I’m the oldest child of four and growing up, I would often find myself in trouble for teasing or picking on my younger siblings.
Most of the time, I wasn’t aware of how my actions impacted my parents, but one day I noticed the compassion my dad had for me as I was being punished. It was like something woke up inside.
Dad doesn’t want to punish me any more than I want him to, but he does because he loves me and wants to teach me how to be a good kid.
Hebrews 12:5–6 says “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” The Lord, like my dad, wants me to grow up to be a good, God-honouring person.
I understand concepts like compassion, grace, love, and justice because my parents model them. And I wonder how I would know these things about God if I didn’t have a godly father.
Of course, my parents and all other people are only human and therefore imperfect. If I were to only look at others to shape how I see God, it would be a discouraging and distorted picture.
In his message titled “The Love of God,” Pastor Chuck Swindoll warns against basing our idea of God on our earthly experiences. “If we shape our thinking about God from the culture around us, our life will remain complicated and even become chaotic. But if we allow Holy Scripture to shape our thinking, God will emerge in our minds as he is: real, personal, meaningful, all-powerful. What we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1 What we think about God shapes our hearts, minds, and actions.
Having an imperfect dad does not make God less perfect (Matthew 5:48), and even if you haven’t experienced God's love through an earthly parent it doesn’t change the fact that God’s love is perfect and He is your Heavenly Father (1 John 4:7–8).
Seeing God's love demonstrated through my dad was how I first learned to relate to God. But it wouldn't be enough to leave it there. In order for my relationship with God to become living and active, I had to learn for myself what the Bible said about Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to shape my thinking of who God really is.
1. The Love of God,” How Great is our God.