How Our Father Plays Favorites

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“Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” (Is 56:1, 6-7)

Those conditions for salvation are pretty broad. But Isaiah tells us that even foreigners become brothers under the same source of love that requires justice for and from all God’s children. And therein lies the secret to good parenting. Studies show that when parents show favoritism for one child over another and set different standards for acceptance, only separation can result. But studies also show that problems can result when parents treat all their children the same. What’s a good parent to do?

One Parent magazine suggests fairness is more important than equity. Fairness respects individuality.

“Each of your children has their own unique personality, interests, and needs, so it is best to adjust how you treat them based on their individuality,” the author advises. “Children are happiest when they are treated differently, yet fairly. They don’t want to be treated exactly like their siblings or put on a pedestal. They want to be loved and appreciated for who they are.”

So what does St. Paul do to lure more of God’s lost children to Him? He plays one against the other, starting with his own Jewish brothers—by sweet-talking the Gentiles.

Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32)

Yet here we are 2,000 years later, and this world’s childlike nations STILL don’t unite under one loving Father. The one thing that does unite us is the need for that love, and it’s important to give it as well as we get it. The above article suggests that a child’s personality and behavior can be an even more powerful influencer of good treatment than birth order. “Parents are more affectionate with children who are pleasant and loving,” it concludes.

So, DOES our God play favorites? Our God is love, and in this Sunday’s gospel reading (Mt 15:21-28), even Jesus was surprised by how that God inside him reacted to the powerful faith of one lost child he thought was outside his reach.

The woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Wishing for the love of God is a good first step toward accepting it. But a holy family is founded on the knowledge that getting that love must be comingled with giving it.  Such equilibrium is the secret to a heart-healthy family.

–Tom Andel

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