By Michael J. Klassen
Years ago I attended a church men’s retreat with about 80 other men. The speaker spent the weekend addressing the relationships between fathers and their sons. On Saturday morning, he asked us a probing question that generated a very unexpected response.
I raised my hand, assuming a good number of other men would join me. Ironically enough, the only hands raised were my father’s and mine. Out of 80 men!
“I’m not surprised,” the speaker confessed.
Then he organized us into groups of 4 or 5 and asked every participant to describe his relationship with his father.
Over the next two hours, multiple men in every group sobbed uncontrollably. The wailing drowned out the discussion. I’ve never seen so many men cry—even at a funeral.
My experience that weekend opened my eyes to the reason so many men struggle in their relationship with God.
Over my 24 years in pastoral ministry, I’ve noticed a pattern. Our view of God is often determined by the relationship we experienced with our fathers. Women, please don’t take offense at my observation, because none is intended. But to a great extent, our relationship with our earthly fathers affects the way we view God.
If you grew up without a father, chances are much greater that you tend toward believing in a God who either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care about you.
If you grew up with an abusive father, you likely believe that God is abusive with you.
If you grew up with a passive father, you believe God is powerless.
The same applies to manipulative fathers, deceptive fathers, unfaithful fathers…and good fathers.
Obviously, Jesus enjoyed a close, loving, intimate relationship with his father.
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Jesus’ Father Is Your Father
The correlation between earthly fathers and God shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he instructed them to begin by saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Few if any people before Jesus addressed God Almighty as “father.” To many, the term of endearment was considered disrespectful.
He told us that when we pray, we should say, “Our Father who art in heaven.” It’s interesting that we address our father “in heaven,” because it tells us that although they’re similar, our earthly fathers still differ significantly from our heavenly fathers.
Furthermore, Jesus told us that his—and your—father is good (see Luke 18:19). Not only is he good, but he enjoys giving good gifts to his children:
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11).
God gives us good gifts because he values us more than anything in creation.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
In fact, you mean the world to him.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).
When the realization first hit me that God was my father, that he’s good, and that he really, really loves me, I could hardly believe it. But he does!
Join the conversation
- What was your experience with your father? How are/were they alike or different?
- How has your relationship with your earthly father (or lack thereof) affected your relationship with your heavenly father?
- How have you experienced God as your father?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.