Father’s Day is coming up and I am thinking about what to preach. Father’s Day should be a slam dunk considering God is our Father and all. But it is actually tougher than I thought. Father’s are not very politically correct.
I remember when I first heard that calling God, “Father” was offensive. I was in seminary. No, not offensive, that’s not right. Calling God, “Father” was insensitive. Yep, it was insensitive. You see, so the logic goes, too many people have lousy, deadbeat, abusive (throw in your favorite negative adjective) fathers and if we refer to God as Father, they will be turned off. They cannot relate to God that way. Call Him Creator or Parent, but don’t use Father. Too much pain associated with that name.
Now I’m all for helping people relate to God, but what if God has chosen to reveal Himself as Father? You can’t read into the Gospels too far without noticing that Jesus constantly refers to God as Father. (And rightly so, since He is God’s Son.) But do we have the right to call God “Father” and if we do, can we refer to Him as Father without being insensitive?
Jesus refers to God as Father in the Sermon on the Mount seventeen times by a quick count. Of the 17 times He uses the term Father, 1 is “my Father”, 1 is “our Father”, and 15 are “your Father”. Jesus has no problem including us in the family of God. Romans 8 is clear that we are adopted into God’s family and, in Christ, become His children. Jesus teaches us to address God in prayer as “Father” so, yes, we have the right to call God, “Father.”
But should we? Considering all the baggage in the world caused by bad dads, does God want to be associated with such a negative brand like “Father”? Does it turn people away who have had a terrible father? Can they, should they look to God as their heavenly Father or does the term create barriers and we should avoid it?
Jesus meets a women who clearly has issues with men in John 4. Abandonment, abuse, immorality, manipulation, divorce, she has it all. Statistics tell us that women like this generally have poor fathers and spend their lives seeking out affection from men to fill that gap. Yet as Jesus talks to her about her past and confronts her present (how insensitive!), she begins a conversation about worshipping God. And then it happens. Jesus refers to God not once, not twice, but three times as “Father” in this conversation.
Here is a women that would be the poster child for people we’re afraid we might offend by calling God “Father” and yet Jesus has no problem doing it. Why not?
One – because that is who God is. Regardless of our experiences, God is our Father. He wants to be known as our Father. He instructs us to address Him as such when we pray. Our experiences do not dictate who God is. For a relativistic culture this is difficult to grasp.
Two – because that is who this woman needs. She needs a father to love her. Perhaps she never had one or never had a good one. That doesn’t change the fact that she needs a good father. She needs someone to protect her, provide for her, love her, spoil her, bless her, give her an identity, and claim her.
The same is true today. There are plenty of men and women who have had no fathers or terrible fathers. And the results are devasting for them. Bad dads are the most common denominator when it comes to poverty, crime, low education, drugs, and sexual promiscuity. We need fathers. We need good fathers.
We have great news for those with no father. We have great news for those whose picture of a father is lacking at best. Psalm 68:5 says God is “a father to the fatherless.” Romans 8:15-16 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are the God’s children.”
What a great Father we have! What a great Gospel we have to share with a world that desperately needs a great Father! “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
Far from offensive is it to proclaim God as He has revealed Himself. Far from insensitive is it to hide this loving Father from hurting people. Oh the healing, the joy, the life, the forgiveness that is forfeited by not calling God, Father!
Who do you know that needs a good Father? This Father’s Day, be insensitive. Share your Heavenly Father with them.