I can still see him standing on his back porch, veins bulging, face contorted with rage.
“Yeah, well my Dad’s better than your Dad!”
To which I too retorted in kind, childishly heaping up superlatives that each pointed out how wrong he was, that in fact, it was my Dad that was the better.
And so it would continue.
He was my neighbour and best mate. He still is. Well, my oldest mate, but no longer my neighbour.
That was over 30 years ago. Our almost daily argument over who’s Dad was the greatest.
Truth be told, his Dad was one of the best men I’ve met, full of grace and kindness; a man that modelled sacrifice and love.
But I still think my Dad's better.
I’m going somewhere with this, so stick with me.
I could try and convince you of just how great my Dad is, and I could do that in a variety of ways.
But let me tell you what I didn’t do 30 years ago, and what I wouldn’t do now.
I wouldn’t give you a bunch of facts about his life.
I wouldn’t start with where he was born and when his birthday is. I wouldn’t tell you about each address he’s lived at, or what cars he's owned. I wouldn’t tell you about his fashion sense (or lack thereof), and I wouldn’t tell you what his favourite meal is.
All of those things are true about him, but they aren’t my go-to reasons for how great he is.
When I shouted back my retort, I was bringing to mind the great things my Dad had done—the great feats of strength he’d accomplished.
I didn’t know it then, and I doubt I would have yelled it across the neighbourhood had I known it, but what I was crying out was, “My dad is awesome becasue he's done awesome things, and I love him for it!”
No doubt, all those facts about his life shape him to be the man he is today, but what I see, what a son sees, is a father who is powerfully present in my life through what he had done.
So it is with God.
No doubt he is great because of who he is. He is the eternal one—the one who was, and is, and is to come. God is all powerful, all knowing, ever present. God is sovereign and reigns supreme over all.
But as I read many of the opening lines of Paul’s letters, how does he extol the virtue and greatness of God?
By what he has done!
Take for instance the opening of Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:3–14 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
So stand and proclaim from the rooftops, call from the back porch, from the street corner, from the coffee shop.
“God is awesome! Look at what he has done!”
Praise him for what he’s accomplished in your life. Sing of his virtue when you gather with your brothers. Tell the wanderer of his kindness and patience. Declare his love to the prodigal far from home.
Deuteronomy 10:21 (ESV) — 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
No longer do we stand and argue about who has the greatest Dad, for in Christ we have each come into an abiding relationship with the Father of lights.
For we must remember:
Ephesians 4:4–6 (ESV) — 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
To the praise of his glory.