Part 2: God as Father

God as Father is well known to most Christians. In the New Testament, God is called father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15:6 and several other texts), father of mercies and all comfort (2 Cor 1:3) and father of glory (Eph 1:17). God is also father of spirits (Heb 12:9), of lights (James 1:17) and father of us all (Eph 4:6). In the Old Testament, God is father of Israel (Isa 64:8), of Abraham (Isa 63:16) and of the king (Psalm 2:6-7).
Indeed, some of our favorite lines of scripture call God our Father. The line “Our Father, who is in Heaven” begins the Lord’s Prayer. We have been baptized in the “name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” according to Jesus’ great commission. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
The disparate legacy of human fathers mentioned in Part 1 initially seems at odds with God’s desire to be called Father. We understand him as lord, creator, the holy one of Israel, and redeemer, but in light of the experiences that so many inside and outside the Bible have with their parents, why would God seek to be our father?
Here is a crucial point: The Bible never uses a human example to explain God as father. God does not say “I want to be your father like Abraham was Isaac’s father” or “Let me be to you as David was to Solomon” or “You can see me as James and John looked at Zebedee.” God as father is not based on a specific human father and his children.
God as our father is based on the relationship Jesus had with God. At age 12, when Joseph and Mary found him in the temple, Jesus asked “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In John 10:15, Jesus said, “just as the Father knows me . . . I know the Father.” Later, he claims to be one with the Father (John 10:30), and no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). In John 15:1, he says his Father is the gardener, and in his prayers near the end of his earthly life, he addresses God as Father (John 17:1; Matt 26:39). On the cross, Jesus cries, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).
The perfect, healthy, mutually-beneficial father-son relationship which existed between God and Jesus becomes the model for our relationship with God and for our roles as earthly fathers. Whatever our relationship with our own biological father, we rest our lives in the way God the father cared for Jesus the son. Although we may experience anguish or regret in our own relationships with our earthly fathers, we can find satisfaction and joy in developing the kind of loving relationship that God modeled with Jesus.
The lasting legacy of the perfect father-child relationship between God and Jesus belongs to every child. Not only can fathers from intact families use that model, but that ideal relationship motivates all in Christian childcare to help children whose parent-child relationship is broken or non-existent.
Not only do we have biblical teaching about family as a motivation for our work with vulnerable families and children, we also have God, father of Jesus, as a model for the way in which we achieve those standards. This ideal father-son relationship provides a deep resource from which we draw as we seek to help those in difficult situations.