“To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13).
Today we begin our comparison of the teachings of Islam with the teachings of Christianity by looking at the fatherhood of God. Christians from all theological traditions look at the intimate relationship we can have with God as His children as one of the most important privileges granted to His people.
Many passages in the Qur’an explicitly deny the fact that God can be Father to those who follow Him. To be Father, many of these passages say, would imply some kind of sexual and physical fatherhood, and thus this idea is rejected in Islam. Muslims consider it blasphemous to call God “Father” and can have difficulty relating to the Christian meaning behind this subject. Even though some Islamic mystical sects like Sufism do speak of having a “personal relationship” with God, orthodox Islam emphasizes the relationship between God and human beings as that of a master and a servant.
While orthodox Christianity also teaches we are servants of God (1 Peter 2:16), it is not an impersonal service. Yes, God is our Lord but He is also our Father. The fatherhood of God teaches us many things. First, we must understand that Muslims are right to say that having God as our Father in a sexual sense is blasphemous. But of course that is not what the Christian doctrine of the fatherhood of God teaches. In John 8:39–47, Jesus tells the Pharisees that their actions reveal who their true father is. The fatherhood of God is to be understood in an ethical sense — those who obey God are those who have Him as Father.
Secondly, in understanding God as Father, the New Testament emphasizes the special love God has for His children. As 1 John 3:1 teaches, “see what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Finally, when the Bible calls God Father, it is not teaching that He loves all people without any kind of distinction. As today’s passage tells us, it is those who believe in Jesus who have the right to become children of God. When we think of the fatherhood of God, we must always keep the special love of God for His people in mind.
The misunderstanding of the love and fatherhood of God that is so prevalent in our culture makes it hard for us to speak of these concepts and be heard rightly. As we seek to emphasize other biblical concerns like God’s justice and holiness, however, we must make sure that we never lose sight of the personal love, compassion, and tenderness that our Father has for His people. Spend some time today thinking on God’s great love and ask Him to keep you ever mindful of it.