“[Jesus told them] Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
God is referred to as “Father” less than 15 times in the OT, but over 70 times in the Gospels!
The saints of the former covenant weren’t gypped, however, because God was known in many such meaningful and intimate ways to His worshipping people way back when:
- God Who sees (to it)
- Many-breasted One
- Strength and Shield
- The God Who is ‘There’
- (Full) Portion
And there’s, of course, a litany of other chesed-infused designations – all of them shimmering and dancing over and in-between the narratives of the Lesser Covenant.
Even still, none comes close to Father, to Daddy.
Sadly, an entire generation of young people do not know the meaning of the word.
At the top of the news cycle we’re watching footage of yet another American city burning. This time, Baltimore is under siege, an all-too-familiar sight stretching from Oakland to Ferguson to New York City.
I’ve not seen empirical evidence from researchers but I’m willing to bet the absence of fatherhood has contributed to the civil unrest, simmering hatred, bitter divides and frustration of unmet expectations.
I just saw a video clip, ostensibly of a mother grabbing her son from the rank and file of rioters, wailing on his hide, shoving him again and again away from the chaos. Good for her. But had that young man grown up with a father (don’t know if this is the case, only fabricating a narrative from reasonable cultural precedent) who loved him immeasurably, taught him the essence of being a real man, and stayed in his life as guide and mentor, chances are he’d never have been in the fray as a participant in the first place. And he’d have been spared the mother of all whoopings on live television.
Oh, I know. Yet another suspicious chapter in a growing string of episodes, blighting law enforcement’s already-maligned character, is the culprit to this recent barbaric response. Still, no eye for an eye justice here. Even Baltimore’s mayor (not white, not Republican) called the offender’s “thugs.”
So why do I go so all-fired-sure (and some would say, naively) to the matter of dads in absentia? Allow me to share this telling – and horrifying – research data1 with you to illustrate:
YOUTH RAISED WITHOUT DADS ACCOUNT FOR:
– 63% of youth suicides
– 71% of teen pregnancies
– 90% of all homeless and runaways
– 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions
– 85% of all youth who exhibit behavioral disorders
– 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger
– 71% of high school dropouts
– 75% of adolescents in chemical abuse centers
– 85% of all youths sitting in prisons
This has to be closer to the root-cause of our burning cities, closer even than police brutality, as real and damnable as that is – and which must be addressed aggressively. But that would only treat symptoms, not real causes. Whether an angry, brutal cop or an angry, urban mob, we – the Church – need to go into our inner cities with the Gospel Good News (redundant for a reason) that whether or not those brick-throwing, fire-starting, convenience-store-looting youths have a Dad, they do have a Father – a perfect Father, a Heavenly Father – they can be reconciled to…
[But Don’t Stop There!]
…and then we men show them the love of a Father, Jesus-style, incarnationally. I’m enough of a fool to believe the promise of the Holy Spirit to Malachi that in the last days there will be a supernatural move of God to reconcile fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. And I believe that isn’t limited to genetics (although that’s AWESOME!), but that God will raise up men and women who will be surrogate Dads and Moms – spiritual, godly Dads and Moms – to a lost generation.
The dream is to picture a river of justice flowing into our inner cities (Amos 5:24), gathering up angry, oppressed, hate-filled, spiritually-orphaned youths, reconciling them to a Good Father, and expanding the chorus of those of us – black, white, Hispanic, Asian – who are privileged to pray
And know that it’s demonstrably, tangibly true.
I’m only writing to start the conversation. I don’t have a strategy, but I’m wondering if you have some thoughts. I just know I can’t sit by and watch our cities burn.
1 Source: John Sowers, “Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story”