The Father

Of all the titles and names that our God uses, I feel like his use of Father is the most important. Just the fact that he calls himself our Father is telling. It is easy to accept Lord and Master. Those tell us that he rules over us, and we accept that position because he is so much greater than us. But father? That is quite a different relationship. It means that we are his children, and not just his subjects. And the father-child relationship is something that helps us to better understand why God treats us the way that he does.

My favorite scripture about this relationship is in Romans 8:16-17 "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Paul tells us, that we are not only God's children, but he tells us what kind of children we are. We are heirs, joint-heirs with the Son of God. Parents naturally want to bless and care for their children. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to raise a child. For any good parent the motivation to do this is love. It is the same for God. His willingness to bless us and help us to grow is drawn from the love that he feels for us. Love that he feels, because he is our father.

Thinking of our relationship with mortal fathers helps me to understand God better. One problem with God is the contradiction of an omnipotent being who refuses to use his power to protect his children. If we believe God to be omnipotent, we must address the problem that he either directs causes suffering or allows his children to suffer through inaction. Considering what has been said about the father-child relationship, one might say that no parent would ever allow harm or suffering to come to their children.

I think that is true, to a point. However, parents frequently allow their children to experience suffering, for a variety of reasons. Children hurt themselves, they go to school where they might fail classes or fight with others, they get sick, they date and suffer heartbreak, they don't get every toy and treat they want, and many other things. Sometimes a parent is the direct cause of suffering, such as requiring a child to do chores, or taking them to get vaccinations. A parent could conceivably prevent much of this suffering. They could keep the child from school, protect him from germs, and insulate him from possible threats. The parent could give the child everything she wants, whenever she asks for it. However, we tend to view such children as socially awkward or spoiled, and consider such parents to be quite foolish. We consider such suffering to be relatively minor and necessary to our growth.

I feel that God views our lives the same way. He observes our suffering, our deaths, and despair, but he can also see what they contribute to our overall growth. Paul continues talking about this relationship when he says, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8: 18) I look back at those time where I suffered as a child, and I don't feel bad at all. I realize now that the things that seemed so important, and the things that seemed so unfair, really weren't. I know that the experiences were good for me, I just didn't think so at the time. Paul believes that the glory of eternal life will overshadow the suffering we experience right now. That we will also be able to look back, and consider our suffering to be minor, and to have been important to our growth. It's hard to see right now. But if the promise of resurrection and immortality is true, then death isn't quite so bad, and our lives become a sort of childhood for eternal life. Because of this, God has a different goal for our lives than we do. He wants us to be ready for eternal life, to be an heir, and receive everything that he has. He acts to fulfill this desire, which conflicts with our own desire to live free of suffering.

I look fondly upon God as a father. I think a lot of that has to do with the positive example of my own parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. I see that a great love can exist between us, and I believe that same love exists between us and our Heavenly Father.