Our world is sick. Families are being destroyed and churches are dying. What is causing this? Is there good news to take to the nations? Is there hope for families and churches?
I want to show the importance of hallowing the name of God as Our Father in heaven, and how that will go a long way to solving our family and church problems.
We will begin with Matthew 28:16-20, explore hallowing God’s name as Father and recapturing the value of fathers on earth for the healing of all nations.
The Trinity in 60 Seconds
God is Spirit, has personality, is life, good, unchanging and inhabits eternity. In the Bible God is one, and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have one name (Matthew 28:19-20). God is not one person with three personalities because Jesus prayed to the Father. God is also not three Gods but one, indivisible and yet three persons. Jesus calls God’s angels his, judges the world, is the resurrection, the life, is the Word which was God, and he is called Lord meaning God in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit is also a person. He makes decisions, teaches, guides us, makes the things of Jesus known, convicts the world of sin, can be grieved, blasphemed, possesses a rational mind, can be lied to, resisted and we can have fellowship with him. God is three and one — a mystery. Why is God called the Father?
The Father in the Trinity
God is Father because as Creator He is like human fathers in some ways. The Bible reveals the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as three with one name (Matthew 28:19). A father is a parent in a way that a mother is not. The Son is also God yet distinct from the Father, begotten. The Father is unbegotten. In the Trinity each Person is God yet different. The Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Equality, difference and hierarchy are not necessarily contradictory. Jesus never speaks of God as His Mother. Mary is His Mother and He taught us to also address God as Father (Matthew 6:9) by adoption (Romans 8:14-17;Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5-6). God’s Fatherhood is the model of how fatherhood should be (Ephesians 3:14-15). Why Father and not Mother?
Why Masculine Language for God?
Why does God reveal Himself as Father (Matthew 28:19)? What is He telling us? Is God in some ways like a human father even though without gender and without human limitations and faults? Is God as Creator like a human father? Does God care for His creation as a father should care for his children? But, mothers do that too. Does the difference between a father and mother help? How is God our Father in a way that He is not really our Mother? A father procreates different to a mother. The father impregnates a woman and determines the gender of the child. The father has priority as the source of impregnation while the mother has priority as first nurturer. God is the first source of creation while Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26) is our Mother, the first nurturer of the soul. What about those who call God Mother?
The Male Metaphor for God
Is there no more room for God’s revelation, only human agendas? Is Christianity just philosophy? Is it our work to reconstruct as we like, to change the Our Father into Our Mother (Matthew 6:9)? Do Jesus’ teachings and example compel us to accept other language for God, even though he never explicitly called for it? Was a patriarchy meant to be a domineering, women-hating culture as portrayed by those with an agenda? Is revealing God as a loving, compassionate Father in error? Did Jesus intend a “depatriarchalizing” of the church? When feminine language is applied to God it is used in the same manner that we say a man may act like a women. The primary metaphor for God in Scripture remains masculine. Why is God never called “She” or “Her”? The biblical writers’ speak of God primarily in masculine terms. But, does God really have gender?
Is God Father or Mother
If God inspired the analogy of being a Father (Matthew 28:19) and some disagree who has the problem? Was Jesus wrong to call God Father and even Abba, Daddy? Ought we Christians deny Christ’s revelation as to how we see God as Father? Was his revelation just culturally bound by the sexism of the day? Was Jesus wrong to uncritically reinforce such patriarchal terms rather than correct them for future Christians? He certainly corrected other inadequate teachings and stepped over cultural prejudices against women. Jesus frequently addressed God as the Father and if we ignore that, what else do we ignore of his teachings? Jesus’ mother was Mary not God. If God wants to be understood in patriarchal terms who are we to argue? Do we make God over in our image or receive his self-disclosure as the Father? What is the value of a father?
Value of Fathers
According to studies, children with fathers at home are more likely to finish school, far less likely to be in poverty, survive infant mortality, less likely to be in jail, drugs or delinquency, or to be involved in early sex and teen pregnancy, and far less likely to be abused. Child welfare says that fathers are not mere afterthoughts as second adults in the home but have a significant impact for good on “cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior.” Understanding the role of fathers must begin with the best role model for all men and only perfect Father, God in heaven (Matthew 6:9; Matthew 28:19-20). We honor our parents and receive the promise of longer lives (Ephesians 6:2). This translates into a respect for authority which fosters healthy societies and people who honor God. How are fathers different to mothers?
Differences between Father & Mother
A father gives to procreation and a mother receives the father. A man reproduces outside of himself, while a woman reproduces inside of herself. This brings about two different relationships to the children. A child is initially more detached from the father and more attached to the mother. Fatherhood symbolizes in some ways how God is transcendent, apart from His creation as motherhood pictures his immanent, intimate presence in creation. Does this transcendence have priority over God’s immanence in creation? Is Father-language necessary to avoid implying pantheism which reduces God to the level of His creation? Calling God Father does not negate motherhood or maternal imagery of God. Is God trying to teach us that calling him Mother would negate fatherhood and create an idolatry of His creation? Scripture certainly speaks of God mostly in paternal terms (Matthew 28:19). How does a father think?
The Hearts of the Fathers
The hearts of mothers are naturally turned to their children, but from conception there is a disconnect between fathers and children that should be united over time. In today’s world that is not always the case, especially as the male role in families has been disparaged and minimized. Malachi 4:5-6 addresses this issue. A prophet (perhaps in the spirit of) Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Unless this is done, the prophet declares the result as utter destruction. Those churches which do not fulfill this Elijah role, but diminish fatherhood are slowly sinking into utter destruction. In the role of Elijah the prophet the Church must turn the hearts of the fathers and children towards each other and hallow God’s self-declared role as Father (Matthew 28:19-20). Why is fatherhood devalued today?
Devalued Fatherhood & Church Decline
A liberal agenda is to replace God the Father (Matthew 28:19) with God the Mother. No father can replace a mother’s role of intimacy, care, and nurture, but a Swiss study found that if a father does not go to church, and his wife does, only one child in 50 will go to church. But, if a father goes regularly, regardless of his wife’s attendance, two-thirds to three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers. Can we continue to feminize our churches and keep the men and consequently our children interested? Have we hurt the Church by neutering, devaluing and excluding fathers? Has the absence of Christian male role models contributed to the decline of many churches? As some churches conspire against any patriarchy are they also robbing God the Father of honor due to his name (Matthew 6:9)? What about bad fatherly role models?
Call no Man on Earth Father
What about those who were abused by a father and find it difficult or even offensive to think of God as such? What about priests who do not deserve the title father? What did Jesus mean to call no man on earth father (Matthew 23:9)? Abraham (James 2:21) and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) were titled father. We should honor father and mother, but none compare to God as Father. Rather than reject God as Father, we ought to learn from Him what all human fathers ought to have been. Biblical imagery is not ours to change or abolish at whim. God wants us to understand Him as our Father, not abusive us as some on earth have been, but as a wonderful Father and origin of eternal life through Christ in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). Why do almost all Christian churches teach this?
The Sayings of Christ Unite Christians
Is there common ground that unites Christians? The logia, the sayings of Christ are the thing upon which most Christians agree. Christians are divided over so many issues and teachings. Yet, Jesus commanded that his disciples teach what? He charged them with teaching what he taught them (Matthew 28:19-20). So often we teach a whole host of other things instead. Yet, that is what unites us. No matter whether we are Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or Pentecostal, we believe in what Christ taught. So, if there is a priority in the Bible, it is the words of Christ, what we call the logia. And guess what! When we focus on Jesus and what he taught, all the other issues seem to fade into the background. We actually find common ground that wonderfully unites us all. Ain't that just fantastic?
The Gospel message to all nations includes God as Father. Let us get back to hallowing the name of God as Our Father, and the solutions to all our family and church problems will surely not be far behind.