In returning to our Sunday series of reflections upon the Nicene Creed and core beliefs, it might be helpful to be reminded of our core premise in this series-“What would it mean if the believer could deeply assimilate the beliefs laid out in the Creed on the same level as the core-beliefs described earlier? Couldn’t the Creed potentially reshape idiosyncratic core beliefs or even create new ones ex nihilo? Couldn’t it change one’s perspective on life, death, loved ones, difficult people, and one’s own self-image? Couldn’t it affect our rules for living and even our automatic thoughts?”
The belief that God is Father should have a profound and life-altering impact upon those who profess such a belief, for it means that we have a relationship, a personal relationship with the source of all that is and the one who is more than all that is. And that relationship furthermore means that we are loved and precious in God’s sight. The fact that no human being “discovered” this belief is important, for even within the Old Testament, God Himself chose to reveal Himself as Father (cf. 2 Sam.7:14; 1 Chron.17:13; Jer.3:19; 31:9). God Whom the saints describe as ineffable, incomprehensible, unoriginate, uncreated, and a thousand other un’s and in’s that tells us how far He is beyond anything we can think or imagine, nevertheless chooses to reveal Himself to us through a relationship that is basic to human life. He reveals Himself as father, a loving father concerned for the welfare of all His children. This self-revelation means that we are God’s sons and daughters and that our value is as far beyond anything in this world, even as God is beyond all that is. We’re not valuable because we are healthy, wealthy, or wise. We are not valuable because we are strong, attractive, or popular with others. We are valuable, because God is God the Father and we are human beings His children. Value is literally in our genes! The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount only serves to reinforce this notion. In that sermon of all sermons, the Lord Jesus makes reference to God as Father fifteen times, reminding His listeners that there is no need to worry or be concerned for material things. God provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and so will provide for each one of us, for we are of far greater value in the Father’s estimation. And our Father surely knows best.
In its essence, fatherhood is an expression of love. It is a relationship that is irrevocable and not dependent upon the whims and fancies of the world. All too often our human relationships are based upon a quid-pro-quo or “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” basis. We experience this in our work relationships, in our various friendships, and sometimes even in our own families. And these experiences can and do take a toll on us psychologically and spiritually, for we begin to see this state of affairs as reality itself. We may even begin to project this on to God as though our relationship with God depends upon our behavior. In such a distorted framework, if we’ve been good, God loves us and showers us with His blessings. If we’ve been bad, he is angry and punishes us. This may be how we see things in our fallen state but it doesn’t reflect the truth of Scripture or the Nicene Creed. God is the Father Almighty. He is not fickle in His relationship with us. He is always love. If we believe what we profess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty”, how could that change our daily perspective?
Saint Silouan the Athonite gives us a glimpse of the fruits of this new perspective in writing about the Apostle’s joy after the Ascension: “After the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostles returned to Jerusalem with great joy, as the Gospel says (Luke 24:52). The Lord knows what joy He gave them, and their souls experienced this joy. Their first joy was that they came to know the true Lord Jesus Christ. Their second joy was how He loved them. Third, how they came to know eternal, heavenly joy.”
Saint Silouan states that the Apostles were filled with joy because they finally were aware of how much God loved them. This filled them with joy. It seems to me that that is the first and perhaps most important fruit of true, profound belief in “I believe in God the Father Almighty”. We are filled with joy not because we have kept the commandments or given alms. We are filled with joy because we are given the gift of recognizing and appreciating God’s love for us. Because the One who loves us has revealed Himself as Father and as almighty, that love can never change or dissipate. Saint Paul, filled with that same joy, exclaims, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
If this credal belief becomes our foundational core belief, what can harm us? There is no psychological defect, no professional failure, no personal brokenness that can separate us from the love of God the Father. This belief accomplishes many things within us. First, given that God is our Father, we have a reason to be joyful even in tribulations just as the Apostles in the midst of a thousand deaths were joyful followers of Christ. Second, given that God is our Father, we realize that at our core, we are good and valuable and can do good and valuable things. Third, given that God is our Father, we realize that we were made to be loved, we are loved, and can love others. Fourth, given that our God is God the Father Almighty, we have a source of strength firmer than the mountains and more powerful than the sea. With this sense of being loved, with this sense of being valued, with this sense of being made strong, we can face the troubles, the temptations, and the difficulties that beset us courageously with faith, hope, and love. And because God is our Father, we know that “the greatest of these is love.”
—Hieromonk Alexios of Mount Athos