Guest Author: Jerel Kuravackal
Let me tell you the story of a girl, who for the sake of anonymity, we’ll call Rachel. Her mom worked as a nurse. Her dad was in the Indian Army before coming to the U.S. and working for a large manufacturing company. As a result of her dad’s military background and his adherence to certain cultural norms, Rachel grew up in a fairly disciplined home with rigid rules. It was very important to her dad that she did well in school, and would choose a career and husband that was up to his standards (standards based mostly on cultural norms). This put a great deal of pressure on her to live up to these expectations. Rachel felt that if she didn’t choose specific courses of action in life, she would disappoint her dad. Ultimately her dad’s love, acceptance, and approval (whether perceived or real) was based on her performance in school and her ability to live up to his standards.
Don’t get me wrong. Rachel loves her parents and her parents love her. Her dad is a well-intentioned man, but ultimately flawed like all fathers. Except One.
There is one perfect Father who loves unconditionally. For those who place their faith in His Son, Jesus, He adopts us into His family. He too has high standards – sinless perfection. But rather than leaving us to uphold that impossible standard, He sent His Son Jesus, fully God and fully man, to live a life of sinless perfection in our place. So now we’re judged not on the basis of our own performance, but His.
In a recent conversation with Rachel, we talked about her story and celebrated how this truth of a perfect Father is such good news. After rejoicing in these gospel truths, Rachel was made aware of the influence her earthly father has had on her perception of God the Father. Though she knew these truths intellectually she had still been living in fear of disappointing God. If she performed well one day (by reading her Bible, praying, or partaking in other “spiritual” activities), she would feel loved, approved, and accepted by God. If she didn’t perform well another day she would feel unloved, unapproved, and unaccepted. Just like with her earthly father, her perceived acceptance before God was based on her performance and ability to live up to His standards.
I wonder how many of you can identify with Rachel or have stories similar to hers. I suspect quite a few. What was your dad like? How has this influenced your perception of God the Father? We all need to check our perception of God the Father, and all of our perceptions for that matter, against the truth of the gospel. In light of this, let me make a few observations and remind you of some gospel implications.
- When you look to an earthly father for acceptance and approval, your father becomes your functional savior.
- Earthly fathers were never meant to be God to us. Looking to them for acceptance and approval is asking them to be something they were never meant to be.
- When you truly find those things in God the Father through Jesus, and allow your God-given need for acceptance to be fully satisfied in Him, it frees you to show grace when you don’t feel accepted by your earthly father. You won’t need it from him anymore, because you’ll have it perfectly in God the Father.
- If you’re a father, model the love of God the Father as best as possible but ultimately point your children to Jesus who makes it possible to be adopted into the family of God. It’s only through Him that your children will know the unconditional love, acceptance and approval of a perfect Father (John 1:18).
- Know that if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, you have been adopted into God’s family and you are His dearly loved child, fully accepted not because you’re living such a good life, but because Jesus lived a perfect one on your behalf and His righteousness now covers you. When the Father looks at you, He doesn’t see your faults and failures, He sees the perfect Christ. Viewing God the Father through the lens of your earthly father may lead you to think “I obey God, therefore I’m accepted” but a proper view of God the Father means “I’m accepted by God through Jesus, therefore I obey.”