I’ve got what I think is the best earthly father that I could have asked for. My dad has been the model of patience, understanding, strength and determination. He has been my example of what it means to live a life driven towards knowing Christ. He’s seen me at my best and at my worst, and through it all, his love for me as been unconditional.
Our Heavenly Father is all of this and more. His love for us is perfect. What my dad can’t see so easily is my heart and my deep, hidden thoughts. If the people closest to you could see those things and hear those thoughts, would they be as inclined to continue investing in that relationship? And likewise, you would be able to see into the dark corners where the goonies and gremlins hide. Nothing about that sounds appealing to me. The Father sees that, and despite it all, loves us because his only and sinless Son came and died to cover our imperfection.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
He knows how to best discipline us.
I was spanked as a child and I’m thankful for it. Don’t get me wrong, it was never something I looked forward to, but I eventually learned a lot about how my dad loved me through it. He would always use that classic line about how “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” At the time, I didn’t understand what that really meant. Now it’s clear that while it was only a physically painful moment for me, it was emotional for him. Though I deserved what I got, it broke his heart to have to punish me.
How much more does it break the heart of the God that knew and loved me before I had a name, who knows how broken I really am?
“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6
My dad knew what would make an impact on me, knew where my soft spots were and knew how to press into the weakness in order that I might grow and learn from it.
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11
Much good can come from discipline and correction. When a friend calls out a blind spot in life, it shows they care enough about you to have that hard conversation. Likewise, the Father disciplines us because he loves us infinitely.
He knows how to best bless us.
Like all good fathers, my dad knows what I like. Whether it’s good food, nice clothes, great music or classic cars, you name it and he knows pretty well my preferences. While these things are all great things that bring temporary joy and satisfaction, real lasting joy comes from the blessings God pours out on us. My joy largely comes in community with others and through the people that the Lord has surrounded me with, he has blessed me immensely.
He knows that we can never come close to repaying what he’s done for us.
The world would teach us that relationships are transactional. “What can you do for me?” and “what have you done for me lately?” are far too common. But God in his perfect agape love towards us, asks for nothing in return, expects nothing and knows that even if we gave everything, that it would fall infinitely short in comparison to what we’ve been given in Christ.
Isaiah 64:4 reminds us that, “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” Thankfully, our salvation isn’t dependent on what we can do for Him. If that were the case, we’d all be up a creek without a paddle.
“His grace is a gift received through redemption in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25
He loves with a perfect love.
He knows that despite his grace and mercy towards us that we will turn and choose sin, but He loves us with a perfect love anyways. However, we should by no means, continue in sin. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 6:1-2:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
We should war against the temptations of sin, but when we fail (and we will), we don’t have to worry about our future because He holds it.
In a world where it is all too easy to question who the Father loves, it is beneficial to remind ourselves that the Father loves the weak and broken, the leper, the paralytic and the tax collector (Luke 5-6). When he looks at us, he no longer sees us broken, helpless, naked and ashamed. He sees the blood of His perfect son. His love towards us is agape. It is jealous and it is just. It is what we should strive towards and also where we will find rest.