God Is A Parent
One of the things that I get asked most often as a pastor is the question, "Why would a good and loving God ___________?"
The "blank" can be filled in with several things, as you can imagine. It could refer to another school shooting, a natural disaster, a personal tragedy, children starving, and the horrors of war.
The list of things we wish God would do something about or prevent is long. We all have them, and some things on our list are deeply personal and often traumatic events.
For many people who don't believe in God, the seemingly nebulous answers to that question are at or near the reasons why they are atheists.
Many atheists argue that if God exists, then God is either powerless or cruel. And even the arguments we make about God granting freedom to us and to all of Creation because God does not coerce love tend to fall short for many people.
I've been reading an excellent book by Thomas Jay Oord called Open And Relational Theology. In this book, Oord takes on these arguments and offers a different perspective:
Like a good parent, a loving God neither manipulates nor abandons. The divine Parent loves through guidance, influence, and wisdom. God sees the intrinsic value of children and coaxes them toward a better future, individually, corporately, and as a civilization. And we make a real contribution, partnering with the divine.
This idea of God as a parent may not be foreign to you, but what sets Oord's notion apart is his belief that God doesn't pre-determine outcomes.
Any good parent will use whatever influence they have to teach and guide their kids to a better future. When the kids are young, they may need more guidance, but in the end, parents have to release them to their future.
In the same way, God guides us, influences us, and even reveals Godself to us in ways that lead us to become the people God longs for us to be. And God is with us when we hurt and celebrates with us when we are filled with joy.
Like Oord says, you and I are part of God's purpose for us. God is open and relational. God surrenders the outcomes when we make decisions, but God is always with us and relating to us even when we choose poorly.
So in the face of tragedy and disasters, war and strife, God suffers with those who suffer and restores, renews, and resurrects even what may have been meant for evil against us into what is good, beautiful, and true.
You and I are co-creators of this kind of hope. We contribute to God's restoration of the world and of us.
And we do so knowing that a loving and gracious God is near, with purposes that are not meant to harm us, but to give us hope and a future.
May we all feel this deeply within our heart of hearts, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.