Snake Parents


Author: Betsy Nelson

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:9-12

Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (RSV)

It certainly sounds like everyone was certainly very nice back in Jesus’ time.  No child abuse then!   Life isn’t that easy now.  Plenty of parents are abusive.  “Dysfunctional” is the new normal.

So how can you possibly even approach the idea of God the Father if your own father was being abusive?  There are plenty of parents who give their children stones instead of bread and snakes instead of fishes.  We read about them in the paper.  We hear about them on the talk shows.  They are the reason we have a Department of Human Services.

No wonder people don’t believe in God.  They can’t possibly believe in God when their own parents abuse them.  Their visible example of parents is horrible, so how can they get the idea of an invisible parent?  If God is bigger and greater than your parents, then who would want a bigger and greater example of terrible?

Perhaps this is why so many people who call themselves Christians feel that “God hates…” (fill in the blank).  God doesn’t hate.  God loves.  Perhaps they heard their parents tell them they weren’t worthy, they weren’t valuable, they weren’t loved.  So they took the next logical step and decided if their own parents acted like this, then God did it more so.

But this isn’t who God is.  God seeks us out.  God searches for us, individually, like the lost sheep, like the lost coin, like the lost son.  God cares about us personally and deeply.

It might be helpful to throw away the notion of God as being just like our parents, but more so.  God is love, perfected.  God created us because we are needed.  None of us are accidents.  We are all wanted.

Let us hear the words of Jesus in the book of Luke, chapter 15.

First He tells us about the lost sheep. (verses 1-7)

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (RSV)

Then He goes on to tell us about the lost coin. (verses 8-10)

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then He tells us about the lost son. (verses 11-24)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. (RSV)

Jesus tells us three stories, but they are all the same story.  They are the story of God’s relentless, unfailing love for us.

God is constantly seeking us.  God is above and beyond our human conception of love.  God is the source of love, and the source of us.

Your own parents may not have shown you an example of what unconditional love is.  They may not have shown you any love at all.  But they are human, and God is above all human things.  Know that God loves you more than you can possibly imagine.  God made you because God loves and needs you.

By Betsy Nelson

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