One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was this: I always knew that they loved me and I always knew that they would hold me to the standards that they had set. Somehow, I never saw any conflict between these two. When I was punished I always knew it was because I had done something wrong, not because my parents had suddenly stopped caring for me. When I was shown loved, I never believed it was because of who I was or what I had accomplished – it was simply given because I exist. These two facets of my relationship with my parents gave me both security and a desire to do good, and I believe they are a large reason for the person I am today.
In Christendom many people stumble over the thought that God is our Father because their relationship with their parents wasn’t as healthy as mine. In fact, they usually vacillate between two extremes. They either believe that because God loves them, broken standards should not lead to consequences. In this view, love is devoid of any demonstration of unpleasantness and therefore punishment is not part of the equation. The other spectrum view God as simply the distributor and arbitrator of a moral code. In this scenario, God’s primary role is that of a entire judicial system and opportunity for a reciprocating relationship is minimal. Just as Paris Hilton would have a difficult time becoming friends with her sentencing judge, so do we when we view God as merely the rule-giver.
However, neither of these extremes are right. God is not just a big teddy bear, nor is He solely a referee. Instead, He is both grace and justice. Each have their place and each accomplish their purpose. Spurgeon explains it like this, ” The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride:the gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.” God is the distributor of both.
I was exceptionally blessed to receive the parents that I did. Not everyone has the same situation. But everyone has a Heavenly Father that loves them and He is the source and the perpetuator of this divine tension.