By Vince Antonucci
My father didn’t love me.
Well, I guess I couldn’t prove that, but it’d be way more challenging to prove he did. He never said the words, “I love you.” He was emotionally and verbally abusive. He walked out on us when I was eleven.
My father didn’t love me and I hated him. I not only hated him but I even hated the word “father.”
At the age of twenty I started reading the Bible and I was introduced to God. To my surprise, I was interested, even attracted. Except for one problem. The Bible referred to God as “Father.” Ugh. The last thing I wanted was another one of those.
It’s been a challenging journey, but ever since I’ve been discovering what kind of Father I have in God. I’ve been learning that my Father loves me.
GOD IS LOVE
Saying God loves is an understatement. The truth is: God is love. We’re told in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” It doesn’t say, “God is loving.” If so, that would be a characteristic of God. This is more than that. I am a human being. God is love.
God, our Father, is love, and it’s personal. God is love, and He loves me. He loves you. He loves you not in a generic way, because, you know, He has to love you, He’s God. No, God is love, created you for His love, and loves you with a perfect, unconditional, pure and passionate love.
I remember when I first fell in love with my wife. When I was with her my heart would beat fast. When we were apart, I’d hear a love song and sing along, thinking of her. That’s the kind of love God has for you. Check out how the Bible describes God’s orientation towards you and feelings for you, in Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” When God has spare time, He writes love songs about you. When He catches a glimpse of you, He breaks into song.
That’s our Father. God is love and He loves us with a perfect, unconditional, pure, and passionate love.
That’s true, but it also raises some questions. As a pastor I teach people God loves them, and I often get these questions in return.
“If God is love, and loves with a perfect, unconditional, pure and passionate love, then why does He give all these rules?”
If God is a loving Father, if He loves me so much, then why all the “don’t do this,” and “don’t do that?” That’s a good question. The answer is: Because He loves you so much.
Every “don’t” God gives us is a boundary to protect us from behavior that could harm us. Every good father gives his kids rules, “Don’t touch the hot stove,” “Don’t play near the street.” Why do good fathers give their children rules? Love.
God is a good Father and he provides loving boundaries to keep us safe, not arbitrary rules to take the fun out of life. We may not understand all His rules. There may be some we don’t want to follow. But I have learned that my Father is wiser than I am, and I would be wise to trust Him.
“If God is love, and loves with a perfect, unconditional, pure and passionate love, then why does He hate stuff?”
If God is a loving Father, if He loves me so much, then why does He hate things so much, you know, like sin? That’s another good question. The answer is: Because He loves you so much. God hates certain things, like sin, because He is love.
Think of it this way. I’m a pretty loving guy. And I have two kids I love a lot. When they were little I would go in at night to make sure they were sleeping and to pray for them. Let’s say one night I go into my daughter’s room and when I look in the crib I see a big poisonous snake slithering over her body. What would I do? I’d do nothing, because I’m a loving guy. I would try to make the snake feel at home, encourage him on his shiny scales. Right? Wrong. I wouldn’t do that, because that wouldn’t be loving. I would hate the snake and its presence in my child’s life. I would grab the snake and I would destroy it. Why? Because I am loving. I am not going to allow something poisonous to endanger the life of my kid.
Why does God hate sin? Because He loves us, and He will not tolerate something poisonous like sin to endanger His children. So God hates some things. He hates gossip, because it destroys people’s reputations. He hates lying, because it destroys relationships. He hates bitterness, because it destroys people’s spirits. He hates the abuse of alcohol, because it destroys families. God hates, because He is love.
God does not hate people. He doesn’t even hate people who do those things. Instead, He wants to help them out of those behaviors so they can live good, healthy lives. He is a good Father.
If God is love, and loves with a perfect, unconditional, pure and passionate love, then where is He in my life?
If God is a loving Father, then why does He seem absent from my life? The answer? God is with you all the time, even if you don’t sense His presence. God is present, even when it seems like He’s absent from your life or from the world. God says in Genesis 28:15, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. . .” Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “And surely, I am with you always…”
This assumes that you have invited God into your life. God is a gentleman, and He will not force Himself on you. He’ll wait for you to invite Him in. Once you do, He’s with you all the time, even if you can’t see or hear Him.
There have been a couple of periods in my years as a Christian when I felt like God was absent from my life. I faced challenging circumstances, I prayed, but I couldn’t feel God’s presence in my life. Intellectually, I still knew He loved me, but His love didn’t seem to be touching my life in any discernible way.
Here’s what’s interesting: Looking back, now I can totally see how God was with me and was working in my life during those specific periods. In fact, it’s much easier for me to see how God was in my life during those darker times, then during the better times when it was easy for me to feel God’s presence in my life. I now realize in the worst of times, God was a good Father.
If you’ve invited God into your life, there is someone with you, watching over you. You may not be able to see or hear him, but you are never out of His sight, never out of His care.
THE FATHER I NEEDED
God is repeatedly called a father in the Bible. Jesus alone portrays God as our father about 160 times. It used to be the thing that bothered me the most. Today, I’m grateful for it. God is the Father I always needed, but never had. And it turns out he’s nothing like my earthly dad.
God is love, and He is a good, good Father.
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