The Common Good

Radical Love: A Father's Day Reflection

Many of us understand God the Father through our relationship with our own fathers. I am the only child of Lillie and Jesse Elverton. When I was a little girl, my father often told me: "I wanted a boy but got a girl, and I wouldn't trade her for the world."

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He was my horsie. He would get down on all fours and I would hop on and ride: "Ride 'em up, straight up, good for the hiccups." We played fast draw. He took me fishing. We watched baseball and football together. We watched the "shoot 'em up" western television shows and movies together. We ran together down the alley behind our house until the kite caught the wind and flew high in a springtime sky. He ran behind me until I found my balance on my bike. He drove me to my various lessons. He taught me to drive a car. When I had my first auto accident, he insisted that I drive the car home so I would not be afraid to drive again. He never, ever told me what was not possible for me. And he sent money whenever I needed it.

Our relationship was and is not flawless. He is often the rock against which I sharpen by wit and will. However, even when we disagree, I know that he would do all in his power for the sake of my happiness and for the happiness of my children.

Our earthly fathers are flesh and blood. Like all flesh, they are finite with limited knowledge and capabilities. Old age comes, and they become frail. God our Father is not limited. God our Father loves us as our earthly fathers, only God loves us to the extent of God's own being. Thus, we can take the love, the care, the generosity, the capability of our earthly fathers and multiply that to the power of infinity. Whether we realize it or not, God loves each individual with that intensity of love.

When Jesus wanted to make a point about the efficacy of prayer, he reminded us of our own parental impetus toward that which is good for our children: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heave give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).

When Jesus wanted to teach us not to worry, he reminded us to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields. He reminded us that God our Father knows our needs and will supply our needs. Our work is to strive for the kingdom of God and for God's righteous justice. I know that not everyone had a father such as mine. I know that these difficult economic times challenge our faith in a loving God who wants only the best for us.

I say that no matter what we see, God our Father loves us with a radical love that is beyond reason or words. God wants us to live in joy. Living in joy means living in relationship with each other as loving brothers and sisters, children of one Father, one source, one fount of love. Our brotherhood and sisterhood extends to all humanity and to all of creation. Happy Father's Day.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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