Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Father Metaphor

The Bible makes liberal use of metaphors to show God's truth. Jesus as a Shepherd comes to mind. Hosea's unfaithful wife as a metaphor for wayward Israel. And there's the Church as the Bride of Christ. What strikes me today is the "Father Metaphor." Jesus, when asked by his disciples about how they should pray, begins "Our Father . . . " So, we have God as Father: that could be quite a metaphor to confront for those of us men who have children.

For the Father Metaphor, I think, works both ways. The standard use of it is that the Lord God, in his great love for us, is like the perfect human father. That metaphorical use works for us who have had good fathers, as we try to understand God's character. (But what of those of us whose earthly fathers were not good fathers?)

On the other hand, maybe the Father Metaphor works the other way and would apply regardless of how our earthly fathers measured up. That is, God, in his relationship to us is the true father. In the reverse metaphor, God as father is the reality, but the relationship of us men to our offspring is something else. The ideal of our relationship to our children should be like the way God fathers us. God's love for us, then, is the standard to which we are to be held in respect to how we treat our children. Maybe that's the hidden point of the "Our Father . . . " metaphor.

So when I think of myself as a "father" on this Fathers Day, it is a challenging and disturbing thing, at least in part. How like the Father am I? In this respect "Fathers Day" presents us dads with a challenge as well as a celebration, or so it seems to me.

No comments: