The Apostle Paul was a Father to the churches he had founded. Throughout his epistles you can sense an underlying Fatherly concern for them that goes beyond how one might feel about a fellow church member. He told the Corinthians “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For it you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” In the Galatian letter Paul said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you.”
As a Father to these many believers Paul talked to them straight; he never pulled any punches but it always came from a place of concern for their well-being and wanting what was best for them. This of course is yet another proof God’s Spirit had in fact taken up residence within him because prior to that Paul was a mean spirited and violent man. He thought of himself as above others and didn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to demonstrate it.
As the guys in the small group Bible study and I made our way through Philippians 2 we read where Paul said, “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.” Paul so longed for his readers to see and experience what they had received in Christ he was willing to have his very life poured out for them if that’s what it took. I shared with the guys how this is the heart of God because his mind is “others first”.
We can see this demonstrated in the life of Moses when God seems to have become fed up with Israel’s shenanigans at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses went before God on behalf of Israel saying, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if you will, forgive their sin–and if not, please blot me out form your book which you have written!” Wow! This is what it means to be one with God. “God so loves the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Moses loved Israel so much he was willing to take what they deserved upon himself.
In the ninth chapter of Romans we read where Paul had the exact same heart for his people. He said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” This is God’s heart for the world. He loves us and wants us to be saved so much he was willing to give everything in order to do it.
When Jesus walked the earth he said things like “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part of me” and “I am the living bread that came down from Heaven”. Jesus whole earthly life was to be a ransom for many. In fact everything in all of creation is designed to give itself for others. Think for a minute with me. A tree is meant to give its wood to be a table, bed, chair or house. A plant is to give its fruit or vegetable in order to provide food for the eater. What about a cow, goat or chicken? They give milk or eggs, and even their very life, in order to provide sustenance for others. One main difference between these things and us humans is we were created in God’s image and have to choose to give ourselves for others whereas these others don’t have a choice. So Jesus, God in the flesh, lived a life for others purely by choice and because he knew it was only in losing one’s life that we find it.
As we discussed these things at the jail one of the men stopped me and said, “You just answered a question I had.” He then proceeded to tell me about a conversation he recently had with his bunk-mate. He said, “I was just talking with him about how I would die for my children and he said, “that’s not right man.” As we read and talked about how God’s heart is always for the other person first he truly saw how his attitude and willingness to die for his children was really God’s Spirit in him. Bang! And that ladies and Gentlemen is why I love teaching the Bible in the jail. If these men can truly receive revelation from God and begin to understand their role as husbands and Fathers the impact on their families and neighborhoods is immeasurable. It isn’t difficult to find tutors or instructors but God is looking for Fathers; men who learn to regard others as more important than themselves.