Call Me Papa: How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”-Romans 8:15

We’re spoiled and don’t know it.

Those of us raised in the Christian faith take for granted the idea that God is “Our Father.” Taught from childhood to pray The Lord’s Prayer, and being accustomed to most Christian prayers beginning with the word “Father,” we are little aware of how shocking this word appears to most of the world.

This inner circle Father language comes from Jesus himself, who prayed this way and taught his disciples to do so as well. Jesus even went so far as to address God as Abba, often the first word from an Aramaic baby’s mouth, meaning something like “Dada” or “Daddy.” No one in his day had the audacity to think or speak of God in such an intimate manner, and it got everyone’s attention in a hurry.

Jesus introduces a word that our hearts immediately recognize and changes the way we see our heavenly Father—no longer a distant, cold figure, but a compassionate, loving Deity-Daddy! Jesus intended to emphasize the intimacy of a parent-child relationship, not to give us some new incantation or one more prayer-legalism (“If you don’t use the right word, God won’t hear you!”).

So it doesn’t mean literally saying “Dada” or “Daddy” in a prayer, you may if that’s what you’d like to do. Rather, Jesus means “Father” used in the loving sense of  “Papa,” declaring the intensely personal connection with God and that God is at least as near to us as our loving parents.

Sometimes, Jesus’ warm expressions of familial love with respect to our Creator are often considered either too disrespectful or beside the point. There are those who feel uncomfortable with such closeness. They feel that if God is thought of as a person, he is brought down to our level and becomes commonplace. But if we regard God in more abstract ways, Jesus’ addressing him as Father doesn’t make sense.

Certain human philosophies invite us into oneness with (or absorption into) the impersonal deity. Jesus on the other hand invites us not into this kind of annihilating oneness, but a “two-ness”—a happy bond between two real, distinct personalities. For God will always be God, and we humans will always be humans, never God or gods.

Even people of Jesus’ day were highly scandalized by what they regarded as an overly familiar way of addressing God. For them, the fatherhood of God implied only the sense of “Father of the nation,” not a display of close, filial affection. So Jesus’ new teaching was considered absolutely presumptuous, and it clearly would have been so had Jesus been anyone other than the one (Son of God) he claimed to be.

It’s Jesus, and only Jesus, who grants us the privilege of viewing and addressing the eternal God, the holy and majestic Creator of all things, as our Father. And that’s the scandal in a nutshell: Jesus tells his followers that the God who dwells in unapproachable light, whose majesty and holiness far exceed our imaginations, is the very being who is inviting us into the inner sanctum of his private family room. We have the amazing privilege of praying in the same breath, “Almighty God, Heavenly Father.”

As children of God, we’re given the family privileges: a wide-open door into his private throne room, a personal, one-to-one hearing when we pray, a supreme court when we’re the victims of injustice, access to a loving guide when we’re lost or disoriented, an inside track on wisdom, a 911 emergency connection or hotline when in danger or trouble, a mentor to keep us on course, a loyal friendship when betrayed, and much more. God invites us to discover the wondrous love and benefits of being his child.

This Father’s Day may we rejoice in the fact that no matter what our experiences have been with our earthly fathers, we have the privileges of being the beloved, favored child of our heavenly Father. Let us taken advantage of our Father’s love for us and enter with confidence into his presence, trusting that whatever we ask of him, he will give what is his best for us.

May you and yours have a blessed and joy-filled Father’s Day.

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

John I. Snyder
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