When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began with “Our Father in heaven…”
This would have been a stark contrast to the Jewish “shema” prayer repeated every morning and evening. Twice a day they began with the words from Deuteronomy 6:7, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, The LORD is one.” The Jewish people knew there was one true God. But they didn’t know Him as their Father. I think many of us are in the same boat–we believe God exists, but we don’t truly believe He likes us. We still think He’s secretly (or not-so-secretly) disappointed and ashamed of us.
But when we begin with God positioned as our Father, we become aligned as His children. When we begin to trust that He is a good Father who loves us because He made us (and not for what we can “make” of ourselves), our prayers change and our lives start to look different.
With God as our Father, we can forgive our earthly parents–the good, the bad, and the absent parents–because our Heavenly Father meets every core emotional need and heals every relational wound. Just as God is our Father, He is also our parents’ Father. We can point our parents to the perfect parent, too. Perhaps He has been standing at the front porch, arms outstretched, for our prodigal parents to return home.
With God as our Father, we can take the pressure off ourselves to be the perfect parent–because our Heavenly Father is our children’s Father, too. He is the perfect parent, and we don’t have to usurp His role in their lives. When we hurt our children unintentionally, we can apologize and ask for their forgiveness, and remind them that God is always kind and attentive to them–even when we fail. He never hurts them. He never gets annoyed by them. He is always delighted to hear from them, even when we are weary of their words.
When we live as children of God, we realize that every human need is satisfied in Him and we’re freed to honor our parents without being burdened from their expectations. In God’s family, we are called to interact in a system of honor and humility for each other out of reverence for Jesus.
When there are patterns of sin in Christian families, we (as children of God) can call it out and say, “Hey fam, this isn’t what God has called us to.” When sinful behaviors are addressed, there is an opportunity for repentance. With repentance, there can be reconciliation and the relationship can be restored.
However, if there is no acknowledgement of sin, there can be no repentance (no “turning from” that behavior) and no reconciliation. We can forgive our families for their offense, even if they don’t admit to it–because God our Father has forgiven us of everything, we can forgive anyone of anything–but God’s children cannot sweep sinful behaviors under the rug. We need to call it out for what it is, and if there is no change (of heart and behavior), then we have to create boundaries so that intentionally ignored sin can no longer continue hurting people.
Remember: We always belonged to God first. Our parents had us on loan. Our children are on loan. We are all in need of a perfect Father who shows up for us 100%–and He does. He loves us and sets boundaries to keep all the good things in, and all the bad things out. As His children we need to do the same. When we call sin for what it is, God’s children can thrive as a holy people, not an ashamed-and-silenced group of victims repeatedly abused by behaviors that God says are unacceptable. We’re His children first, and He never harms His family.
May we live out that identity.
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash