The other day I listened to a podcast in which one of the participants suggested that some Christians’ idea of God is more akin to the Godfather than God the Father. I thought this was too good an idea to pass up the opportunity for a short blog post.

Before you dismiss the idea of any believer seeing God as a divine mafioso, think about it for a moment.

What does the Godfather do? Well, he promises to bless and protect you, as long as you abide by his code and pay your dues. And he’s true to his word: if anyone picks on you, the Godfather will deploy whatever threat, force and/or violence is necessary to protect you. And once people know that you’re protected by the Godfather, they may even show you grudging respect.

But there’s a flip side to all this blessing and protection. If you step out of line, if you transgress even slightly, if you break one little rule of the mafiosi code, all that power that was previously being brought to bear against your enemies will come raining down on you in an instant. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve faithfully toed the line; it doesn’t matter how loyally you’ve served him and how sincerely you thought you were genuinely part of the family; it doesn’t matter that you previously had a one hundred percent track record and now all you’ve done is make an innocent mistake. Know this: if you cross the Godfather, he’ll shoot you in the back without a moment’s hesitation. (Don’t believe me? Ask Fredo.)

Why does the Godfather behave like this? Simply, he deals with everyone on a transactional basis: it’s all business to him. As long as you’re behaving yourself and playing by his rules, he may appear to allow you into his intimate circle of friends. But if you put so much as a hair out of line, you’ll soon find out how real that trust is.

Here are a couple of ways to tell if your God is like the Godfather:

– Do you have a deep-seated fear that God’s “love” is dependent on you not stepping out of line and disappointing him? If you do, rather than continuing to blame yourself for your insecurity, perhaps it’s time to fundamentally review what you believe God is really like.

– Do you believe that God will eternally save all those who pray the right prayer, go to church and live the right kind of life, while condemning to eternal torment those who miss the mark, whether intentionally or innocently?

Allow me to suggest that the God who is the Abba of Jesus is not like the Godfather in any way. He has no enemies and no favourites; he doesn’t use the threat of violence to keep us in line; he blesses the righteous and the unrighteous alike; and he freely forgives wrongdoing rather than demanding any kind of payment for it.

To the Godfather, it’s all business; to God the Father, it’s all love and relationship.

So ask yourself what kind of God you believe in: really think about it and be honest with yourself. And if you find that there’s the slightest trace of the Godfather in God as you’ve imagined him (or as you’ve been taught to imagine him), come to Jesus and ask him to reveal to you the heart of the Father. And know that God the Father is love, pure light untainted by darkness, and utterly and unconditionally faithful.