I have met some Christians who have a good relationship with Jesus, but not with God the Father. They think of Jesus as a loving Savior (which He certainly is) but they tend to perceive His Father as cold, stern and angry. This could arise from a negative father image from childhood (projecting the failures of one's human father onto God), or even from traditional depictions of God as an old man in the clouds with a stern look on his face.
Of course, this image is unbiblical. The Father and the Son do not have diametrically opposed "personalities", if you will. In fact, when one of His disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, He said "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is the perfect revelation of God the Father; when we look at Him we see what the Father is like. Since Scripture reveals Jesus as compassionate and loving, our Father-God has to be like that as well.
There's a song which goes, "There's no one, no one like Jesus". Well, in human terms that's true; no other human can quite compare to Jesus (although Mary comes closer than any!). Yet there is Someone who is exactly like Jesus, with the same infinitely sweet, loving, forgiving personality.
The Heavenly Father is exactly like Jesus in every way! Actually, it's more accurate to say that Jesus is exactly like the Father, since the Son is the Image of the Father (Col 1:16). "He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (Hebrews 1:3). The Eternal Son reflects the Eternal Father; all the Love, Beauty and Goodness in Jesus originated in His Father, since Two are One in Essence (John 10:30). How could they be one in in Essence and diametrically opposed in personality?
Jesus reveals the Father to us - not the other way around! We don't know what the Heavenly Father is like, so we must look at Jesus to see what He is like. Rather than attaching preconceived notions of Deity onto Jesus, we must look to the Gospels to learn Jesus' true nature, and apply that image to the Father! That is the only accurate way to perceive our loving Father-God.
Consider some of Jesus' teachings about His Father:
Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.. - Luke 6:35-36.These teachings, and others like them, are one way Jesus reveals the Father to us.
Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
- Matthew 7:9-11
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
- Matthew 10:29-31, cf. Luke 12:6-7
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. - Luke 12:32
Jesus also said "The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise" (John 5:19). And again, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority...and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me" (14:10,24). These passages reveal a great truth: everything Jesus says and does in the Gospels is exactly what God the Father would say and do were He incarnate! Jesus' attitude toward people reveals the attitude of the Father toward them.
Read about Jesus' actions toward the little children in Mark 10:13-16. Consider the loving embraces and blessings He gave them. That was the Father's attitude toward them as well.
Better yet, read the story about the sinful woman (possibly a prostitute) who wept at Jesus' feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Though Simon was repulsed by the actions of this woman under his roof, Jesus stood up for her and gently forgave her. Do you see Christ's compassionate attitude toward her? That was the Father's attitude toward her! Jesus could never have acted that way had the Father not also acted so toward her.
When that reality dawned on me many years ago, I realized that I almost thought God the Father's attitude toward her would be closer to that of Simon than that of Jesus! I guess I had a negative image of the Father as well.
This brings up an important question: how does God behave towards us when we sin? I think many Christians believe that God deserts them when they sin. After all, God hates sin and is the exact opposite of all sin and evil. So we figure that when we sin we have done something so contrary to the holiness of God that He runs away from us.
But did Jesus ever run away from a sinner in the Gospels? I don't recall that ever happening. Yet He did say that He came to seek and to save those who are lost. How can you "seek" someone by running away from them? Seems like you would have to "run after" them in order to find them!
Which is exactly what Jesus does. Listen carefully to His Parable of the Lost Sheep, where He explains why He received and ate with sinners:
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? - Luke 15:4 (emphasis mine).Did you catch that? Jesus, Our Good Shepherd, goes after His straying sheep. When we sin, God doesn't run away from us, He runs after us! (We're the ones running away, not Him!). God actively searches for us, calling us and pleading with us to return.
This is why Jesus when into the houses of tax collectors and sinners, and even attended parties there. Not because He was a sinner (as some of His detractors scurriously claimed), but because He was the Good Shepherd searching for his lost sheep, so He had to go where they were in order to find them. No sense in searching for them in synagogue or the Temple if they weren't there (although He attended regularly to worship - Luke 4:16).
Jesus is the same today as He was then (Hebrews 13:8). He does the very same thing in our lives. And if Jesus does that, so does our loving Father-God.
The Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, once wrote: "I do not understand souls who are afraid of such a tender Friend as Jesus". I agree wholeheartedly with this statement from one of the Doctors of the Church. I also do not understand souls who are afraid of such a tender Father as Abba.
O Lamb of God, exalted on High at the Father's right hand, You are the Reflection of the Father, You come forth from Him eternally. Your Beauty is Abba's Beauty, Your Purity is Abba's Purity, Your Love is Abba's Love. You both love as One, for you are Two Persons sharing one Nature, along with the Spirit. The Three are One. How Beautiful You are, my God!
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