Saturday, July 9, 2011

The LORD’s Parental Love

“Remember these things, O Jacob,

and Israel, for you are my servant;

I formed you, you are my servant;

O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud,

and your sins like mist;

return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

~Isaiah 44:21-22 (NRSV).

A parent’s love is neither ever forgotten nor inferior to any form of love; it remains consistent throughout life. Another thing about it is it’s always an ordered love; the child is always to obey and honour the parent who acts in righteousness. The growing child is always subordinate—not less important, but certainly lower in relationship status so far as decision-making is concerned. Maturity reigns. It must.

In the case of Israel, it had turned away from God and entered into the sins of the pagan nations. It was a disobedient child, not honouring the conditions of relationship established under the Suzerainty treaty the Lord made with them. God did what any loving parent does—he disciplined the chosen nation by sending another nation against it.

But just like any tough love, there’s a limit to the discipline, and the loving embrace is offered, expectant of repentance to re-form the relationship. This is what God’s offering here. It’s a second chance for the people of Israel to live blessed of God by living obediently to God.

The Message for Us

Parental relationships characterise life. They occur obviously in families, but if we look to supervisory relationships in the workplace they’re there also. Bosses are supposed to ‘rule’ in ways epitomising God; and their employees are supposed to honour and obey them, because they can be trusted.

The same construct exists elsewhere in society; the Apostle Paul talks about being “subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1f), even though in his own case (which might also occur in many of ours too) there was significant oppression.

When parental roles cannot be trusted is where the godly order goes haywire.

Furthermore, there are ‘parental’ relationships woven through each of our lives, and these augment the management of our own honouring and obedient behaviours. Note now how God uses ‘other nations’ (or parental-style relationships) to judge our disobedience and dishonouring of God’s will, reordering us for repentance.

God as Parent

If we think of God as the perfect parent—one who’s never wrong and always loving—we know there’s no just cause for disobedience and dishonouring the name of God... though, in fact, we do these things because of our sinful natures.

But God endures all our ‘stuff’ and because of Jesus’ substitution at the cross, we’re now completely redeemed. However, we’re not saved of loving judgment because of our ongoing sinful deeds.

We will always be servants under God; for this entire lifetime. And this is not a typical servant relationship. As children are to serve their parents, we’re to honour and obey God. This is the service of servanthood that the relationship with God entails.

Because of the grace uttered eternally at Jesus’ sacrifice we’re now never finally out of favour with God so far as love’s concerned. God’s love is unconditional. Like any parent, however, the Lord must manage the relationship in love, and disobedience calls for tough love to bring about repentance. (The superior way of living, of course, is to live penitently.)

Let’s remember though that tough love is always a great metaphor for the earnestness of love, generally. Our relationships with God are never taken lightly with the Almighty.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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