The inference is that because our hearts are not pure, we impute to God motives and ways that are not His. We do not see God, but only our projection of Him.
The Scripture teaches, "We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also" (1 John 4:19-21, NASB).
Here we see that the impurity is hate. Our hatred of fellow human beings colors what we see of God—or prevents it altogether.
This is one of the primary facts that necessitates continual conversion of the heart. Our hidden and forgotten judgments, especially against our fathers and mothers, prevent us from seeing God as He is.
"He who curses his father or his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness," wrote Solomon (Prov. 20:20). Our judgments made against our parents in childhood, usually long forgotten, have darkened our spiritual eyes. We do not see ourselves, others, life or God accurately.
Many times people have come to us saying: "Don't talk to me about a loving God. Why doesn't He stop all the wars, or at least prevent some of the bestial things men do to men, sometimes in the very name of religion? Or doesn't He care?" We have all heard statements like that.
Being prayer ministers, Paula and I never try to defend God. We avoid theological debates. We know the answer is not a mental one but a matter of an impure heart. We merely ask, "What was your father like?"
Invariably we uncover a history similar to what the person has imputed to God—cruelty, insensitivity, desertion, criticism and so forth. No matter what the mind may learn in Sunday school of a gentle and loving God who "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16), the heart has been scarred and shaped by reactions to our earthly fathers.
As a result, we often project cruelty, insensitivity, desertion, criticism and other negative factors onto our understanding of who God is. Our minds may declare His goodness, but our behaviors reveal what the heart really thinks: "As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7, NKJV). Until we are able to forgive our natural fathers for the hurts they may have caused in our hearts, and repent for the judgments we have formed against them, we will not be able to truly see God as gentle, kind and lovingly present in our lives.
Repentance Fosters Healing
I (John) had a gentle, kind father who was a traveling salesman and gone much of the time. During the summer of 1979, I found myself puzzling over why thoughts of unbelief so often trooped through my mind.
In airports or while driving on busy freeways, I would find myself thinking, How can God really be concerned about every detail of all these people's lives? Or, How can He actually know every hair that falls from every one of these teeming millions of heads? (See Matthew 10:30.)
My mind insisted, "This is purely a logical matter. After all, that's a reasonable question to ask." But my spirit was not at rest.
Finally I thought to ask the Lord. He instantly replied, "Your father had little time to notice what you were doing." That revealed my inner world of judgments. I had judged, "Dad wouldn't see, compliment, affirm or care."
Nevermind that he did, in fact, do those things when he was home. My bitter root grew because he wasn't always there. So, of course, God wouldn't be there for me. And I worked so hard for Him!
Those thoughts plagued my mind most especially whenever Paula and I were busy serving the Lord. The little boy had been hurt because he worked so hard and received so little notice for it, and the grown-up subconsciously expected God to treat him like that, too.
Following the revelation, repentance was easy and joyous. I have never since been bothered by such nagging doubts. Now I do not merely have belief, but surety of knowing and feeling that my Father sees and approves of my service to Him. Now I have abiding fellowship with Him, in heart as well as spirit (1 John 1:3).
How many of us have come to our parents for something, and they said, "We'll see," and then forgot about it? Or our parents made a promise to buy us something, but either it never arrived or came so late that the joy of it was gone. Covertly, that colored our faith in God.
What kind of anger did we push down and forget, because we thought, It's not good to be angry with Dad and Mom. What kind of resentful judgments did our hearts cherish and our minds forget?