In the prayer that we now refer to as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples to call God as Father. As members of the Jewish community, the disciples could easily identify themselves as children of God. In fact, they were accustomed to call God as Father – as the Father of the Jewish people as a whole.
But, to call God as Father on a personal level was new territory. They did not usually address God in such intimate, familiar terms. Some were even angry at Jesus for doing so.
Today, it is not entirely uncommon to call God as Father. The usage of God as Father is so widespread and generally accepted that we no longer question it. However, we often fail to realize how this is so important for our understanding about God.
The usage of the term “Father” for God is both metaphorical and analogous. We liken God to a human father in a metaphorical sense. Such metaphorical use helps us to understand how we relate to our Creator and how our Creator relates to us. We also speak of God as Father in analogous terms. God – as a Father – possesses certain characteristics of human fathers but without the limitations of human fathers.
When Jesus called God as “Abba” and taught his followers to do the same, He introduced a new dimension to the relationship between God and human. God is not merely our Father or the Father of our people. God is, or at least can be, your Father or mine.
God being our Father also means that God’s family is not limited to bloodlines. God’s presence in the lives of people shows up in a variety of ways, no matter what our lineage may be. We relate to God as Father through Jesus the Son who delivered us from our fragile and broken state. And we share in Jesus’s sonship through the adoption we receive through Christ’s redeeming work for us.
In the Bible, the imagery of God as Mother is also used to present God. For instance, the book of Isaiah repeatedly describes God as a woman in labour (42:14), a nursing mother (49:15), and a mother comforting her child (66:13). And Hosea 11:3-4 gives vivid imagery of a mother caring deeply for her child. Thus, the Bible speaks of a God who is a loving and caring parent.
As followers of Christ, we have an obligation to know and relate to God as our parent. As individuals, family members and faith community, we have to acknowledge the honour that God bestows on us by making us His children. And therefore, we must continually learn to live together as equal members of God’s family.
We must reaffirm this new identity that God has given us. Our identity as a chosen people was never meant to exclude. We are to enlarge the place of our tent and let them stretch out the curtains of our dwellings so that the rest of humanity finds refuge within and among us (cf. Isaiah 54:2). May God help us to relate to God as our Father, call on Him and cherish this new identity.
John Lalnuntluanga is from Mizoram, India.
Photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash