Kids share a special bond with their moms and dads. Parents not only are responsible for their children being in this world, they also make it their 18-year+ mission to raise, nurture, and care for these little rugrats. God and his people have the same kind of relationship going.
Kids These Days
Being a little kid can be pretty awesome. Someone else works hard everyday to take care of you and provide you with food, clothing, and shelter. All you have to do is not act like a totally spoiled brat in return.
The authors of these epistles see the faithful as sweet little babies just waiting to be cared for by God:
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)
It all sort of ties in with the idea of Christians as "born again." Jesus told folks that unless "a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Translation: you should approach God like a child willing to learn and listen. Adults are stubborn and stuck in their ways, but kids are flexible and open to new ideas.
Christians, I Am Your Father
Believers are the kids, which makes God their father. Don't worry, he's way better at it than Darth Vader.
- "We bless the Lord and Father." (James 3:9)
- "Chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit." (1 Peter 1:2)
- "You invoke as Father the one who judges all people." (1 Peter 1:17)
- "Those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father." (Jude 1:1)
Sound familiar? It's actually a pretty popular image for God from Jewish tradition. The Hebrew Bible describes God as a father because he's thought of as a provider and protector, someone who lays down the law and expects you to obey. He brought you into this world, young Christians…and he can take you out of it.
These epistles pretty much agree with this picture:
- "Submit yourselves therefore to God." (James 4:7)
- "Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance." (1 Peter 1:14)
- "You have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth." (1 Peter 1:22)
It's right there in the commandments: "Honor your father" (Exodus 20:12). After all, father knows best.
And, I Am Your…Mother
God doesn't just exemplify all the traits of a doting dad; he's also dipping into some territory traditionally covered by moms:
- In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth. (James 1:18)
- By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
Even though Peter uses "he" to describe God, giving birth sure sounds like something only a female parent could do, right?
God did create the entire human race, so he's pretty darn fertile. In these letters, he shelters, nourishes, and cares for them (1 Peter 5:7), and he even provides them with "spiritual milk" (1 Peter 2:2). Are these new Christians bottle or breast fed?
And this isn't the first time God has gotten to show his maternal side. God is described as giving birth (Deuteronomy 32:18), a comforting mother (Isaiah 66:13), and a ticked off mama bear whose cubs have been stolen (Hosea 13:8).
It seems the God of the Bible has qualities that are traditionally associated with both men and women. On one hand, he's a stern, protector who's more than willing to ground you for life. And in the afterlife, too. But he's also a caring, loving, and nurturing figure who just wants to feed you chicken soup when you're sick.