By Jason Herring
Growing up as I kid, I always wanted to be just like my dad. From his Florsheim wing-tipped shoes to the Consort hairspray that he used, I wanted to copy him in every way I could. In healthy homes, it is natural for young boys to idolize their fathers, and for fathers to take pride in their sons following in their footsteps. But even in dysfunctional home environments young men tend to imitate their fathers whether they intend to or not. At the very least we take on certain personality traits and idiosyncrasies that identify us with our pater familias.
How many times over the years have I heard someone say to me: “You sound just like your dad!” Or “You remind me so much of your father.” I always took it as a compliment that people saw the reflection of my father in me. There were the superficial things like mannerisms and cadence and phrasing that I unconsciously picked up just by growing up with Dad. Then there were the matters of common interest. I love history, books, museums, and historical sites because of my dad. Many of my childhood vacations were spent on Civil War battlefields, and I remember him reading excerpts from books to the family about enthralling stories of adventure and gallantry. My love and appreciation for the past comes from my father. So much of what I am today can be directly attributed to the influence of my dad.
A catalyst happens during the ministry of Jesus when He instructs His disciples to pray to God as “Our Father.” This was powerful in so many ways because it revealed how God related to His children and how we were to relate to Him, our Lord and Creator. God did not call Himself Father as an illustration of earthly fatherhood. He was the archetype. In other words, God is the original. Earthly fathers are a picture of our Heavenly Father. Fathers that abuse, abandon, and neglect their families show themselves as everything that our Heavenly Father is not. Fathers that love, nurture, and cherish their families reflect everything that our Father in heaven is to us, His children.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to get caught up in the trappings and the superficial. If you ask the average Christian to define what it is that makes them a “Christian,” they are likely to tell you that they go to church and try to help others and just be good person in general. Or maybe they will tell you that they placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ to describe their initiation into the new birth. This would definitely be more accurate since no one can become a part of family unless it is by birth, adoption, or marriage. How fascinating that our salvation is compared to these three things in John 3, Romans 8, and Ephesians 5!
I am forever the son of Dean Herring because I was born into his family at the Old Chandler Telfair Hospital in Savannah, Georgia, on September 30, 1976. I am forever the child of God because I was birthed into His family in our little house off Highway 341 in Jesup, Georgia, on January 21, 1981. I am related to my father by birth. I resemble my father because I have an interest in the things he has an interest in, I love the things that he loves, and my personality mimics some of the traits of his own.
We are related to our Heavenly Father by the new birth. Nothing can take that away from a child of God. But how do we best resemble our Father in heaven? It’s not by going to church every weekend, although church is a wonderful way to be encouraged and engage with fellow believers. What is it that causes other people to look at a child of God and say: “You look and sound so much like your Dad!”?
Perhaps your mind is already running to John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you love one another.” The love of fellow Christ-followers is a sign of authentic discipleship. Jesus reiterates this in John 17 when He prays that His followers would be unified in the same way that He was unified with the Father so that “the world may believe that You have sent Me.” The greatest evidence for the Advent is the unity of believers in Christ.
But this is not the greatest evidence of the claim to being a child of God.
Anybody can love someone who serves a common cause and works towards a common goal. It might be challenging at times, but it is expected for people to be team players and subvert their interests for the shared goals of the team. Putting the team first shows that you are committed to the team, and that you are focused on the vision of the organization. But this doesn’t mean that anyone would mistake you for being the son or daughter of the owner or CEO.
God doesn’t wear Florsheim shoes and use Consort hairspray. How in the world can we begin to resemble our Father to the society around us?
Jesus answers this question in Matthew chapter five in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said,‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” This statement is revolutionary by itself, but then Jesus follows up with this declaration: “…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Forget about how you treat your fellow teammates and siblings for a moment. Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully take advantage of you and persecute you. And do all of this so that you may be the sons and daughters of your Father in heaven. Because He does this every single day. He gives rain to the righteous saint and the rebellious sinner. He causes the sun to shine on the cynic and the agnostic as well as the atheist. He gives life and health and prosperity even to those who curse and hate Him.
Mercy is the chief characteristic of God. Even on Mount Sinai it was the first attribute that was declared to Moses when he was allowed to glimpse the Deity who framed the galaxies. Nowhere then do we more reflect and resemble our Heavenly Father than when we bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despise and defraud us. Show me somebody who truly loves their enemy, and I will show you a doppelganger for the Divine. Show me someone who is a benefactor to their adversary, and of them it may be said, “You remind me so much of your Father!” The resemblance is uncanny.