Why God Is Only Kind Of Like Your Father

by Apr 8, 2014

There’s no doubt that God wants to be known as a father. Jesus taught us to pray to God and call him “our Father in heaven” (Matt 6:9). Paul said “I bow my knees before the Father” (Eph 3:15).

But there’s a danger with using a concept that’s familiar to us to describe God. The danger is that we start thinking about God like he’s the same kind of father as the ones we know here on earth. Like…

  • The Immature Father. This is the kind of father who doesn’t want to grow up, so he stays immature even while his kids are growing up. Think Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, teaching his kid how to pee on a wall.
  • The Demanding Father. This is the kind of dad who knows exactly what he wants in his career, his marriage, and his kids. And he never fails to tell everyone else exactly how they’re failing to meet his expectations. I see these dads at at my kids’ games. They’re standing on the sidelines, and they throw a fit whenever their kid misses a play. “How could you not catch that? Come on! Focus!”
  • The Absentminded Father. This is the dad who might be physically present with his family, but mentally he’s in another dimension. He’s worrying about stuff at work, or he’s always got his eyes glued on ESPN or his smartphone. His kids come up to him while he’s on the computer, and he brushes them away.
  • The Literally-Absent Father. The guy who’s just never around. He’s working 70 hours a week, or he’s out drinking or golfing or surfing with his buddies all the time. He misses all the most important stuff that happens in the life of the family.

Paul understood the danger of comparing God to an earthly father. That’s why he said, “I bow my knees before the Father … from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15-16). The word “family” could be literally translated “fatherhood.” So Paul was saying that God the Father isn’t defined by us earthly fathers … he defines us! God is the ultimate Father, and every other father is measured by him.

I’ve met a number of Christians who have a hard time thinking of God as their Father because they had seriously messed-up dads when they were growing up. But Paul says, “Don’t use your earthly father as a measuring stick to assess God. It’s the other way around.” The only reason you know you had a less-than-ideal dad is because you have a Heavenly Father to measure your earthly father against.

Spend time with God, and get to know him as the strong, faithful, loving, compassionate, glorious dad he is.