Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads!
My own dad was a great father and I miss him. Of course, today I’ll think about him and all of the many nice memories of our times shared together. My brothers and I gave him occasional reasons to test his affection, but he never wavered. He always loved us unconditionally.
Great dads and moms love their children unconditionally. I think about a powerful story I once read about the father of a young schoolteacher who was killed in the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. That father decided to visit the father of Timothy McVeigh, the one who was convicted of leading the bombing and who was sentenced to death for the attack. The victim’s father sought understanding. When he visited Tim McVeigh’s father, he sat in the living room and listened to stories of the young man, a Boy Scout and Army veteran. He was surrounded by photographs of him and was struck by how much love that dad felt for his now deceased son. He acknowledged and was sorry for the terrible thing his son had done. But his love was unwavering, it was unconditional. Still.
We call the divine creator our heavenly father. He is Our Father. Jesus used the term abba to describe his father which was akin to our own use of the term dad. This suggests a closer and more personal bond between them. Our Father is Our Dad. And his son told us repeatedly that this Dad’s love for all of his children is unwavering and unconditional. Despite what we might do to test his affection, he loves us. Despite the choices we make and which push him aside in favor of our other desires, he loves us. And although we might actively reject him, he will wait for us to return, like the prodigal lost son. He will wait for us. He will welcome us back. Our Father is a Great Father.
I sometimes think about the Greatest Commandment, the instruction to love God and each other. This is the hope of a parent who wants the best for a child – that that child will be treated well and always loved. That parent has asked us to love his other children. All of his other children. He uses the language of “love your enemy” and “as we forgive others” to emphasize this point.
In our world, which feels ever more divided, I increasingly come back to the Greatest Commandment. Every time I hear about the mistreatment of someone or a group of individuals, even if they are engaged in something I cannot endorse, I try to think of that person or group as children of Our Father. As my own brothers and sisters. And about the call to love them. Mercifully.
Our Father is a Great Father. He loves us unconditionally. He loves our fellow brothers and sisters in exactly the same way, regardless of what they might have done to test his affection. Moreover, he has asked us to take good care of the family, to honor his wishes, to love each other. When that is difficult and phrases such as “love your enemy” and “as we forgive others” seem impossible to me, I take great comfort knowing that we are all brothers and sisters, all the Body of Christ, all in it together.
We’re all in it together. Together.