Dad for all time

The great insight of Jesus, and the one least appreciated in its implications, is his view of God as Father. And more than Father, but as Daddy. "Abba," the word we translate as Father, is a child's appellation -- a trusting name giving by a vulnerable and dependent being.

But I think we take God's fatherness for granted. And we don't really mean it.

We call God Father, but then ascribe all sorts of unfatherly behavior to him. He is capricious, like the weather he supposedly controls. He is unpredictable, cutting short people's lives before their time. He is wrathful -- a disinterested judge more than a Dad -- punishing those who displease him. He is regal, demanding worship, adulation and obedience.

But a Dad is none of those things. A Dad is long-suffering, teaching his children their simple lessons over and over until they get it right. He is fair, giving attention and love to all of his offspring. He is protective, taking the lashings of the world on his own shoulders, lest they fall on the little ones. He is generous, providing amply from the storehouse of his time, love and treasure.

Such a God may not inspire fear or frighten people onto the right road. And that makes him useless for preachers and priests, who need a terrifying judge-king, ready to punish. Which is why they twist him into a malevolent and vengeful bully.

But the God of Jesus is a constant guide and companion. A foolish, doting Daddy who gives rain to his children, good and bad. Who gives us our daily bread. Who pays the latecomers the same wage as the all-day workers. Who seeks us and wishes us life, even when we have spent his estate on diversions and immorality.

This is a God who is hard to reconcile with a YOLO (you only live once) philosophy. For what child of God can learn all there is to know in one lifetime? What children of a loving God would find themselves in eternal fire for having been born in the wrong era, or the wrong continent or the wrong side of the tracks? Whatever the mechanism by which God accomplishes his will -- whether by multiple lifetimes, or a long purgation of what is not holy, or a theology beyond our imagination, this God of Jesus must endure as a presence at death and beyond. Through poverty, betrayal and failure.

It's what any Dad would do.