Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father, to restore us to the Father, and to model what it looks like for us to walk in relationship with the Father as His sons and daughters.
Our mission follows His: We are called to walk in relationship with the Father, demonstrate His heart to others, and invite them to be reconciled to Him.
Fulfilling this mission requires us to align our hearts with the core values of the Father’s heart for us. As a good Father, He wants nothing more than for His beloved children to grow, thrive, and succeed, to fulfill the design and purpose for which we were created.
Here are three core values of the Father’s heart that we must continually come back to:
- We were made for freedom.
- We were made for connection.
- We were made for honor.
These are the core values that should define our lives, leadership, and relational cultures. When we talk about “fathering” people, either in homes or in churches, schools, businesses, organizations, or cities, these are the core values that must guide our approach.
Let’s take a closer look at the first of these core values. What is freedom? Why does the Father want us to be free? How do we live in freedom, model His heart for people to be free, and lead people into freedom?
What is Freedom?
C.S. Lewis summed up the Father’s design and purpose for freedom brilliantly in Mere Christianity:
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.
God’s ultimate design and purpose for us is love and connection, and freedom is the necessary condition for love and connection to happen. In fact, love and connection are the ultimate expressions of freedom.
In Lewis’ terms, we “go right” when we use our freedom in ways that grow and protect love and connection, and “go wrong” when we violate love and connection. And as we learn through the history of the fall, misusing our freedom leads to bondage.
What is bondage? Well, if freedom is expressed in love and connection, then bondage is being caught in cycles of fear and disconnection with God, each other, and ourselves. This is the reality created by the curse of sin and death, which could only be broken through the cross. When we are born again, we begin the journey of unlearning all the ways we used to live in bondage and learning to walk in freedom.
The Journey of Trust and Desire
The world’s definition of freedom basically comes down to being able to do whatever we want when we want it. This isn’t totally wrong; it’s just incomplete and immature.
Our Father wants us to live from our desires—He made us that way. But He knows—like every parent knows—that our desires must be trained. We must learn not only what we really want (love and connection with Him and others), but how to get it in the right way. And we can only do that by learning to trust our Father.
This is where being led by the Holy Spirit comes in. He is the one who awakens our desire for God and leads us with incredible patience down the long road of overcoming all the baggage we’ve picked up from a life of trying to get what we want on our own terms. As we all discover, we are quick to doubt the Father and believe the worst about Him—especially when He’s asking us to trust Him in a difficult area of obedience or allowing us to endure something painful. This is what the enemy taught us in the garden.
But the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us to make the free choice Adam and Eve didn’t make—the choice to trust the Father and protect our connection with Him, even when we don’t understand, even when it’s painful. This is how we grow in freedom.
Leading in Freedom
Good fathers protect and provide for their children. Both are necessary for them to grow in freedom. Leading people with the Father’s heart means learning to help them access His protection and provision as they learn freedom management.
Leading people who are growing in freedom is exhilarating, because you get to see them receiving the limitless love and resources the Father generously provides to all His kids. You get to watch their dreams awaken and their hearts start to burn for things. You get to watch them take courageous risks, make profound commitments, and strive for greatness as they pursue their love for God and others.
Leading free people is also very messy, however, because we fall all over ourselves as we struggle to overcome our old fears and learn to choose love and connection. And the temptation for every leader or parent is to protect by taking away people’s freedom. But the Father doesn’t do that. Even as He walks us through the consequences of misusing our freedom, He does it with the goal of helping us grow and be fully restored in managing our freedom. He protects us without controlling us, and this is how we must lead as well.
The Father is passionate about our freedom and paid the ultimate price for it. May we be passionate about using this gift as it was designed and helping others do the same!
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (Galatians 5:1 MSG)
P.S. Stay tuned for next week’s blog, where we’ll take a look at the second core value of the Father’s heart: We were made for connection.