“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort,” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. The word comfort is used nine times in this passage. What exactly is implied by comfort? It is not pampering, for the idea of suffering is mentioned side by side with comfort seven times. This comfort might be likened to solace, or consolation. While it does not take away the pain or suffering, this comfort does give us the patient endurance necessary to continue onward.
To think of God as the Father of compassion, the God of comfort, seems to truly help us in navigating what it means to be a father in our own lives. The issue of spiritual fatherhood is brought up many in my circle of friends. Some have taken it upon themselves to be spiritual fathers because of their age and knowledge, yet they do not have a father’s heart. Noah got drunk, something I’m sure was not intentional. Yet, is it possible that God allowed this father to experience disgrace in order to give opportunity to the sons to cover their father’s sin with love? This might make a little more sense of why Noah had such a harsh rebuke to Ham. Maybe instead of showing the character that had been revealed by Noah on what it means to live a godly life, Ham displayed a character that was rampant before the flood. Instead of living in the righteousness that was taught and displayed by his father, Ham pursued the wickedness of the age.
Fatherhood is about discipleship. It is about priestliness. We take up the sins of our sons upon our own shoulders. We bear their immaturity. We accept the shame and disgrace that they might bring in order to develop in them love and righteousness. As Paul told the Church in Corinth, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In this statement we find fatherhood. To imitate Paul is to imitate Christ. God has brought this man into such a relationship with Him that you cannot separate the two. To see Paul is to see the Father – he and the Father are one. Because Paul has followed His rabbi – Jesus – and been brought unto the sonship of the Father, he is now equipped to go and call others unto the glory of being sons and daughters. No longer does Jesus look that we would be children, but brothers. To be the brother of Jesus is a statement of character, a statement of maturity. When we have been brought into the reality of maturity that we live like Christ lived, which is to say, we follow the Father’s example, we have thus been made sons and daughters, and not mere children, of God.
In this we find God’s heart. God as Father means teaching His children to be like Him. Yet, in that it is not to make replicas, but rather to teach maturity and character. When we display the maturity and character of Christ, we are displaying the character of God the Father. That kind of character does not take us from being who we are, but interestingly calls us to fulfilling all that we are. God has called us to being the very people that He has called us to be, and that calling is predicated upon being free from everything that would cause us to live in a way that we are not. We are made in the image of God, and anything that would cause us to live in a skewed reflection of God is sin. If the Father has not revealed to you His character, then one might ask the question of whether we have truly come to Christ. To see Christ is to see the Father. They do not have two separate characters. The distinction made is their heart. The heart of the Father is directed to His children. The heart of the Son is directed to His Father, and in being directed to His Father, is also directed toward His brothers. The Spirit is the revelation of God in us. While Christ reveals the Father to us, God has given His Spirit to dwell within us. The heart of the Spirit is that we would rely upon Him in order to be brought into the image of Christ. The disposition of each member of the trinity is distinct, yet they all have the same character. To rely upon the Spirit is to be brought into the image of Christ, and to be conformed to the image of Christ is to display the Father to the world.
God as Father is difficult for us to comprehend because we lack so heavily. The Father’s heart is never to promote Himself, nor to cause you to be Him. It is the heart of the Father that displays to us what true love is. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” What does this verse tell us? It is telling us more than simply ‘God loves us and we need to believe in Jesus to be saved.’ God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Why did God give His Son? The reason that the Father gave His Son on our behalf is that we might also be adopted as sons and daughters – made coheirs with Christ. It is to bring many sons to glory. It is not simply so that we might make it to heaven, but instead that we might also display to the world the heart of the Father. Don’t forget that this same Son who was given told His disciples, “If any man desires to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
It is our calling as sons and daughters to be the sacrificial sons and daughters on behalf of the world. This is the heart of the Father: that the entire world would come to know Him. The way that this takes place is by our sacrifice – in living as Jesus lived, we point the way to God by imitating The Way. This is why we suffer. If we have been baptized into Christ, then we have been baptized into His death. What does this mean but that we will also taste of His sufferings? Yet, we know that if we partake in His sufferings, that we will be raised unto life by the same glory that raised Christ unto life. The same consolation that Christ received is given freely to us. This is fatherhood: to give even the most precious thing you have – your only begotten Son – in order to bring many sons unto glory.