Over the next several weeks, I will be exploring the Lord’s Prayer as a model for forming a social justice theology. Throughout this series, I will be proposing that Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6 are not only meant to show believers how to pray but how we should reorient our lives and relationships with one another in light of what we are praying. To read more about the beginnings of this endeavor, read last week’s post.
From the very beginning, the Lord’s Prayer starts out with a bold statement about who God is: Our Father. What does this mean? Our first clue lies in the word ‘our’ – meaning something or someone who belongs, is accessible, or is identified by a collective group of individuals. To put it simply, God is accessible to all of us, and likewise we to God. Picture a parent that has many children – that’s who God is and according to current estimates, His total number of living children approximate 7 billion people.
Why is this important? If we can understand that God isn’t just for us, but is holding it down for billions of other people across the globe, we will start to do life differently. All of a sudden, we stop seeing life in terms of ‘me’ but ‘we.’ That alone will transform our behavior and how we act towards one another. That alone will help us understand that we are all brothers and sisters, and like brothers and sisters, we must share and not hoard the resources that God gives us.
Let’s move on to the word ‘father’ which acknowledges who God is in relation to us. He is our father, and like a father, we can come to him boldly in our time of need and ask what we need from him and trust that he hears us. In fact, like many fathers, God already knows what we need before we come to him as affirmed in verse 8 of the text. But unlike earthly fathers, this is a relationship that we can trust because God won’t take advantage of our absolute dependence on Him. He won’t exploit us. He won’t mistreat us. He won’t wound us like some of our earthly fathers have.
Neither will He abandon us. “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” And He will be an ever present help in time of trouble. We can rest assured that whatever we go through and for that matter wherever we may go, God is right there. He is not removed from us. While He is our heavenly father, he also dwells with his people and suffers/ grieves right along with us. We can rest in this relationship. We can be confident in this relationship. We don’t have to jostle for position with God, and we surely don’t have to prove anything to God.
But this is something Cain, the son of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 3, didn’t understand. He was threatened by his brother Abel’s pleasing offering to God because it challenged his own insecurities and relationship with God i.e. if God is not pleased with me, there must be something wrong with me. So what did Cain do? He eliminated the competition and killed his own brother. Sound familiar? We do not need to operate this way with God – we can be secure in who we are before Him faults and blemishes in all. He is our father, and we are his sons and daughters.
The words “Our Father,” don’t just acknowledge our intimacy with God. They are also packed with expectation of our coming future in God’s Kingdom. Art Simon, founder of Bread for the World and author of Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer writes this:
In joining the kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we make a decision to leave the ways of this world and the manner in which we previously lived behind. We forsake the old nature that was consumed with covetousness, bitterness and all other forms of malice and adopt a new disposition of love for God, self and others. As the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 8, we no longer live by the flesh but by the Spirit – for all who are being led by the Spirit are the sons and daughters of God and fellow heirs with Christ in God’s kingdom.
As fellow heirs with Christ and children of God, the question that remains is how we will treat God’s other children. Will we treat them as if they don’t belong to God and don’t belong to the human race? Or will we welcome them in – providing food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and refuge for those whose very lives are in danger?
Cain had it very wrong! He was his brother’s keeper and as children of God, we have a collective responsibility to and for one another. We have a responsibility to the nearly 50,000 children fleeing from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, seeking safety and shelter as a result of violence in their home countries. We have a responsibility to our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, just as much as we have a responsibility to our siblings in Israel. We have a responsibility to the 200 plus girls still missing in Nigeria, to the Jada’s in our country and in our world who have been sexually exploited, and to the black men and women trapped inside of our justice system due to institutional racism.
We have a responsibility to them and they to us, because we all belong to God. He is our father and each and every one of us are God’s children. And he loves each and every 7 billion of us equally.
Come back next week for part III of this series! Be sure to subscribe at the top right of the blog or follow me on Twitter so that you don’t miss it
Father and daughter: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dmitryzhkov/11839033964/