“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”(Matthew 5: 44–45)
Are you turned off, just like most atheists and secularists do, by the words like “God” or “the Lord”? Don’t be. Remember that ancient people had no word for “Nature,” “Evolution” or the “Universe.” So, Jesus used the word “Father.” The ancient Chinese used the word “Heaven”( 天). To the ancient Chinese, whether there is to be a drought or a flood is determined by “Heaven.”
So, Jesus said that the Father causes the sun to rise for both the evil and the good. And the Father also sends rain to both the righteous and the unrighteous. In Jesus’s eyes, the Father is impartial. Father does not take sides. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu said that “Heaven and Earth are not kind; they treat the ten thousand things as straw dogs.” For a long time, I had a problem understanding this saying. Why are heaven and earth not kind? It was only a few years ago that it dawned on me that Lao Tzu probably meant that nature is not partial. Nature does not play favorites. It treats everybody the same. It does not even give special treatment to humans. The Tao is neither anthropocentric nor anthropomorphic. This is Lao Tzu’s vision of nature’s God. Jesus just used a different word. He called it “Father.” Jesus could have used the word “Tao” if he were Chinese. In fact, in the Chinese version of the Bible, the Greek word Logos is translated as “Tao.” When Chinese Christian pastors preach, it is always referred to as “teaching the Tao” in Chinese.
There is a passage in the Gospel of Matthew which is exquisitely beautiful. I called it “the Nature Sermon” in my book, The Zen Teachings of Jesus. Here is the quote:
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6: 26–29)
The birds of the air and the lilies in the fields are taken care of by nature. Jesus lived in a pre-modern age. He did not have a modern vocabulary. He called nature’s God “Father.” In the old patriarchal society, manhood is defined by the three P’s — Provide, Protect and Procreate. If we understand the historical context, we will see that the name “Father” is most appropriate. Humans change metaphors as human knowledge evolves.