When thinking of how to relate to God, I believe he has shown us through his Son. Jesus in teaching about prayer gave us what is known as the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9-13). The prayer begins with “Our Father in heaven”. I believe that in this expression God makes it clear that he wants us to know him as Father. Throughout the words of Jesus he refers to God as his father and our father. There are many telling expressions that Jesus shared giving us insight into the nature of the relationship God offers us as our Father, but the one I like and personally understand the most is the parable of the lost son.
In the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells the story of a son who takes his share of his father’s wealth, leaves home, and goes to squander his money in wild living. When the money is all gone, he finds himself destitute and working as a servant feeding pigs. Obviously his predicament is the result of his own choices. He chose this path against the wishes and wisdom of his father. Not only did he go against his father’s wishes, but what he did, according to Hebrew society of the time, was to bring shame to his father. Yet, when the son recognizes what he has done he decides to return and put himself at the mercy of his father. I guess we can all imagine the reception he might receive from a human father. But, the father in this story represents the heart of our Heavenly Father, and I believe it gives us an example of what to expect when relating to God as our father.
In Jesus’ parable the son is received with open arms, and the father puts on a big party to welcome him home. This is forgiveness in its truest sense. John reminds us in his first letter (1 John 1:9) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I love this parable because it describes the reception I received when I returned to God. He didn’t condemn me, but he welcomed me back with complete forgiveness. He is a loving and forgiving father.