God is both Father and Judge, but should we put God as Judge before God as Father? If we do so we may see God as one who primarily seeks a legal settlement with us rather than a restored relationship. We may also gain the impression that God first needed to quench his righteous wrath before he could bring himself to love us. But this is plainly not so. Paul tells us that it was while we were yet sinners that God demonstrated his love for us at the cross (Rom 5:8). Christ cannot be thought of as the one who changes God making him merciful towards us.
Of course God is Judge and he must put everything right between us “legally”. But the legal aspect must never take centre stage. Rather than putting the legal first we must consider God as the triune communion of love who wants family relationship with us. And who desires this so strongly he became one of us to lift us up into his own life.
We must continually clarify this relational vision by always looking to who God is in Christ. In Jesus, we see God as Father who loves us even though we don’t love him in return. In him, we also see that the Father’s all-embracing purpose for humanity is relational rather than judicial. And what God is in Christ he ever was and is in himself. Christ’s coming among us in the likeness of sinful flesh is the very movement and expression of God’s Fatherly love towards us.