And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. (Matt 23:9 KJV)
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 KJV)
God is my father. I had no problem accepting His Fatherhood in my life when I came to saving faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, as I have come to know many believers over the last 25 years, I could not understand why so many have difficulty in embracing this truth in their own relationship with God.
For some it is the difficulty of knowing the fatherhood of God because their own fathers were such poor examples. Their natural tendency is to superimpose the image of their earthly father onto their heavenly father. For others it is a theological abstraction that blocks their grasp of the fatherhood of God. For them, only Jesus is the Son of God, and we are merely adopted creatures. To think we are actually the children of God is to imply that we are divine, too, and that would be blasphemous to that theological frame of mind.
When Jesus said that we are to call no man father (Matt, 23:9), he spoke that statement to a Jewish audience. I spent 3 months in Israel on a Kibbutz as part of my Jewish Studies Minor, and as far as I understand, no one thought of God as their father in the Jewish point of view. So His statement was radical to them. He was God Almighty, the Lord, but not “father” to the Jews.
What Jesus meant is further clarified in Luke 14:26. Obviously we are not to “hate” our family in the natural sense. Understanding God means thinking outside the box of natural thinking. Just as the “wrath of God” is not the same as the “wrath of man” which does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:20), neither does Jesus mean we are to hate our family in the natural sense. Instead it is in the same spirit as a man and woman who marry are to “leave” the parents and to “cleave” unto one another. Our dependency upon our parents end when we marry. Likewise when we come into covenant with God, our dependency upon our family ceases.
27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (KJV)
Hillsong music sings a song with a paraphrase of Psalm 68:5, “a father to the fatherless”.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. (Ps 68:5 KJV)
The first meaning is literal, of course. God cares for orphans and works in their lives. But the significance runs deeper. While the new birth is the restoration of the Father in our lives, God is still a Father to every human being on the planet. God cares for and about everyone. When I look upon my past, now that I am in Christ, I can see in hindsight the many times that God intervened and took care of me both as a child and a young adult before salvation. Non-believers in Christ, but believers in some kind of God, give lip service to being called a child of God, which I now understand to be true in one sense. We are all the children of God through creation by God, but there is a difference between being a created child of God and a child of God through the new birth. The two, nonetheless, are still vitally connected.
Those believers who have the new birth, yet still do not know the Fatherhood of God, especially in the intimate sense that Paul means when he says we are to call Him, “Abba” (Rom. 8:15 & Gal. 4:6), miss this intimacy with God because they have never seen themselves as orphans. Until you realize that you are fatherless here on the Earth, you will not embrace, nor see, God as your actual Father.
In my case, that process began early in my childhood, even though I did not know the Lord at that time. When my parents divorced, I felt that I was a burden to my mother who had to raise 6 kids on her own. My father was a good man in that he made the effort to visit us twice a week, nonetheless, I felt – and my siblings have expressed the same feeling – like a burden to them both and sought a way to leave the home as soon as I could. The divorce made me feel homeless.
As a young adult I did not look back home, but struck out on my own. Having no one else, I cried out to God for help, even though I did not know how to know Him at that time. When Christ came into my life at the age of 32, I naturally embraced Him as my Father. Jesus said that those who are forgiven much, love much (Luke 7:47). I do not think it is just the forgiveness of many sins that brings greater love. I think the condemnation of our conscience for sinning so much creates a sense of separation from people akin to being an orphan. When forgiven by God the sense of separation and orphanage disappears as we cleave to our Savior.
The cross is the surgical instrument of God to bring that separation from our Earthly families to join us to our Heavenly family. Those who do not embrace the cross on a daily basis, remain pulled between the two worlds of heaven and earth. If you want to know the Fatherhood of God in a more intimate way, you have to let the cross turn you into an orphan
I would love to hear from readers their point of view on this topic. How did you know that God was your real father? If you do not know this, then why do you think otherwise?