Posted on Sunday, Feb 27, 2022 by Scott Savage

the-parable-of the loving father

Every year at churches, attendance rises around three significant days. Christmas, Easter, and Mother's Day. One of these days is not like the other. Mother's Day, for many churches, is the third-largest day for attendance each year. 

But if you fast forward just one month from Mother's Day to Father's Day, it's a very different story. While there are many reasons for this common pattern, I think one area deserves reflection. 

Many people struggle with their earthly father. This struggle often impacts relationships with other people, even a relationship with God. 

Everyone has a sinful, imperfect father, but the range and nature of that sin and imperfection is quite diverse. Some people have a father who was physically present, while others had a father who was physically absent. Some had a father who was present and emotionally engaged, while others had a father who was emotionally distant. Even further, some of us have fathers who helped us, and others have fathers who hurt us, some who sacrificially loved us, and others who sacrificed us for their own ambitions and agendas.

As a pastor, I have the privilege of being invited into intimate and personal conversations with individuals and families. Over time, I’ve seen a pattern repeated in young and old, rich and poor, among all races, and in people from all parts of the world. When we struggle to connect with our earthly father, it’s very common to struggle to connect with God as a Heavenly Father.

Whenever I’ve taught on the theme of God as Father, I’ve felt it in the room and heard it in the lobby and my office the following week. “I can do God as Creator, Jesus as My Savior, the Holy Spirit as My Sustainer. I can grasp God’s sovereignty. It makes sense that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and eternal. I can even wrap my mind around Him existing eternally, outside of time and space. But, when you start talking about God as Father, I cannot go with you.”

For so many, as soon as we hear about God as Father, our mind goes to our human father. And yet, God is not like our earthly father.

Go back and read that again.

In his book, Not Forsaken, here’s how author and pastor, Louie Giglio, presents this truth. “​​God is not a reflection of our Earthly father; He is the perfection of him. We are loved sons and daughters of a perfect Heavenly Father. You see, God is not the bigger version of your earthly dad, He’s the perfect version of your earthly dad. And He’s inviting you to walk in freedom as His loved son or daughter.”

God is not like your earthly father. If yours was bad, this is really good news. And, even if yours was great, God is better. That’s good news, too!

One of the best pictures of God as Father is recorded in Luke 15:11-32. In various Bibles and most instances, this story is known as the Parable of the Lost Son or the Parable of the Prodigal Son. According to that title, the focus of the story is the son who rebels, wanders, sobers up, runs home, and finds restoration. 

However, years ago, I began to feel this story had been horribly titled. I believe a better title is the Parable of the Loving Father. The reason why this story has reached so far and wide over the centuries is not because of what it tells us about humanity; this story offers us hope because of what it tells us about who God is as a Father.

Henri Nouwen beautifully wrote about this story in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, following a private viewing of Rembrandt’s famous painting of the reunion between the son and the father. The viewing led to profound insights.

"God is not the patriarch who stays home, doesn't move, and expects his children to come to him, apologize for their aberrant behavior, beg for forgiveness, and promise to do better. On the contrary, he leaves the house, ignoring his dignity by running toward them, pays no heed to apologies and promises of change, and brings them to the table. I have to keep saying to myself, ‘God is looking for you. He will go anywhere to find you. He loves you, he wants you home, he cannot rest unless he has you with him.’” 

It’s this same moment that moved @Ryan Ellis to write his song, “Heart of a Father.”

the parable of the loving father

RELATED CONTENT: Ryan Ellis shares there’s always going to be the grace and love of God waiting for you in "Heart Of The Father"

I want to encourage you today that God is a Perfect Father. He loves you. He is pursuing you. Today, you can find a home in Him - a place of rest from all of the hurt, pain, and burdens you’re carrying in this world. 

If you struggle with an idea like this, if you struggle to sing songs like "Heart of a Father" or "Good, Good Father," you are not alone. 

My prayer for you today is for you to pause and consider the idea that Jesus’ life and teaching, recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, give us a glimpse into the heart and character of God. When Jesus talks about His Father in John 14, he says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” 

Your father isn’t a perfect reflection of your Heavenly Father. Jesus is the perfect reflection of your Heavenly Father. God is worthy of praise because He is Father. Today, when you read Scripture, pray, or turn on Air1, you can worship a God who is worthy because He is Father to you. 

Whatever the nature of your relationship with your earthly father, I pray that you come to know the unconditional love and embrace of your Heavenly Father this year in ways you’ve never known before now. 


Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the coolest last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He helps hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com

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