Several years ago, I was traveling with my wife and youngest daughter. We were in the airport, just enjoying each other’s company and having fun before our flight. I can still see my daughter as she lovingly reached her hands and heart out to me wanting another hug.
While enjoying this moment, the silence was broken by a family sitting next to us. The father of a boy about the same age as our daughter began to harshly correct him and then suddenly slap him on the face. Naturally, the small boy began to cry loudly and our hearts broke for both the child and his father. The father had no idea of the hurt and pain that he was inflicting upon his son.
Many people have grown up in family situations where abuse, criticism, and rejection were common. Many have not experienced a healthy father’s love. Rather, like the boy in the airport, only the pain of a harsh or abusive father.
For others, they have experienced the pain of rejection due to a father that was absent, whether physically or emotionally. Some have grown up with dads that were overbearing, perhaps performance-oriented. These fathers expect perfection, and when their children perform to their standards, then they are “accepted and loved.” It’s a conditional love, based on behaving properly, getting good grades, performing well in sports or other activities. However, God’s love toward us is unconditional, fully accepting, no matter how well we perform or measure up.
Sadly, many people have a distorted view of God’s love toward them. They view God through the “lenses” of the experiences they had with their earthly fathers and life. If their father was hard or abusive, they tend to view God as such. If their father was absent, or distant, they likewise tend to view God as absent and distant from them and their needs. If their dad was a perfectionist, well you can probably guess by now how they might view God. “He’s a perfectionist and I don’t measure up so I better stay far away from God!”
Jesus Showed Us the Father’s Love
Jesus taught and demonstrated just the opposite about our heavenly Father. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” In other words, what we see in the life of Jesus as depicted in the Gospels reveals the true nature of the Father. What Jesus represented was the unconditional love of God that says, “I love you just the way you are, you don’t have to measure up or perform a certain way, just come to Me and receive My love.” No strings, no conditions, just come to Him and receive His free gift of mercy and compassion offered through His son Jesus.
Even the religious in Jesus’ day didn’t fully understand this type of love. They often criticized Him for spending time with people that “didn’t measure up” by their standards. Yet, the social outcasts were the ones frequently drawn to Jesus and it was due to His unconditional love of them.
The story in Luke 15 of the son who left his father, spending his inheritance money on sinful living describes how our heavenly Father really feels towards us. In verse 20, when the son arose and came to his father, the father saw him from a distance, had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. The father wrapped his arms of love around him, forgave him and restored him. The son asked for forgiveness, and the father gave it fully and completely.
That’s what God wants to do for each of us through His Son, Jesus. Won’t you draw near today, and receive the Father’s love?