One of the distinguishing features of Jesus’ ministry was his telling us to call God ‘abba’ or ‘father’. That tells something important, not least since we are told we can speak to Our Father directly in a simple prayer which gives us all we need to worship Him. This is not a God who is a distant King or Lord, not a God whom we have to approach in fear and trembling, not a God to whom we have to sacrifice animals, virgins or anything or anyone else. We don’t have to propitiate Him for fear He will blast us with thunderbolts or damn us to a fiery furnace. He isn’t someone for whose sake we have to adopt a series of rules so that He will love us.
When we were in the womb He named us; before our mother saw us, He loved us. That is one of the reasons I can’t bear abortion. All these babies are known to God, they are dear to Him, how dare we regard them as of less account than what the mother thinks she wants? God is the Father of us all, a Father who loves us for who we are. He knows we are better than we are as we are; He wants only the best for us, and like any Father has set out guidance for us. We are a little lower than God, higher than the angels, and yet we are sinners. But we are not sinners without hope.
This God of ours is someone who has, in the form of His Son, intervened in our history decisively. He who was without sin, nonetheless became sin for us; the one who was sinless suffered the death of the worst sinner. That really is a love beyond compare. Love that lays its life down for a good person we love is awesome; but love that lays down its life for sinners, well that, that really is something only the best of Fathers would do – and that is what we have.
Of course, in this fallen world, it can be hard, not least in a society which seems to value the role of the father less than we used to. My father was quite old when I was born, the child of a late second marriage. Most of my friends thought he was my grandfather, but I knew I was lucky. Where my friends’ fathers were busy earning a living and often away when needed, mine was there for me when I needed him. What he told me wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was what I needed to hear, even then. I knew, too, that even when I was naughty, he loved me. I knew that when I was naughty it disappointed him; I really think he was more upset than I was when I fell below the standards he set me. But I know others have different experiences of fathers, and that some fathers fall short of what is required.
But in God we have a father who is the perfect father. He loves us, He wants us to be with Him forever, and He has provided, in the form of Jesus, the perfect propitiation for our sins. In all our sinfulness, we are loved – and all we have to do is to accept that love – and then let it work its redemptive work in us.