had ... or long to have back ... or need to know. Why not turn around and head to this Father and let his love, his grace, his party, and his open affection bring you home.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3).
See this video here: http://hlt.me/jes0wq
For more information on this powerful parable, please see the previous articles in the series, The Journey Home:
- When These Ol' Walls Can't Speak (http://hlt.me/mtuf5Y)
- The Hardest Lesson Learned (http://hlt.me/ifraCs)
- Wasted Time (http://hlt.me/imP5aC)
- The Hardest Lesson Lost (http://hlt.me/lIW6c2)
- Same Thing, Only Different (http://hlt.me/kRwIsw)