Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:9-11
God is our loving FATHER. Pause for a moment and reflect on that statement. Are you unsure what to do with it? Does it make you uneasy? Do you hesitate to believe it is true? Is it hard for you to associate the act of love with your picture of a father?
The picture you hold of God as your Heavenly Father has been shaped by many different influences. However, the greatest influence is the relationship you had (or didn’t have) with your father.
Maybe your dad was cold and distant. This makes you feel as though you were an inconvenience to him. Perhaps your dad was never in the picture so you are going off assumptions you’ve developed regarding the role of a father. Your picture of a father may be one who is either indifferent or walks away when things get difficult. Maybe your dad was physically present but emotionally distant. This caused you to rebel or pushed you to perform in order to achieve his attention or affection.
On the other hand, maybe your dad was your best friend, biggest supporter, and your greatest encourager. His door was always open and his ear was always available. He wasn’t perfect but owned up to his mistakes.
As a child, you watched how your dad treated your mom, how he responded to life and how he interacted with you. Many boys want to be just like their dad while some want to be the complete opposite of him. The same holds true for the girls. They either want to marry a man who exhibits the qualities of their dad or find someone drastically different with whom to spend the rest of their life.
Our picture of God is greatly shaped by the example of our earthly fathers, either for good or for bad. This should come as no surprise.
But, we must pause and consider the image we hold of God being our Heavenly Father. Is it one shaped by our earthly examples or one grounded in the truths found in Scripture? Scripture is clear that we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Let that sink in: we are image bearers. This sounds good, but you might be wondering what that even means.
Here is one way to think of it. Has anyone ever said that you look like your father? Maybe they pointed out a physical resemblance like your hair, eyes, or smile. There is no escaping it. You share the same DNA. As you grew older, the similarities between your father and you might have come out through your personality, interests, or temperament. “Like father, like son” is how the old saying goes.
God created us to imitate and reflect His character. Our job is to reflect this image in every aspect of our lives. It should influence the way we view work, lead our families, and pursue our relationships. It must redefine our perception of success, influence, and purpose. It should rearrange our priorities and pursuits. Being an image bearer should alter the things that make us angry, the things that capture our attention, and the things we devote our time and energy toward.
If you never met your biological father, it would be impossible to know how to reflect his image. The same holds true with our responsibility as an image bearer of God. To reflect God’s heart you must know God’s heart. Everything hinges on our understanding of the character of God as well as our new identity in Christ. We have to know Him in order to know the image we should be bearing. In John 15, we learn that this occurs when we abide in Him.
As an individual pursues God, he begins to live out who he’s supposed to be – namely an image bearer. The changes that take place in our character are not a matter of pure self-will, but rather a by-product of walking with God.
- How would you describe the relationship you had with your father?
- How has your image of God as your Heavenly Father been shaped over the years?
God, thank You for being my loving father. May I look to You as my example of how I should love my children. Help me to take the responsibility of being an image bearer seriously. Let my words and my actions reflect Your heart. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.