Dads are important guys. They're leaders. Heroes. They look out for their kids. Guide them. Advise them. Show them the way. (Well, at least good dads.) Maybe that's why Paul refers to God as a "father" over and over again. Of course, Paul also see himself this way, too.
Corinth, I Am Your Father
That's right. Besides using "Father" to describe God, Paul breaks it out for himself occasionally. He uses all kinds of dad-like images to refer to his relationship with the Corinthians:
- "In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me" (1 Corinthians 4:15). Do as I say, kids!
- "Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Corinthians 4:21). Watch out, Dad is gonna get his belt!
- "I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). Our father Paul even arranges his kids' marriages.
- "I will not be a burden […] for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children" (2 Corinthians 12:14). Remember this when you ask Dad for some money, guys.
So does this mean they have to get him a card for Father's Day?
It's clear that Paul is using this image to convey his love for the Corinthians. They're like his little brood of babies. He adores them and brags about them all the time—"I often boast about you; I have great pride in you" (2 Corinthians 7.4). He's one super proud papa.
But he also uses this to justify his concern for them. Why else does he have the right to comment on every single aspect of their lives? You're not hanging out with those false apostles! Don't even think about touching that idolatrous meat! Young lady, march back inside and put on a head covering right now! Practically everything Paul says is something that might come out of your dad's mouth (um, if your dad lived in 1st-century Greece).
The Kids Are All Right
By the same token, Paul refers to the Corinthians as his sweet little babies:
- "I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food" (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). Goo-goo!
- "I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children" (1 Corinthians 4:14). He's very disappointed in you all.
- "Do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults" (1 Corinthians 14:20). How many times are we gonna have conversation?
- "In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also" (2 Corinthians 6:13). Come on, don't act like such a baby.
Geez, when are they going to grow up already?
By casting the Corinthians as the kids of the relationship, Paul sets himself up as not only their protector, but also their superior. He's the king of the castle. He'll decide what goes on in this church. Paul is the one here with true authority, while the Corinthians are like tiny babies who can't even hold their own (spiritual) bottles.
Is this analogy fair? We're guessing that many of the Corinthians would have regarded themselves as just as knowledgeable as Paul. Some of them definitely questioned him (which any pediatrician will tell you is totally normal). And, just like any dad, Paul didn't like this much, but at least he didn't try to send the Corinthians to their rooms.
In Popular Culture
Honorary fathers and kids are everywhere you look. It isn't just family ties that bind us:
- Harry Potter is always on the look out for faux fathers to help him through life. Most of them end up dead though. Yikes.
- In the Batman comics, Bruce Wayne gets a "new dad" in Alfred and then goes on to fill the dad role for both Robin and Batgirl. The same is true for Spider-Man and Uncle Ben. Cyclops and Professor Xavier in X-Men. Yeah, comic books love this stuff.
- Frodo from The Lord of the Rings looks up to his Uncle Bilbo as a father figure.