Fatherly love that never fails

Ernest Hemingway, in his short story ‘The Capital of the World’, tells the story of Paco, a young man in Spain who runs away from home. His father hopes he will return quickly, but that doesn’t happen. Another ‘prodigal son’. The shame, guilt and regret he feels prevents Paco from returning home to his father. Paco doesn’t know that his father has been searching for him ever since he left.

One day, Paco’s father puts an advertisement in the local newspaper of Madrid, El Liberal. It reads: “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love Papa.” But Paco is a common name in Spain; and when the father approaches the planned meeting place, he finds 800 young men there all named Paco, all waiting for their fathers, all hoping for forgiveness.

Everyone needs to know that they are forgiven – that they are loved. We men may present a tough exterior, but we long to hear the words of our father saying, “I love you, son.” You are never too young and never too old to hear it.

That was reinforced by a phone call I took one Saturday morning from a friend who is in his 60s. After a short conversation about common interests, we began to discuss the contents of this book. I told him, “Every son needs to hear their dad say they love them.”

Things went quiet on the other end. He finally said, with some emotion, “I agree. My dad just can’t do it. He never has.”

How sad. What makes it even sadder is that his father is well known for helping other people in a professional capacity.

We hear men say “I love my truck. I love my football team. I really love meat pies … Oh, and I love you too.”

The same word can mean different things to different people. As you travel internationally, you discover that words that are spelled the same, even pronounced the same, don’t always mean the same. If you go to South Africa, for example, people may refer to a ‘robot’. The first time I heard that, I was looking for something akin to R2D2. The locals knew what it meant, but I didn’t: a robot in that country is a set of traffic lights.

Likewise, a dairy in New Zealand is a corner store. Go figure! Same word. Different meaning. And let’s not tell our friends in the USA that we wear thongs on our feet.

The same applies to the word ‘love’. In many cases, it seems that we have lost the depth of the meaning of the word. Perhaps it’s through overuse? We hear men say “I love my truck. I love my football team. I really love meat pies … Oh, and I love you too.” That really puts the special people in our lives among some auspicious company. (I think not!)

So what does ‘love’ really mean when we talk about God’s love? One of the best descriptions of the Father’s – and Jesus’ – love, and the love we are to show others, is found in  1 Corinthians 13:4–8:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails … “

Read those last three words again. One of the most important and defining characteristics of the love of the Father is that it never fails. It is extravagant and it is unconditional. Nothing we can do can make him love us more. Nothing we can do can make him love us less. He loves us … full stop.

If you ever doubt your worth to God, look to the cross.

In other words, I’m not loved because I’m valuable; I’m valuable because I’m loved. Jesus knew that as God’s Son, and we can too. We simply need to comprehend how much we are loved.

If you ever doubt your worth to God, look to the cross. Here you will see the most powerful demonstration of love that humanity has ever witnessed: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Take that in. Make it personal. Christ died for you. Was there ever such a powerful expression of the Father’s love?

This article is an excerpt from Wayne Alcorn’s new book My Father’s Son: A Generational Journey, published by Acorn Press and now available from Koorong.

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My Father's Son: A Generational Journey

Wayne Alcorn

Available from Koorong

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