Exploring the nature of someone as big as God, takes a careful approach. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope – making a statement that is true but not balanced, can create the wrong concept and knock us off the rope to one side or the other. Christianity claims that God is a righteous king (meaning one that is honourable, deserving, and without fault), while at the same time, someone with the heart of a father – in fact, these aspects are so key that one cannot properly comprehend God unless both are understood. So how do these two unique attributes work together to describe a single being? In this article, I will explain these concepts, using each to refine the other, to help us arrive at a cohesive and accurate image of God.
- A father heart longs for a relationship with his creation. Fathers take delight in their children. On earth, not all fathers embody the qualities fathers ought to have, but the general ideal of a father’s caring attitude towards his children is easily recognized. In the same way, God, as a perfect Father, does not want to simply sit back and observe his creation, rather He desires to be close to us, to bless us, and be involved in our lives in the deepest sense. This is the whole point of creating humanity in the first place – He wants to live with us forever, in happiness and harmony! A healthy spirit (the part of us that relates to God) is then of greater importance than anything else. God wants to give us, first and foremost, the deep inner joy that only comes from being close to Him.
- A righteous king will remove from his kingdom that which is rebellious. Any one of us will feel the desire to cut ties with someone who perpetually mistreats us. How much more will a righteous king, who deserves honour, eliminate anything that truly offends him? Nothing offends a king more than rebellion. So what is rebellion? It is continuing to do anything that the king has forbidden. The Christian claim is that God has laid out many standards of behavior for humanity. Continuing to live contrary to any of these is rebellion, and is always done in the full view of God. (Scary, since we all continue to miss living up to God’s standard.) With God we have the greatest possible being (infinitely good, infinitely worthy, infinitely pure) so the disparity between Him and any level, however small, of rebellion is infinitely glaring and infinitely inappropriate. That such a king would do away with those who continue to be rebellious is therefore an absolute certainty.
- A father heart will go to extreme lengths to rescue his creation that has been corrupted. Fathers have a special attachment to their children and do not easily give up on them when they fail to live up to expectations. Fathers make sincere efforts to benefit their children, whether that be by giving time, physical energy, money, forgiveness, discipline, etc. God’s father heart will actively apply Himself to the goal of restoring the relationship with His creation after their rebellion. Compassion is a father heart’s driving force, and it compels him to offer full forgiveness. Regardless of the wrongs committed against him or the time spent rebelling against him, a father heart will patiently wait for His offer of restoration to be accepted. The offer is for full amnesty, and does not carry with it ongoing blame or resentment. The father heart of God may show itself in many ways, but one would certainly be: coming down to earth to present Himself in person, to explain His expectations, reveal His authenticity, demonstrate how to live and take hold of His gift, and showcase His compassion through great sacrifice. All of these actions were accomplished by Jesus Christ while he walked the earth. His followers continue to point to Him as the living message of God as righteous king and father heart.
- A righteous king will not abandon justice. Our hearts cry out for justice when wrongs have been committed. It is a universally experienced sense that it is not fair to leave wrongs unpunished. For a king to be truly righteous, he must care deeply about his subjects and the wrongs done to them. He must do everything in his power to bring justice to them, and he will. If someone broke your window, it would not feel right for the judge to say to the guilty party, “That’s okay, I forgive you. You’re free to go,” without any payment for the damage. It is the authority’s job to defend those who have been wronged. But what about wrongs that only violate the king’s will and don’t hurt other people? Ultimately (as point #2 shows), it makes no difference – all wrongs, whether done against the king’s other subjects, ourselves, or the king himself, amount to unacceptable disorder in the king’s kingdom. In other words, it doesn’t matter who’s window you break (yours or someone else’s), you are held responsible. If God did indeed create us, then we, though free-choosing beings, are still God’s property, and He is owed righteous behavior, even towards ourselves. Failure to offer this, means He is wronged – in essence, we have stolen from him or have damaged his property. A righteous king’s justice will defend himself, just as he will anyone else. In the broken window scenario, a judge who wished to offer forgiveness as well as uphold justice would be able to do so, but only by one method – to pay for the window out of his own pocket. (And that is his prerogative if he should wish to do so.)
- A father heart upholds the right for his creation to have free choice. How can rebellion happen in the first place? Isn’t this evidence of faulty creation? Actually, it is a necessary possibility if any freedom is to exist at all. A central part of the love of a father heart is to provide freedom. A creator who doesn’t give choice to his creation, has only robots. If it is the goal of the creator to have a relationship with His creation (to be friends, rather than have robot servants), free choice must exist. God will certainly try to rescue everyone (offer them amnesty), but since free will is God’s desired context, each of us has to make a choice, even regarding God’s desire to rescue us. God desires freely chosen love, not forced. Just like if, in wanting to experience true love, you somehow forced someone to marry you against their will – it would not be the true loving relationship you are looking for. Consider also, a father’s perspective: what would a father do if his beloved children, asked him to prove to them that he loved them? What else could he do but show his heart in living example, with words and deeds (even significantly sacrificial deeds)? If the children were in danger of serious or lifelong consequences, the father’s love would include warnings (even painful ones), to understand and accept any ways of escape that were available. And then, offers of proof being as they are, it is up to the children to choose to accept his love as sincere, or not.
Showing God to be both a righteous king and someone with a father heart is not only a consistent concept, it is a compelling description of the creator we should expect to find, considering the world we find ourselves in (a world full of goodness, wrongdoing, and pain), especially when held up to the life and words of Jesus. (If you haven’t visited His life and words in a while, refresh yourself with them.) Considering the clear fact that we all have preferred to do things that we know are wrong, it is quite the bad news (for us) to find that there exists a God who is a righteous king, but it comes as a most glorious relief to find that this same God has a father heart, and who humbly holds out His hand to offer forgiveness, and to be part of our life. Not only this, but through the Holy Spirit, He even offers us the change of heart needed to really change! Allow Him to come close to your heart, and receive His offer. It is real freedom from guilt, and the joy of a lifetime!