A father’s oversight leads easily and directly to the final characteristic of fathers that Jesus teaches in his Sermon on the Mount.
As fathers pay attention to us, they also hold us accountable. When we occasionally (?!) engage in risky or outright harmful behavior, they step in, both to prevent injury and to teach us the importance of doing what older and wiser people tell us to do.
This brings us to the topic of authority, obedience, and discipline.
We live in an age when authority is often abused, and when pretenders to authority seek to abuse the compliant. I think it’s important to note that not all authority is pathological, and there is a healthy way to hold and exercise authority. A good father doesn’t view his authority as primarily about himself or his machismo; he uses his position of strength to guide his charges down a path that is in their own best interests—that will prevent physical injury or death, or negative social or psychological or spiritual consequences. And he does that gently, that’s in a way that is appropriate and healthy for the maturity level of the child. Further, he does it out of love for the child, not for the protection of his status or manhood.
In that light, we’re in a position to understand Jesus’ teaching toward the end of the Sermon that the kingdom of heaven is limited to “the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7.21).
God is not a bully, fearful that his authority will be questioned or eventually overridden. How can an omnipotent God be insecure? How can an omniscient God be fearful? Can I say something reverently? God is comfortable in his own skin. He has nothing to prove and no need for applause or encouragement. He calls for worship not because he needs the personal boost, but because worship is what most directly assures our personal growth and positive outcome; it’s in our best interest, and as our Creator, Father, and the one who loves us most, he is devoted to that outcome for us.
In a very real sense, God’s call for obedience is not a threat; it’s an invitation to joy and perfect fulfillment.
It’s an act of supreme love.
Even the necessary occasional chastening.
The Scripture affirms this repeatedly:
- As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him (Ps 103.13)
- For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Ro 8.15).
- See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1J 3.1).
I have known many people who have grown up without a father. The consequences of that, both in personal pain and in frequent outcomes, is substantial. I have known some of them to find healing, hope, and even joy from finding a relationship with a heavenly Father who supplies what their earthly father did not.
I can testify that my heavenly Father has never mistreated or abused me; that he has ever watched out for my needs and supplied them consistently, completely, and abundantly—far more than I needed. And often in ways that I could not have imagined in my simple prayers.
How, then, do we respond to Him? As sons and daughters—with reverence, obedience, loyalty, and love, looking to and depending on Him for our provision.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you, my friends, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.