When we hear God called Father, we think of biological fathers. If we had a good father, we may perceive God as someone good like dad was. But if we had a bad father, then calling God Father may sour our understanding of God. And while fathers on earth are analogies of the Father in heaven, we should affirm that human fathers do not define God as Father. Actually, fathers receive their name from God who was already the Father before he created the world.
Fatherhood points to a spiritual reality
God is not Father because humans have fathers. The opposite is true: every father gets his name from the archetypical father: the Father. Paul explains: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:14–15). Families on earth are named from the Father.
The Father had always been the Father
The Father is the Father of the Son because he gives life to the Son. Biological fatherhood points this reality. But spiritual fatherhood likewise fulfills the role of the Archetype, The Father. Paul called Timothy his “son.” You can be a father even without a biological child.
Parenting imitates God
To be a parent is to imitate God. He creates, cares, and provides for us. We too create (we call it “procreation”), care, and provide for our children. But this analogy works from heaven to earth; from God down to us.
So when fathers abuse or hurt others, they vitiate the reality of the archetype, the Father. They fail to be fathers because they fail to be like God.
Every father who mistreats their children denies their duty to portray God to their family. They private what is good. They tarnish the vision of the reality behind what they do: namely of God the Father.
Imitate the Father to be a good father
So before we look to fathers in this world to define God, let’s start where we must: with God who was Father before the creation of the world. The Father gave, gives, and will continue to give life to the Son for eternity. This nurturing and sharing love of the Father defines our task of fatherhood.
We too must nurture, share, and give of ourselves. We must become like the archetype to come by the name of father honestly. This is our duty: to make the Father known by being like him.