By Pastor Glenn Pease
A man who worked in a Ford plant for many years just quit for no apparent reason. When he was asked why he did it he said, "All I did everyday was to screw nut number 999 to bolt number 999 for years and years, and if I keep on doing this much longer, I shall be nut number 999 myself." Automation brings many blessings in the material realm, but it can also be a curse when it turns men into robots. The debate is, do men control the machine, or does the machine control men?
Dr. Glenn Frank declares, "The indictment brought against our civilization is this: Man is losing control over the machine. He machine is destroying body, worth, and beauty." It is already a proverb in Africa-"An old man is one who remembers when people were more important than machines." The machine is making man more and more materialistic and mechanistic in his attitudes and values. People are becoming secondary, and life is becoming more impersonal. A machine wakes us up in the morning, makes our breakfast, takes us to work where we park in a machine operated parking lot, take another machine to the proper level, and spend the rest of the day operating a machine or a computer. After this they go through the same process to get back home where they spend the evening being entertained by a machine. The machine reigns as king.
At the University of Seattle there is a painting where the great wheels of industry, and skyscrapers, and factory chimneys are converging on the crust and prostrate body of a man. The title is The Eclipse Of Man. Many do not need a painting to convey this, for they experience it daily. A middle age woman said, "I live alone and all day long I work at an IBM machine until I feel as if I could scream. I can't talk to a machine, and at night I can't talk to my TV set." Her life was dominated by the impersonal machine. For many there is more tragedy than humor in the story of the scientist who fed the question into the giant computer they had just completed-is there a God? The answer that came out was, "There is now."
In a world where machines dominate the Christian has a great obligation to believe, experience, and communicate the true nature of God as a Person, and as Father. No one can be an adequate Christian whose highest values are not personal rather than mechanical. We do not reject the mechanical, for God is Himself the creator of the most marvelous machine of all, which is the whole universe. The Christian is one, however, who recognizes person-hood to be the supreme value. The highest title or name of God is not king, master, or creator, but Father. Wordsworth said, "Father! To God Himself we cannot give a holier name." F. Faber wrote,
Father! The sweetest dearest name,
That men or angels know!
Fountain of life, that had no fount
From which itself could flow.
John Watson wrote, "With Jesus God and Father were identical. Fatherhood was not a side of Deity, it was the center. God might be King and Judge; He was first of all and last of all, and through all, Father." The very first word we have recorded of Jesus was when He was 12 and His parents found Him in the temple. He said He must be about His Father's business. The last words of Jesus before He died were, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." From beginning to end of His earthly life, and eternally, God is, was, and ever shall be to Jesus-the Father. But this is not just because He is uniquely the Son of God. This is so, and Jesus revealed God as Father because God is this to all men potentially, and to all in Christ actually. To as many as received Him John said, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.
This is why Jesus emphasized the Fatherhood of God all through His life. This concept of God has greater power than any other to give assurance and security in a materialistic, impersonal world. Jesus says that when we pray we should say our Father who art in heaven. Fatherhood is the basis for prayer, and the basis for all true understanding of God and His will. To address God as our Father in heaven implies two things about God which art extremely important to know and feel to have an abundant Christian life. The first thing it indicates is-
I. GOD IS INTIMATE.
The philosopher would rather talk of a transcendent God, and the Totally Other. They feel this is a more mature way of thinking about God. But this ignores both the words and practice of Jesus who said we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of God, and who addressed God as Father 170 times. God is the great God of creation, and a God of transcendent glory. He is King of Kings and sovereign, but when it comes to His personal interest and care for us, He is Father.
Paul says in Gal. 4:6 in the Berkeley Version, "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, calling out, Abba! Father!" When a Christian is in right relationship with God and yielded to His Spirit, He will call God Abba. Abba is the Aramaic word that children use to refer to their father. It is equivalent to our English word daddy. This is the kind of intimacy we are to have with God when we fully realize the significance of His Fatherhood and our sonship.
This seems childish to the proud, but the humble Christian sees it as the fullest maturity, for we do not begin to know God as we ought until we trust Him as a little child does His father. When a child goes through the dark unafraid because he holds his father's hand, that is not childish. That is childlike, and to be childlike is what is required for Christian maturity. The child is not impersonal and mechanical. His life is intimately involved in, and related to persons. Our lives will be more personal also if we learn to say our father, and learn to live with the full assurance of God's intimate concern for us as individuals.
Earthly fathers are often rightly charged with child neglect, and they often fail to be intimate with their children. They are too busy providing the material and impersonal things of life to have time for the personal concerns. But God forbid that we think that He too is caught up in this devotion to materialism. There is only one answer to the cry of the lonely heart which asks,"Can God see me and hear me?"
The answer is yes! In Christ it is yes, yes, yes. God can and does see, and He hears me. That is why I pray, "Our Father." God is intimate, and He cares for individuals. In the Old Testament God was more of a collective God. He was the father of Israel as a whole, but with the coming of Christ God became the God and Father of individuals. Jesus could say to Mary, "I ascend to my God and your God, to my Father and to your Father." Every believer can claim Jesus as brother and God as Father. Augustine said, "He loves us every one as though there were but one of us to love." We can never be all that we ought to be until we are fully convinced and assured that God is this intimate, and is our Father in heaven. This leads to the second point we want to consider.
II. GOD IS ADEQUATE.
Our Father in heaven distinguishes God from our earthly father. He does not have all the limitations of an earthly father. He is the eternal and perfect Father. All fatherhood has its origin in Him, but all fatherhood but His has been corrupted, and it has fallen, and is a poor reflection of His fatherhood.
Unfortunately this has been a hindrance to man's grasping the significance, beauty, and adequacy of God's fatherhood. Fatherhood is the first and supreme relationship in the universe, for it is eternal in the very nature of God. In Matt. 12:50 Jesus said, "Whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Note that he did not say the adult man who did so would be his father. He had only one father and that was God. We can be brothers, sisters and mothers to Christ, for all of these relationships are temporal, but the father relationship is eternal, and there can be no other but God. He gained mothers, brothers, and sisters, but He had His Father eternally.
Our Father in heaven is alone able to fulfill the duties of fatherhood adequately. Earthly fatherhood, however, is derived from God's fatherhood, and it was meant to be a reflection of His fatherhood. Man, however, has a tendency to depreciate fatherhood and exalt some other relationship such as brotherhood or motherhood. There are books and poems galore exalting mother to the pinnacle of perfection, and though they are not undeserving of much praise, it is way beyond the proportion due than when you consider how little is written concerning fathers.
The pagans exalted their mother goddesses and worship them with great devotion. The Catholic church followed this tendency to exalt the female over the male as an object of worship, and Mary rose to a place superior to that of Christ in practice, if not in word. Fatherhood just does not have the value the Bible gives to it, and the result is we lose an adequate concept of God. Even those who exalt fatherhood end up putting it in a secondary position. For example, Judge Micheal Musmanno said in a decision which ruled that a 6 year old daughter was to be returned to her father for permanent custody: "Poetry, sculpture, music and oratory have permeated the world with sublime fragrance and the divine chant of mother's love, unequaled as it is in beauty and devotion. But a father's love, though not so celebrated in song and oratory, in verse and in statuary, is of an intensity and amplitude that in the trinity of the ultimate in adoration and worship, the only two that surpass it are the love of God and the love of mother."
What is missing here is the recognition that the love of God which is put first is none other than a father's love. Father love is the most adequate of all love, for it is the love of our Father in heaven. He alone is adequate as a Father. Nevertheless, as fathers on earth we have a great obligation to God and our children to be images of, and channels of the love of our heavenly Father. In fact, all of God's children are responsible for exalting the concept of fatherhood in general, for if we neglect it, or degrade it, we degrade the primary concept by which people can know God.
A father who is not a good father and a loving father will make it more difficult for his children to know God as Father. Whereas the good father will aid a child in coming to a full realization of the blessing in being able to address God as Father. In other words, fatherhood can be a means of evangelism, and it can lead our children to God. Every father needs to be fully assured of his own commitment to Christ. Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but by Him, and so every child needs to be committed to Christ, for then, in spite of the failures of earthly fathers, they can pray with assurance, "Our Father who art in heaven."