We are seeking to imitate God’s fatherhood, and to follow in the Father’s Way. As parents, real noes are unavoidable, and they are good, like the walls around the city. But we must remember that, as parents, the main thing we are offering is a city of yes, a home of yes, filled with joy and life and gratitude for the abundance of all things that flow to us from the God of yes.
The Bible tells us that earthly fatherhood is derived from divine fatherhood. The apostle Paul bows his knee before the Father, “from whom every family [literally fatherhood] in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15). One implication of this basic fact is that earthly parents are to imitate the fatherhood of God. He is the model for our own fathering (and mothering).
In considering God’s fatherhood, parents do well to reflect on the relationships and rules he established in the garden of Eden, and especially on how he uses yes and no.
God’s World of Yes
Recall that God planted the garden in Eden and filled it with trees that were pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:9). Then he put the man in the garden to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:15), assigning him a priestly guardianship of God’s garden sanctuary. And then God gave to Adam the moral design of this garden:
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16–17)
Note three features of the rules God established in the garden. First, there was one no in a world of yes. Second, the yes came first. And third, the no was real.
All three of these features are crucial. God did not create a world of no, filled with prohibitions and restraints. He made a world of yes and gave it his enthusiastic endorsement. God provided Adam with a garden of delights, filled with beautiful trees and tasty fruit, and his first rule was “Eat from every tree (except one).” There is one no in this world of yes. For our purposes, let’s call this “The Father’s Way.”
Learning Parenting from Lies
We see the significance of the Father’s Way when the serpent assaults it. The serpent’s first question is “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). In other words, the serpent asks, “Did God make a world of no?” In doing so, the serpent shrewdly turns the single prohibition into a total prohibition. He turns the one no into a world of no. This assault on the Father’s Way is why Paul describes those who forbid marriage and require abstinence from God’s good foods as liars who are devoted to the teaching of demons (1 Timothy 4:1–5).
At the same time, we must not forget that there was in fact a no. The serpent also assaults this aspect of the Father’s Way. When Eve rightly notes that there is only one no in the world of yes and that violation of the one no will lead to certain death, the serpent replies, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Whereas the serpent formerly blew the single no out of proportion, now he shrinks the real consequence out of existence.
In sum, the serpent sought to depict God as a miser who makes idle threats. But our Father is not a miser who makes idle threats; he’s a giver who always follows through. That’s the Father’s Way. So what might moms and dads learn from God’s good design in the garden? How might we seek to imitate the Father’s Way?