From the Root to the Tree

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Following on the post below, it occurs to me that if we accept God as Father, the next step stemming from the radical image is to truly regard each human being as brother and sister. Again, we're good at using the words, but for most of us that fact has no reality because it does not influence in the slightest the way we live. That is where the truth of our beliefs lay--if they shape what we do they are real. If they are silent and do not inform us, they are dead, beliefs in word only.

The reality of the human race as family escapes many of us. Perhaps it escapes most of us. Maybe only the great missionary saints really have any idea of what it meant. But it stems from the fact that God is our Father. He is our Father in more than a distant and fearsome way. He is our Father in a way that will transform and change us, if we allow it. More,

from Psalm 139:13-16
13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made: marvellous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well.
15 My substance was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret, and intricately wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuity were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them.

He has thought us, each one, individually into being. He has guided our making with a tender hand. He is the founder and root of our being. Our parents conceived us, but He guarded us on the way to our birth, and He nurtured and knew us in the womb. How much more a Father then, than one who may only supply the genetic material.

We are family. We so often show it through sibling rivalry and our attempts to beat each other up. Perhaps it would be better if we thought of ourselves all sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner after a pleasant day of preparation and reacquaintance. Perhaps we should try to be on our best behavior rather than parade our "us and them" attitude.

The logical consequence of truly believing that God is our Father is to believe that we are all brothers and sisters. If we do believe this then it is time to stop making excuses about why we cannot express it, or how we aren't called to this or that ministry, and make the attempt to treat the people we encounter each day more than civilly. We must learn to treat them with a deep-rooted love of a family with so loving a Father.

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I agree completely with you here. But what is strikes me with awe is that in Christ, God is also our brother. Further, it is in Christ that we have the most immediate experience of our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters; since Christ has the experience of God as Father more immediately. And because of this immediacy, we can see how our obligations to our fellow humans, as brothers and sisters, are in some measure the same as our obligations towards God.

The greatest commandment really is just like the other one.

Dear Steven,

Another wonderful post. But - and here I might be repeating what Ben has said - should we regard accepting each human being as our brother and sister as a "next step" from first accepting God as Father? For instance, you write, "The logical consequence of truly believing that God is our Father is to believe that we are all brothers and sisters." I want to ask: Doesn't believing that we are all brother and sisters have to be *simultaneous* with believing that God is our Father?


Dear Neil,

I don't see how it can be. I cannot be part of a family with no head. If I do not recognize the fatherhood of God and the elder Brother Status of Christ, how am I to see my neighbors as brothers and sisters? Understand I am not talking in action, I'm talking in logical steps. The reality is that the two should be inseperable in operation, even if one is the logical conclusion of the other. But often it takes time to internalize the meaning of God as Father before one can begin to function as though we were brothers and sisters.



Dear Steven,

I agree, of course, that a family needs structure and thus requires a head. But isn't a family constituted by relationships - not by the Father or Son, for instance, in isolation, but by the love between the Father and Son? And then wouldn't we only be able to "internalize the meaning of God as Father" through participation in these relationships, as, for instance, an adopted son? That is, I think that we only come to know God as Father by participating in his love for the world (through the Son's love for the Father).

My thinking here is governed by two concerns. Let me know if you think that these are misplaced.

First, it is easy to see God as Father through the lens of some masculine ideal. God is then perfectly autonomous and perfectly rational, His will never thwarted and never swayed by the passions. We admire God's upholding of a moral order and coherent plan of salvation. God thus becomes the middle class male par excellence, beyond the need for relationships or community. He becomes less than triune.

Second, many people, as I am sure that you know, have difficulty relating to God as Father for various reasons, not in the least personal tragedy. Nevertheless, they find themselves loving their neighbor with a selfless love that seems to demand a divine affirmation of that neighbor to really make sense. Can they examine their otherwise inexplicable love for their neighbor in its fullest depths, find themselves drawn to Jesus as their brother, and then come to address God as Father?

Thank you.


I think the matter differs for each person. Let us leave it at that. The experience of the individuals are those experiences. I report from where I live and what I have seen; therefore, I see this somewhat differently--which is not to deny the point you put forth. So, it appears that God has many ways to get to Him, what a surprise. But, for the point of talking about Therese, what is said here is a sufficient start, with more to come later.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 17, 2003 8:12 AM.

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