experiencing the love of the father through the cross
As a volunteer prison counselor, the prison inmates often share with me their deep pain, sorrow and regrets. Many of them struggle with various kinds of addictions which land them back in jail again and again. I often despair with them at their inability to break these shackles that bind them so powerfully. As they open their hearts to me, I notice a common factor in the lives of these prisoners, that is, all of them do not have a relationship with their biological fathers.
I remember an inmate who never knew his father all his life; it was difficult for him to even talk about his father. He told me that when his mother was pregnant with him, his father had asked her to abort the baby and threatened her that he would leave her if she did not go for abortion. When his mother decided to keep the baby, his father left her and both mother and son never saw him again. His mother vented all her anger and frustrations over the loss of her husband on him; blaming him for all her hardship, having to bring him up alone. Being rejected by his father even before he was born and be blamed for his mother’s sufferings, it is no surprise that this man eventually took to crime. On many occasions during the counseling, the man would burst out with deep anguish; “Father, why didn’t you want me to be born? What is so bad and wrong about me that you rejected me? What is so unacceptable about me? Why didn’t you want me? When my mother abused me, I called for you but you were not there. Where were you? WHERE ARE YOU?”
This man also poured out all the inner pain he kept in his heart all these years; “Father, you left me when I was still in my mother’s womb. Why were you so angry with me? Why was I a curse to you? Other children have fathers to teach them, hug them and love them but I have no father to call or to turn to. Other people have happy family life but I am alone all the time. When my school had a function, the parents of my friends would be there, except mine. Till today I cannot call out the name ‘Papa’. Who is my Papa? I have no feeling for you at all.” Sadly, even to this day the rejection of his father continues to haunt this man. He tried to numb the pain of the rejection by resorting to drug which leads him deeper into the dark world of crime and imprisonment.
The vital relationship of the father to a child is clearly recognized by God Himself. In Romans 8: 15-16, we are told that the highest privilege of the Christian life, which should also be the deepest longing of our hearts, is to know God as our perfect Father and to experience His Fatherly love. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Dare we call the holy and Almighty God, “Abba”? It would indeed appear audacious and blasphemous to address God in such familiar and intimate term. Yet this was what our Lord Jesus taught us, to see and to call out to God as Father. In Matthew 6: 6-9, Jesus taught us to begin our prayers by addressing God, not as King, Judge, or Creator, but as, “Our Father in Heaven”.
In His infinite wisdom, God has chosen primarily to be a Father as His preferred and ideal relationship with us. Why a Father-child relationship and not other relationships?
If we know God as King (which He is also), our relationship with Him would be distant, not personal and intimate as there would be a regal distance between the king and the subject. If God relates to us like a Judge (which He is also), He would have to judge and punish us for our offences. Such a relationship would be formal and every time we come before Him, it would entail sentencing and punishment for the wrong we have done. If God relates to us only as a Creator (which He is also), He would have regretted creating us and giving us dominion over the earth He had created (Gen. 1: 26).
There is no relationship more intimate than that between the father and his child. The child comes into existence because of the father; we are who we are because of our heavenly Father. As His child, we can always be sure of His love and care, even if we have fallen short of His expectations. We thank God that Jesus’ death on the Cross made it possible for us to know God as our heavenly Father and to experience the healing power of His fatherly love.
As our Father God, we can trust Him to provide for us more than abundantly. Those of us who are fathers find great joy in giving to our children not only what they need but what they ask for. We often spoil them by giving them what they want, like toys and ice-cream, etc. Jesus said in Matthew 7:11; “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.”
I believe many of us would also appreciate the times our earthly fathers discipline us out of their love for us. They mirror the father heart of God when they discipline us in order to build character. Likewise, our heavenly Father would discipline us in order to make us holy and righteous. Hebrew 12: 6 states; “The Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
The most unique feature of fatherhood is the love that the father has for his child. This is the overwhelming emotion parents feel as we look into the face of our newborn child. Parents will also love the child unconditionally, no matter how imperfect the child is. This is the kind of love our heavenly Father has for us, only much more. I believe when God looks at us, we are like a precious gem to Him, in spite of our imperfections.
What the ex-offender lost and missed from his earthly father is more than replaced and filled by the love of the heavenly Father. When he accepted God as his Abba, Father, he is filled with great peace and joy. God has replaced what he missed so much and is now healing him with the perfect love that only a Heavenly Father can provide.
Knowing God as our Father heals many of our soul wounds. It gives us a sense of security, significance and self-esteem and gives us the confidence that even if nobody cares for us, God, our heavenly Father, will not abandon us. Indeed we can exclaim with great joy; “Behold what manner of love the Father (God) has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3: 1) n
Author: Mr. Michael Tan (Michael was the Registrar of the Subordinate Courts, Second Coroner and Magistrate in the Singapore Judicial Service in the early 1970s before practicing law in Malaysia. He and his wife, Lisa, lived in Melbourne, Australia, for 24 years before returning to Singapore. They worship at the 9 am Sunday Service.)
First published in The Courier, April 2014.