The Good Father
When I was twelve years old I lost my father in a fatal car accident. It was a brutal season of my life that scarred me and marked me in ways I didn't understand then. It also has led me down a road resulting in some of my life's greatest joys. Ultimately, it led me to the Good Father and for that I am eternally grateful.
In the church world, we have cliches. Everyone knows them and a few of us poke fun at them. Most of us use them from time to time for multiple edifying reasons. Whether it be encouragement, rebuke, reproof, or challenge, the Christian cliches are utilized for the occasion. However, just like any good thing, over time with consistent use they have become mindless. What I mean is that we say them without thinking. We don't deeply consider them as we say them. Much like a simple greeting "How are you?" In our day and age it doesn't truly require thought to respond. Nor does it really require a response at all. In fact, I can use an example from today that I was greeted with "How are you?" only to respond with a smile "How are YOU!?" and then go on my way.
What does that even mean?
We often say as Christians "God is good." Very simple and very true, this statement has riddled the Christian minds and even airwaves for years. God is good. But what do we mean? Many of us only know the goodness of God in a very shallow and superficial way. Now before you fear that I am being cynical, hear me out. I do not want to know God superficially but truly. I do not want to be shallow in my understanding of His goodness, but deep and rich. I believe that if you are reading this you share my desires. The hard truth is that good intentions is not enough. We need something greater.
Our understanding and experience with the goodness of God is in direct correlation with our understanding and acknowledgement of our "badness."
Another cliche that we are all familiar with underscores our triteness with words. "Nobody's perfect." Or "we all make mistakes."
We are all okay with identifying our weaknesses in a general and vague way. We are even fine with saying we made a mistake as long as others will admit they too make mistakes. We are even accepting of admitting we are sinners, as long as sin is universally true.
We are not so good at going deeper.
To truly understand the goodness of our God, we must understand the depth of our own depravity. Paul knows this, therefore he paints one of the most bleak depictions of the human condition known to mankind.
"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. there is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:10-18
This is a written description from Paul about humans.
This is what our hearts are like without Christ. This is a bleak backdrop; as dark as the night. Yet, only on the backdrop of this level of darkness can true light shine its brightest. Paul then reveals the goodness of God.
"For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps one would even dare to die - but God shows his love for us that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life." Romans 5:6-10The goodness of God shines forth in its entirety through the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we were in our darkest state as humans, God sent forth Jesus to die in our place for our sins. We think good people are those who do good to those who are good to them. True goodness is defined by God, who dies for His enemies, who prays for His murderers, and who builds a house for traitors. God is the ultimate Good One.
But fatherhood, is something even deeper. To know the goodness of God as a father goes a step further. Most of us define a good dad by an example we have had. Whether that be a good dad we know, or our own earthly father, we tend to define good dads by what we have seen. God on the other hand, tells us to stop looking horizontally for our definition of fatherhood and look vertically.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or is he asks for a fish will you give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:9-11
There is a deep desire in the heart of God to do good to His children. Because we are image bearers, we too hold this desire in a much diminished way. As earthly fathers, we want good for our children, but we struggle with balancing our love for our children with our love for ourselves. We imperfectly parent them. God is the perfect parent. He always knows and always provides what is needed for our ultimate good.
How then does our badness, God's goodness, and His Fatherly love for us connect?
The Father loves us so deeply that he conspired with the Son in eternity past to bring us back from our betrayal. Our "badness" is not a simple "mistake" or "imperfection." The depth of our sin is great. We betrayed our Father and trusted in His enemy. We believe Satan above God and to our own doom. Death was the result. Eternity apart from the Father that loves us. Yet, God the Father was not willing that we would go that route. So He did the only thing that could save us from ourselves. He sent His Son to the earth, to be condemned in our place. He sent Jesus to take our punishment. He gave us the most precious thing to Him.
Only parents can fully appreciate the depth of this sacrifice. It was God the Father, standing by watching as His only Son is mocked, falsely accused, beaten beyond recognition, and crucified publicly. He was made a spectacle in front of the very ones He was saving. The Good Father looked on as the Son experienced separation from His Father. Jesus cried to Him. No answer. Now we are really getting to the core of His goodness. God gave His Son for us. Paul reasons with us on the implications:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Now we have come to the bottom of the goodness of the Father. He gave His only Son in order for me to be a son. He allowed His perfect Son to be accused so I (his guilty son) could be acquitted. He allowed His rich Son to be poor so I (his poor son) could be rich. He allowed His sinless son to be forsaken so I (his sinful son) could be brought into the fold. John Newton said it best:
How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
Truly I was a wretch and now I am a son. And now that God has given His Son, Paul reasons why not everything else? If He loves me enough to sacrifice Jesus, what else does He have to give that is more valuable? Nothing friends. Nothing. We have a Good Father, who wants good for you. He is devoted to good for you. He is passionate about good for you. He will do good toward those who believe. This is not wishful thinking. This is not high hopes and dreams. This is God's Word. And it is true.
He is a Good Father.