Farts. Puns. Embarrassment.
When you think about your father, what comes to mind? That’s me in the cowboy hat with my sisters. My dad is the guy wearing that sweet Point Beer shirt!
Thinking about our fathers is typically charged with emotion. Good and bad. Some have fond memories of imperfect, but loving engagement. Others have painful memories that you’re still trying to process. Most have a complicated composite picture of both. Regardless, our father’s have impacted us in deeper ways than most of us can fully understand.
This is by design. But not to put dads on a pedestal or crush them under massive pressure. God has done this to point us to Himself.
Michael Reeves makes a compelling case that there is nothing more central to the heart of God than being a Father. He says, “the most foundational thing in God is not some abstract quality, but the fact that He is Father. …Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all His ways are beautifully Fatherly.”
Let this truth sink into your soul! God gives life, provides, protects, defends, engages, plays, laughs, cries, rejoices, disciplines, teaches, gives, receives, pursues, grieves, listens, admires, loves, plans, surprises, embraces — as a Father. Everything about who God is and what He does is filtered through His Fatherly heart.
From this perspective, it makes sense that one of the primary qualifications of an elders of a local church is to be engaged and father. 1 Timothy 3:4–5 says, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”
This is why John Chrysostom said in the fourth century that the church is to be a big family and the family is to be a little church. The church is the family of God. The Scriptures persistently affirm that God loves His church as a perfect Father.
“Our Father, who is in heaven….”
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Some of us had fathers who messed us up in horrific and inexcusable ways. Others of us had fathers who loved us well, but imperfectly. Most of our dads just did the best they could with what they had.
But through the gospel — all of us have a Father who loves us perfectly. A Father who, because He is infinite, can be perfectly attentive to us every time we say — ”daddy look!” He will never say, “hang on, I’m too busy.” God is a Father who lacks nothing and needs nothing. He withholds no good thing from us. Including the discipline our wandering souls desperately need.
We have access to and love from this Father because God wants to give it to us even more than we want to receive it. He has done everything necessary to guarantee that all of this is yours — that you are His — and nothing and no one could ever change that.
God the Father gave up His only Son so that you could be adopted as His child. And because God is a good Father, He will never send you away from His family. It cost Him too much to bring you in.
Sending your kids out into this world is hard.
They have to experience things you would give anything to protect them from. There is nothing in me that would ever willingly send any one of my kids into any situation where they would be hurt in any way. And yet — this is what God did for us because it was the only way to rescue us.
He sent Jesus to be beaten, bullied, abandoned — to be hurt in every way — so that through His death in our place, we could be reconciled to God in every way. As far as I’m aware, there is only one time recorded in the New Testament where Jesus did not refer to God as Father. On the cross.
When Jesus was on the cross He called out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus was judged by God according to our sins, so that we could be loved by God according to His righteousness.
This is the love that is to captivate the hearts of the leaders of a local church. This is the love that is to shape, satisfy, and secure the affections of the family of God. This is the love that we will spend eternity enjoying, together, as a family. This is the family of God. This is the church.