Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the years, I have been given many enjoyable and unique Father’s Day gifts—special breakfasts, Belgian beer, beard trimmers and always one of Tammy’s homemade craft cards. I confess though, that what has brought me the greatest joy were the times my children gave me a big hug and told me they love me (I get misty-eyed just thinking about it!).
We humans are the most sociable species on earth—we want to love and be loved. But what accounts for love? Science, in accordance with its nature, looks for strictly physical explanations. A current explanation is that love evolved as a vehicle related to the human drive to reproduce. But if that is the case, why then do parents continue to love their children after they are born? Science points to reward processing systems in the brain (pictured below) that, through biochemical reactions, fire the pleasure centers of the brain. The pleasurable feelings that result are then interpreted as “love.” Conversely, the painful feelings we experience when love is lost are the result of events that lead to the firing of the brain’s pain centers. No wonder we hold fast to the objects of love and seek to avoid the loss of love through rejection, divorce, death, etc.
The physical reactions in the brain related to our feelings of love are real. But is the physiology of love all there is to it? The answer is no. By God’s design, humans are physical-spiritual beings—the union of body and spirit.  Though science generally does a good job dealing with the physical (with more being learned all the time), it does not (and with its tools, cannot) enter the realm of the spirit where understanding comes not through observation or experimentation, but by revelation that comes through the words and acts of Jesus, the ministry and personal agency of the Spirit, and Holy Scripture.
In Scripture, God has revealed to us that we humans were created in the image of God (imago dei). As discussed last week, Scripture also tells us that God (who is one in Being and three in Person) is love (1 John 4:16). Thus the love we experience as humans is not merely a biochemical phenomenon—it is a reflection, through the Spirit, of God’s own spiritual-relational nature. It is God who gives us the ability to give and to receive love.
When I think about my beloved family members—my grandfathers, my dad, my father-in-law, my wife and children—I experience very pleasurable feelings! I’m aware that these feelings involve the firing of the pleasure centers within certain regions of my brain—that is what is happening physically, and I’m thankful to God, my Creator, for that! But what produces those reactions in my brain is not the need to reproduce, but the spiritually-grounded desire for good and right relationships. For that desire (and ability) I also thank my Creator, who designed us for relationship—ones that, in amazing ways, can reflect, if only dimly, God’s own kind of love for us.
I know that some of you reading this have not had a good relationship with your human father. I also know that the painful feelings of that bad relationship sometimes are projected onto God our Father. If that’s the case for you, I’ve got good news: those bad perceptions can be overcome by extending forgiveness to the human father who failed to be the kind of dad God designed him to be. Rather than remaining trapped in the past, please remember that God is in the business of healing and changing individual people and even whole families.
Here’s good news for those of you who are fathers: no matter what kind of dad you have been, God wants to make you a better one. He is a perfect Father who is faithful and can help us all become better versions of ourselves, as he works to transform us into the person he created us to be. Indeed, he who began a good work in you, will bring it to completion (see Philippians 1:6).
Just as I relish my children hugging me and telling me they love me, I know God relishes when we trust and receive his love as we hug him back in response. But it doesn’t stop there—we can be conduits of God’s love to others. When we extend love to one of God’s children, they might sense they are being hugged by God himself. Our heavenly Father is perfect love and has moved heaven and earth to have a loving relationship with all his children—those he is bringing to share in the glory of his own Son!
Happy Father’s Day to you all,
 Click here for a GCI article that addresses the biblical teaching that humans are the union of body and spirit (soul).
Note: the images used in this letter are from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.