God is often called the Father. Is his love like that of a parent?
During the month of May, graduation ceremonies take place in schools across the US and around the world. Valedictorians and salutatorians will address crowds of family members and friends as well as their classmates. It’s almost inevitable that at some point in those speeches, the graduates will say a few words to their parents, thanking them for the support that helped guide them along the path of success.
Often, the love these parents have bestowed upon their children is at the heart of this achievement. Graduates frequently mention how mom and dad were there throughout their educational career—from the uncertain days of kindergarten to the awkward adolescence of junior high to the stress of high school. Whether it’s through late-night study sessions around the dinner table, transportation to games and extracurricular events, countless meals made and served, or counsel shared when times got tough, parents try to demonstrate their love for their children consistently and constantly.
God as Parent
There’s a higher parallel here. As human parents care for their offspring, so God watches over his creation. From the very start, he is with each of us, nurturing, protecting, supporting, and guiding in a way that’s meant to lead to our ultimate success and well-being.
In the Bible, we are even encouraged to call God “our Father.” Many times in the Old Testament, God reveals himself as “the God of your fathers.”1 In the New Testament, Jesus states that he and the Father are one2, and later, when instructing his disciples in how to pray, he tells them to begin, “Our Father in heaven.”3
God constantly shepherds his people, much in the way a human parent guides their child. In Genesis, God leads Abram (later renamed Abraham) away from his birthplace to the land of Canaan. Why take such an uncertain, uncharted journey? Because God made Abram a promise—a promise to guide him into a better future: “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west,” God said to Abram. “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”4
God continues to be a father to his people throughout history, from leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt to sharing messages of direction through his prophets to sending his own son, Jesus, to die an excruciating death in order to save humankind from the eternal consequences of their sin. Every bit of this was done for the benefit and long-term blessing of his creation.
And what does he ask in return for such selfless acts of love? Like most parents, not that much. Our parents’ highest goal is to see us succeed—to see us become productive and moral members of society who share our gifts with those around us in a way that makes a positive difference. God wants the same, asking us also to share the forgiveness and salvation that has been promised to us through Jesus Christ.
After the graduation speeches have been given, the tassels moved, and the diplomas dispensed, there’s a vast celebration as family members, friends, and relatives reunite with their graduates. It’s a time of great joy, with tears and embraces and gifts freely bestowed upon the student who has reached this important milestone.
Christians believe a similar reunion awaits them in heaven. There those of us who have passed through death will reunite with the loved ones who have gone on before us and with scores of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
With the cheers of angelic choirs in the background, we will embrace each other, smile, and laugh as we celebrate this ultimate achievement together. In heaven there is also a gift to be given—the best gift, in fact: eternal salvation with our Lord and God, thanks to the sacrifice of his son.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”5