Jesus Christ taught Christians a unique and controversial way of perceiving God, the Creator. He called God “Father”, instructing His disciples to teach likewise, and likened the love of God for people to the love of a father for his children.
In today’s modern Christian society, many people are oblivious to the fact that His claims, in the eyes of most people, were about as close as you could get to blasphemy or lunacy. People were not taught that God was a “fatherly figure”, they were taught to worship Him in fear and the popular perception was that obedience to the Sanhedrin and Jewish elders meant obedience to God.
Christianity is the only religion on Earth that refers to God in a fatherly manner but the implications of this are rarely discussed in-depth, leaving many people wondering how a perfect and loving Father could allow a myriad of circumstances to occur.
Lets start at the beginning.
According to Genesis, Adam, the first man, was formed from clay and brought to life by the breath of God. The LORD made a garden called Eden and placed Adam there, giving him a home and the responsibility to cultivate and care for it. In the garden there were many trees with good fruit but one existed that was dangerous to Adam and God told him not to eat from it or he would die. Later, God created Eve as a mate for Adam and she was given the same warning.
In chapter 3, Adam and Eve encounter a serpent that insinuates eating the forbidden fruit will give them the ability to distinguish the difference between good and evil, making them like gods. However, instead of knowing the difference between good and evil, the fruit of the tree poisoned their minds with thought and feelings, previously foreign to them. Considering that Adam and Eve’s only contacts thus far were God, the animals, each other, and this serpent, it is fairly safe to say that evil thoughts and feelings were the only thing that mankind obtained from disobeying God and eating from the forbidden tree.
Much to their dismay, Adam and Eve immediately discovered “shame” and “fear”. They covered their nakedness and when God approached them, they hid themselves from Him. These were not concepts that God had taught either of them, they were the result of knowing evil thoughts and feelings. God knew immediately what had happened, mankind had lost its innocence, and by its own hand it was doomed to death.
At this point, God felt it necessary to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden before they ate from the Tree of Life because, just as they had been ignorant to the consequences of eating from the first tree, eating from the second tree brought a new danger. They could no longer be trusted to stay obedient when warnings of their own deaths proved insufficient to dissuade them from listening to reason.
A Different Perspective
Raising two children has introduced me to an entirely different perspective to the fall of mankind and, in a strange way, being a parent enlightened me to a point-of-view that I never before considered, God’s.
Before I became a parent it was easier to relate to Adam and Eve’s side of the story. God puts a poison tree in the middle of a garden and tells them not to touch it, He allows the serpent, their first contact with an intrinsically evil being, to tempt them both into eating from the forbidden tree, and then He gets angry and punishes them because they disobey Him? Why didn’t God remove the dangerous tree from the Garden? Why did He allow the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve? Was this some sort of test?
Questions! Questions! Questions!
However, after becoming a father myself, my perspective changed quite a bit.
- While my children are an extremely important part of my life, they do not represent the entirety of my life’s work. The same is true with God, the Father. We are not the entirety of His Being or His Creation, rather, we are a part of it.
- I work hard to give my children the things they need, but that does not satisfy them because, in their innocence, they confuse desire with need. God treats His children the same way, giving them what they actually need and, sometimes, what they desire as well.
- It is a delicate balancing act to try to protecting my children from harm without making them resenting me for being over-protective. Attempting to control every action my children make may offer them protection but it completely undermines their ability to make their own choices. Likewise, God gave Adam and Eve the choice to feel as much joy from eating good fruit (making good choices) as sorrow for partaking of bad fruit (making poor choices).
- When my children become disobedient or disrespectful and will not listen to reason, as their father, it is my duty to guide them with discipline. In the same way, when they are obedient and respectful, willing to listen and learn, it is my duty to reward them. God rewards His obedient and respectful children as well as disciplining His disobedient and disrespect ones.
The Love Of A Father
It is love that keeps me from abandoning my children when they are suffering the consequences of making a poor decision, but by the same token, it is love that keeps me from protecting them when they do not want my protection. Love causes me to forgive my children when they ask for forgiveness as well as rebuke them when they are unrepentant. Out of love, I offer my knowledge and wisdom to my children so they will not make the same mistakes with their lives that I did, yet, it is the same love that causes me to rebuke them when they choose to ignore the knowledge and wisdom I’ve imparted on them. While my love for them is unconditional, the depth of our relationship does have certain conditions.
If I teach my children not to steal and they grow up thieves, despite my warnings, then they are disrespecting me. I can not force them to quit stealing against their will, but I can rebuke their behavior with reason and discipline with the hopes they will learn before they suffer serious consequences.
Our heavenly Father, whose living children count in the billions, does all this for them and much more. God knows what they need before they ask, but they must ask. They must give Him their consent to interfere in their lives and trust that He is providing them with what they truly need. As a child in God’s house, we must attempt to respect and obey His rules or face His anger. Like mortal a father, God disciplines His children when they disrespect or disobey Him and rewards them when they are righteous. He forgives His children who, truly, seek to change their offensive and dangerous behaviors, allowing them to return home while rebuking His children who continue to challenge His authority in the same way that Adam and Eve did on the Garden of Eden.