But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. (Galatians 4:4–7 NLT)
A quick look at nearly any ranking of the best literary fathers of the past century, and you’d be hard-pressed not to find Atticus Finch listed near the top. The father of Scout and Jem, the child protagonists in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus was a widowed lawyer doing his best to raise his children in the Deep South during the Great Depression. Throughout the book, we see him strive to instill a sense of right and wrong, empathy, and kindness into his children, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
One of the reasons we are so fascinated by fictional fathers such as Atticus – as well as the myriad others that populate novels, shows, and movies – is because they can be more righteous, funnier, kinder, and all around better fathers than any of us ever had. That’s not to say that our earthly fathers were terrible; many of us had excellent fathers who attempted to follow closely in the way of Jesus, seek God in all their days, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide their words and deeds. Yet, none of us is perfect, so fiction often wins out over reality when looking for role models.
And yet, there is one father all of us can look up to who is neither fictional nor flawed. Our Father in Heaven is the ultimate example of a good father. As Isaiah 63:15–16 points out, not only is the Lord a father who is compassionate and merciful and who will never disown us, he is also “our Redeemer from ages past.” As our Father, God is, from ages past until the end of time itself, working to bring about the restoration of all things, an important part of which includes Jesus’s birth, life, teaching, miracles, death, and resurrection. And like a young child who, in bringing a broken toy to her father, is shown how to reattach a wheel or replace dead batteries, we are invited by our Heavenly Father to join in the restorative process taking place in our world. Through the example of Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are called as children of God to extend a bit of shalom into our world by helping to restore relationships – between people and God, between neighbors, and between mankind and creation.
Similar to that child helping her father fix her favorite toy, we need not be perfect – or even proficient – to be of help, and praise God for that. “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Find ways, as the Spirit directs you, to join God in extending a bit of shalom into our world.