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In the Fathers House


Why do we believe in God? Is it because we submit to his commandment to do

so or because we have come to know Him as our heavenly Father? Ask a
Muslim Why do you believe? and he will generally look surprised. His best
answer: Because Allah commands me to. Ask a Jew or a Christian the same
question and he will mention the love of the Father. So, who is our Father?

1 - Love of the Father

For both Christians AND Jews the notion of father and the love of the father - is central. For
David says: You are my Father, my God. (Ps. 89:26) That is the theme of this article. Who is
our heavenly Father? Is He someone to be submitted to? Is He someone who likes to punish and
put into exile? That is the question. To many, an attitude of submissiveness has become a creed.
This is especially true within the Islam. To
stress my point I like to compare it with the
attitude within the Islam, a religion that in
many ways is antithetical to the Judeo-
Christian tradition.

2 - Islam means total submission

The word islam means total submission,
derived from the Arab word taslim. Tas-
lim has been described as being before
Gods Power like a lifeless tool, a dead bo-
dy in the hands of a mortician. This is at the
heart of Islamic practice. Ask a Muslim
Why do you believe? and he will gene-

rally look surprised. His best answer is: Because Allah commands me to. Islam is therefore
mainly centred on the practice of belief, the praxis, of doing right, not of thinking right. But of
course, this way of standing in life is not confined to Islam. It corresponds to a general mindset,
which we like to address here.

3 - What does the merciful Father want?

What does submission look like from the Judeo-Christian perspective? The term makes me
think of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-31). Both sons in the parable had an
extremely business-like relationship with their father. And even when the son who left home
decides to return, the business-like relationship still continues to exist. For he asks himself how
many of his fathers hired servants have bread enough and to spare. And: I will arise and go to
my father and will say to him () Make me like one of your hired servants. He was prepared to
submit to his father in the interests of his own
gain. But the other son, still submissive, was cut
from the same cloth. The decisive factor was
that the rebellion of the one son and the
submission of the other show two sides of the
same disdain for the fathers apparent love. For
the rebellious son, the father is someone who
must disappear below the horizon. He says
straight out: Give me the portion of goods that
falls to me. And he leaves! What does the
merciful Father want? A personal relationship
in which a mutual sharing of thoughts and
manifestations of love appear to be essential.
When the son who returns after years of ab-
sence groans that he is not worthy to be called
his fathers son, that is sufficient for the father.
Finally the affective element comes to the sur-
face! That, in fact, was the personal admission
that his paternal heart had been waiting for. The
son does not even get round to telling his father
that he is prepared to be his hireling (and a good
thing too). His brother is shocked when he sees
the enthusiastic reception given to the faithless
one. There is even a feast held in his honour!
He fails to perceive that letting himself be loved
by his father is the vital and burning question.
Does he himself not also hope for his inheri-
tance in the condition of a hireling? For he re-
marks bitterly: These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your command-
ment at any time. It should be clear that for both sons the image of their father was that of an
authoritarian and demanding man, and thus sad conclusion they were both fatherless.

4 Gods unapproachable Majesty

Within the Islamic faith each person stands alone before God, like a hireling giving an account of
his deeds. Which could perhaps explain why this parable in particular appeals so strongly to Mus-
lims. Interesting detail: Mohammed never knew his natural father. A remarkable thing is that the
Qran speaks exclusively of Gods unapproachable Majesty, but his status as Father is never men-
tioned. The revelation of Gods endless love, hidden in the notion of Father, is not a part of the
Muslim universe. Gods Love, if it exists at all, is merely one of the many facets of Gods unkno-
wable nature. They say: His knowability lies beyond the horizons horizon.

5 - Lovingkindness of the Father

Our approach is different. Essential in the Judeo-Christian understanding is that the knowledge of
God is constrainted by the limits of ones increasing awareness of God, who in principle sets no
limits in knowing Him. Since we are imperfect people on the way to the Fathers house, the cor-
rect attitude for a Jew, and of course any Christian, is to place himself in the shoes of one or the
other son and from then on grow towards an ever more perfect relationship with the Father, a
relation of lovingkindness that never stops singing of the mercies of the Lord. (Ps. 89:1)

6 - Dare to take the risk!

How different is the attitude of those who believe that they have already achieved that perfect
relationship. They are fixed, and run the risk of conforming to the twisted image that they have of
the Father, the ever demanding and authoritarian God. Truly, it is not necessary to be a Muslim to
remain fixed in the attitude of a hireling. But because of the difference in insight, it will be more
difficult for a Muslim to free himself. He starts off with a handicap, mainly because for him God
is unknowable and unapproachable, whereas God has shown Himself to the people of Israel in
many ways and finally in the Messiah, known in Hebrew as Jeshua (yodh, he, shin, waw, he).
Through Him God has become even more approachable, for Jeshua lives in the bosom of our
Father / Yahweh (yodh, he, waw, he). He is the Revelation par excellence, He who of himself
says: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!

Hubert Luns

See also the article on Political Islam: The two Kind of Dhimmis

[Published in Profetisch Perspectief, winter 2005 No. 49]

[Published in De Brandende Lamp No. 111 3rd quarter 2007]
[Published in Positief, October 2009 No. 395]