“Problems with the Father-Figure God”
Problems with the Father-Figure God – John 16:12-15
Around the time I was born my dad was finishing up his master’s degree in communication. When I was older, in high school my dad shared with me what his thesis project was about. He had done a study exploring how a person’s image of their parents affected their image of God. Part of the process of his research was doing interviews and surveys with a variety of people to see if there was a correlation between how they viewed their parents and how they viewed God. What he discovered was that very often there was a connection. If a person’s parents were more authoritarian, that person tended to view God as more authoritarian. If a person’s parents were more compassionate, then that person tended to see God as more compassionate. In particular, a person’s feelings towards their father seemed to especially influence their image of God.
If you know much about the Bible it probably would not surprise you to learn that the image we have of the father figure in our life would affect our feelings toward God. This is because in the Scripture we hear Jesus refer to God as Father in several different passages. In John chapter 14 Jesus says, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father”, and “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” The text for this Sunday is from John 16 and there Jesus says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine.” The title of “the Father or Heavenly Father” is what Jesus uses the most when he seems to be referring to God. So it makes sense that people would often associate the view of their earthly Father with what God might be like.
The problem with viewing God in the image of your earthly Father, however, is that not everyone may have a very positive view of their Father and that in turn can cause them to have a negative image of God. Fathers are also human and make mistakes sometimes, which could impact how we see God. But if God is different from our earthly fathers, how might we know what kind of characteristics God might have?
In John 14 Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Could this give us a clue as to what kind of “father” God might be? Does viewing God through the lens of Jesus help us to separate our God image from whatever hang-ups we might have with our earthly fathers? If Jesus demonstrated self-sacrificial love and forgiveness, then are those the kinds of things we could expect to see at the heart of God? As Father’s Day approaches we might also ask the question, what does it mean to be or have a Christ-like dad?
-Pastor Erik Goehner