Jesus Called God “Our Father”
America’s culture is experiencing questions about male-female identity. Some folks claim we should not call God “Father,” some even opting for calling God “Mother.” The other day, I saw a girl wearing a shirt that said, “I’m Not From Your Rib,” obviously disagreeing with the Genesis account about God creating the first man, putting him to sleep, and taking a rib from him with which to fashion Eve (Genesis 2.21-22).
Yet Jesus is the one who taught us to call God “our Father.” The most famous saying of Jesus is the so-called Lord’s Prayer. It begins, according to Matthew (Luke also has an account), “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6.9). And in so much of Jesus’ teaching, as recorded in the New Testament gospels, he spoke of God by calling him “Father.”
But of course, God is neither male nor female. This is evident in the very beginning of the Bible. We read, “God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness'” (Genesis 1.,26 NRSV). The text does not explain who God was speaking to. Jews believe, and so do I, that God was speaking to a special class of angels. Some say it was his royal council of angels. I rather think it was the archangels who do his bidding regarding creation.
This Genesis text continues, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them” (v. 27). And later in Genesis we read again, “When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God, male and female he created them” (Genesis 5.1-2). So, both male humans and female humans are made in the likeness of God, which suggests that God is neither male nor female. Plus, Jesus said of humans who will live in the consummated kingdom of God on earth, “those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed, they are like angels” (Luke 20.35-36). I believe he means that angels are neither male nor female and therefore they do not marry, and that is how it will be for those people of God who will be resurrected from the dead at the end of this age.
“The Good Father Effect”
Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a new study of 1,600 teenagers by the Harvard Education Graduate School’s project called Making Caring Common reveals that twice as many teens feel comfortable sharing their emotions with their mothers as with their fathers, which should come as no surprise. But study reveals that teens would benefit more from their fathers if this practice was equal.
The WSJ article also reports that a 2021 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology examined 380 teenagers over several years which reveals, “the protective effects of father-youth intimacy may be more apparent than those of mother-youth intimacy. Called “the good father effect,” the author of this article, Jennifer Breheny Wallace, says “children with better emotional balance” have “higher levels of social competence, peer relationships, academic achievement and resilience, while poor emotional regulation skills are linked with anxiety, depression and behavioral problems Boys can be especially affected by whether fathers are part of the emotional equation.”
Maybe there is something about calling God “our Father” that we don’t know so much about.