“Our Father in Heaven…”
In the 1960s it was popular to talk about all people as being under the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Man. One man who ran for President, Nelson Rockefeller, used this expression all the time. His aids began to shorten it from “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Man” to “FOGBOM.”
We hear this in general. We might refer to fellow Americans as brothers or sisters. Soldiers may refer to brothers in arms. One person may refer to another person of the same race, or of the same team as a “brother” or a “sister.” I have not argument with that in general usage. It is true that we should view all of our fellow citizens as a kind of family. Everyone in American should get the same family privileges as everyone else. The Pledge speaks of “liberty and justice for all.”
the Bible uses the expression of Father in a different way. Not all people can call God their Father in this sense. That is because the world as a whole and individuals in their lives start in life as foreigners, exiles and even enemies of God. The Gospel invites those who are far away to come near.
Consider Prodigal son. You know this story. A Father had two sons. The younger one asked his father to give him his inheritance. This was an incredibly rude thing to do; it amounted to him saying “I can’t wait for you to die. I want my money now.” The Father gave him his money and the son blew the wad on wild living. Soon he was feeding the pigs of a farmer in a foreign land, which would be a bad occupation for someone Jewish. He even began to steal food from the pigs. That is as bad as it got.
He said to himself, I’ll go home. Even dad’s servants have it better than this. I’ll go home and ask to be a servant. As he approached home, his Father ran out and embraced him; he gave him a robe and a ring to show his dignity as a son. He welcomed him back.
We are not children of God by nature. By nature we are lost, like the prodigal, each in our own unique pig pen. We are created and loved by God. We are far off and away from Him because of our own choices. When we return we are adopted as sons and daughters. We are sons and daughters who are welcomed and celebrated.
Jesus invited followers to pray to God as our Father. This is radical. We are not alienated sinners any longer. We are the adopted children of God.
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:15-16