Several weeks ago, our daughter married her childhood sweetheart. Stacey and Kaegan met each other for the first time when they were in Grade One. Now they are husband and wife.
It is an interesting dynamic because Kaegan is American. Over the years, Kaegan’s family and our family have had to learn the nuances of each other’s language. Americans and Canadians spell some words differently (gray vs grey), designate some events differently (dinner vs supper), and pronounce words differently (“saaaw-rry” vs “sore-ry”). Ask an American what a chesterfield is. To avoid confusion, Stacey has declared the following: her new mother-in-law is now designated “mom.” This aligns with their American pronunciation. Sharon is designated “mum” - a slightly more British/Canadian emphasis. It helps us understand who she is talking about without always having to add “Jenn-mom” or “my mum.”
It is a great idea with one significant flaw. Taking this to the next logical sequence, it would mean her father-in-law would be “dad” and I, (substituting the “u” of “mum” into “dad”) would be “dud.” I asked Stacey about this, and she thought it was a good idea. Kids.
Words Matter: Dud (er, I mean, “dad,” or more accurately, “father”)
Fortunately, Stacey’s in-laws are close friends of ours. We have holidayed together, celebrated both the US and Canadian Thanksgiving together, enjoyed Christmas dinners together - they are not just “like” family; they are family. I’m happy to be the dud (and I must say, sometimes I do “dud” very well).
On Sunday we will celebrate “Father’s Day.” We want to honour the men who have loved us, mentored us, modeled Christ to us. Whether it is our biological father or a man who has taken on the fatherly role, we appreciate those who faithfully represent Christ well in their families, their neighbourhoods, and their work. Thank you, dads/fathers/mentors of all kinds.
It isn’t until Jesus’ ministry that the people of God really began to think of God in a fatherly way. There are about a dozen Old Testament references that use this as an image of God’s love (e.g., Psa. 68:5, 1 Chron 28:6, Deut. 32:6). Most of these texts talk about care, provision, compassion, and protection. They don’t present the God the Father as part of the Triune God.
This changes with Jesus’ ministry. He teaches the disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven.” He said He and the Father were one (John 10:30). His listeners clearly understood this to be a reference to the God of the Old Testament.
So why this shift? Why a new perspective?
The worship of God has always been about relationship. The work of the Messiah - Jesus Christ - was both to be the perfect sacrifice that satisfied God’s holy standard (so we no are no longer under the Law), AND to teach us the nature of our relationship with God as our Father. This is one of the reasons that Jesus is the Son of God. It does not denote His origin (He has eternally existed as the second member of the Trinity). His Sonship helps us understand the nature of our relationship with God. We begin to better understand His nature and character from a reference point with which we are familiar: fatherhood. In fact, Jesus uses this exact image to explain God’s providence: “If your earthly father knows how to give good gifts, how much more does Your heavenly Father care for you?” (Matt. 7:11). Unfortunately, if we have not had a good, compassionate earthly father it can affect our perception of our Heavenly Father.
This concept of God as Father is so important Jesus used it in the parable of the prodigal son. The father (representing God) eagerly awaits his rebellious son (representing us) to return, eagerly welcomes him home, forgives him and restores him into the family. This is summarized by a single word: reconciliation.
We will never have perfect human fathers. My kids are well aware of that truth! But we can be reconciled to our Heavenly Father who will transform us, equip us, mature us, prepare us to take on the family responsibilities of representing Him well (Peter called it growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ - 2 Pet. 3:18). Understanding the nature of our Father, especially His love for us, motivates us to express that love back to Him and to others.
No matter what kind of Father we may have had - or not had - God’s desire is that we relate to Him as our Father. He longs for our relationship with Him to be restored, for us to grow in learning the “family traditions” of loving and serving one another, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, being transformed in our own nature and character.
So, no matter who we are, this Father’s Day can be a source of joy for all of us. We can find great joy and contentment in a fatherly relationship with the Creator God. He certainly is eager for that. Happy “God is Father” Day.