February Theme: Love
Fatherly Love: Matthew 7:11; Matthew 5:48
Brotherly Love: Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:19
As you may know, I am a parent – obviously (to those of you who know me). And equally as obvious (with just a smidge of thought) is the fact that my perspective regarding my relationship with my son is far different than my son’s perspective of our relationship. Even at four years old my son would already describe our relationship differently than I would – good or bad. But even if I did give this reasoning a smidge of thought throughout every aspect of my relationship with my son, I’m sure it would not change the nature of my relationship with him or his with mine.
Matthew 7:11 says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Do you know why God reminds us of this aspect of our earthly and heavenly father/child relationships? Because we forget that as a parent, God’s perspective of us does not change because our perceptions do not match the actual relationship He has with us.
For many of us, we treat our fathers (or anyone else that we know well for that matter) in the manner in which we think they will treat us. Since my son is four, he is still too young to be completely conditioned to the way his father and I treat him and he comes to us fresh and new, with the same open-ended expectancy every time. For now it’s just a matter of him remembering not to do what he knows he’s not supposed to. Later, I’m sure it will change in terms of him determining on his own accord what he feels he can or cannot come to us about and what he could or should not ask of us.
Several years ago, shortly after buying our first home in Southern California, I ran into some car trouble and needed some help from my Dad to help me pay for it. Well, I miscalculated the bills I had recently paid and how much was actually in my account. Of course, when I realized the problem, I was overdrawn by $90 and knew my only option was to call my Dad, fess up and ask to borrow more. By the time I made the call I was already in tears and grieved about having to ask – purely because I expected him to respond with how careless and irresponsible I was. Instead, he comforted me; he reminded me that as my father, he was there to help me, and since I’d happened to catch him already near my bank, he ran in and deposited the extra funds. And when he spoke to me, I heard not only his voice but also God’s saying this is what a good father does.
So often though, we treat God either the way we think He will treat us, or in the way we think our earthly fathers treat us. But God’s love towards us is more like (and far surpasses) the way in which we would (or think we would, or would want to) treat our own child. In fact, Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” is an example of how to be the kind of parent God wants us to be – and not to be the kind of parent we think He is to us.
When we think of God as our heavenly Father, as I said, it is often difficult for us to classify or categorize or even define our relationship with Him – especially if we compare it to our earthly fathers. Take for example another comparison God gives us: brothers.
My favorite verses John 1:1-4 and 14 explains Christ’s deity and describes how Jesus is God. Later, we learn that as believers we are adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters, heir to the throne… in other words, not only sisters and brothers to each other as believers, but also sisters and brothers to Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. And so, if God the Son is our brother, how does that affect our relationship with God the Father?
As you may know, I am an only child – obviously I do not have a brother. But I always wanted one. Equally as obvious (with just a smidge of thought to those of you who know me) is that I do have a wonderful brother-in-law who happens to look like my blood brother and we treat each other the same as well. So, I may be biased regarding my perception of brothers, but it is easy for me to treat my brother-in-law like Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;”
Not all of us who have grown up with siblings can at all say this – unfortunately. Some people have (or are) siblings as described in Proverbs 18:19 “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
And so again, do we treat God in the same way in which we think He would treat us? If we think God is so easily offended and reluctant to forgive, then we will hold ourselves in blame and guilt for things He has forgiven and tossed into the sea of forgetfulness. Or, if we have sinned, we will not come to Him with a repentant spirit, fearful that He wouldn’t forgive us anyway.
And yet, still others of us may have (or be) the kind of sibling described in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” And with this perspective of a brotherly relationship, we may only go to God in times of trouble; continuously begging Him - protect me, help me, get me out of this mess and beat up the bully bothering me in the process!
I happened to get my brother late in life so, I no longer have bullies for him to beat up or messes he can rescue me from. And, while he may be moody at times, he is defintely not "hard won." I am still his older sister and I’m not at all concerned about him becoming stubborn, hard-headed or unforgiving if I happen to offend him. However, just like God reminds us that our Fatherly relationship surpasses our earthly relationships with our own fathers and brothers – so too is it difficult even for me to remember or even grasp the kind of loving, brotherly relationship I can have with God through Christ Jesus.
In our limited, finite minds, it is all we can do at times to simply understand the three entities of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And yet it was a shock to me when I realized I did not treat my God, nor love all three aspects of my God equally. However once I began to remove all earthly expectations from my heavenly relationship with God – even God my provider and God my protector – I began to experience, for the very first time a new and renewed walk with God that is built on His perception of me and not mine of Him.
For a scriptural glimpse into next week’s lesson read: Proverbs 18:24. Your Home Study homework: Use this scripture to explain in your own words how God sees our brotherly relationship with Him as different from our earthly relationships with our siblings.
(Note: Aspects of this lesson are taken from the book “Father, Brother, Lover, Friend: Finding “The One”, to be released by Destination Publications in June 2009.)
© 2008 Deidre Campbell-Jones