Doesn’t the idea of calling God “Father” seem, sometimes, highly presumptuous?
Because God is so high and holy, so beyond our understanding, so unlike us (we may be made in his image, but the part of God that’s like us is a tiny part), so powerful and authoritative, that reasonable and prudent reverence for Almighty God should keep us on our knees with averted eyes, hoping to not be noticed so we won’t be punished.
And yet, consistently, God invites us to call him not just “Father,” but, affectionately, “Papa (Abba)”. In the closest Father/Son relationship imaginable, Jesus gives reverent obedience to his Father even as he invites us into the relationship as his brothers and sisters. How incredibly precious is it that the words of his greatest prayer begin with “Our Father”? To be included in this – invited in, adopted and loved as legitimate offspring – how is this even possible? What do we do with it?
I want to live in a state of proper fear of the Lord, recognizing that even my small and finite understanding of his sovereign authority and limitless power must lead me to a kind of trembling worship. God’s admonition of Job (ch 38-39) puts the distance between us in perspective, and the writer of Hebrews wisely observes that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb 10:31)
This is where we exist, and to treat the Most High God with cavalier impudence is reckless, dangerous, breathtakingly stupid. Yet as I think of my relationship with my dad, or my son, I see very often an affectionate familiarity that invites a sort of loving impertinence that borders on disrespect. God help me if I should address the Creator in such a way as I do my earthly father.
And if that wasn’t enough dichotomy, I’d remind you that, before you were his child, you were his enemy. You were a Jesus-hating, disobedient, sin-directed enemy of God. Recoil against that if you like, especially if you came to faith as a youngster, but you can’t really deny it. No child has to be taught disobedience or selfishness, and making a god of your self is making God your enemy.
This can’t be overstated: Like the sunny-day-in-winter process of sublimation, where ice turns directly to vapor, skipping the step of liquid water on the way, we were converted, at conversion, directly from being enemies of God to being beloved children. There was no intermediate stop at some “neutral zone” of peace without salvation, no time when we were on good terms with the King but not yet pardoned.
We were reconciled to God, Paul says in Romans 5:10, while we were enemies, by the death of Jesus. Weak, ungodly sinners, transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13) and now, called sons of his Father.
Because of Jesus, we have entered into a new kingdom with a new economy. Listen to him explain this in Matthew 5:43-45:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’”
Love your enemies – this is what God did; this is what Jesus is doing on the cross as he is literally praying for the Father to forgive them (us!) who put him there. In the economy of this Kingdom, the sons of God are those who spend themselves in this way. It makes no sense in the world, but in the Kingdom of God the children of God are able to do supernaturally, in his will, what we wouldn’t even consider in the flesh. We’re called to it and gifted for it. Do you wonder how you can actually have affection for someone who is at odds with you (and I know you’ve had this experience)? Turns out it’s in your adopted DNA. It’s inevitable. God is your Father.
Heavenly Father, the uncomfortable truth is that I never would have loved you apart from your originating love of me. If you had chosen, in your holiness and wisdom, to be only a distant, punishing and rewarding Sovereign King, it would have been completely reasonable and just – you are the Most High God and there is no other like you. But you have never compromised your holiness, even as you have extended your life-giving love to us who hated you – what wondrous love is this!
Thank you, Papa. Help us climb onto your lap to look at you in wonder and childlike love, and to learn from you to become like Jesus. Grant us hearts of mercy like yours, and the ability to love like you do. Cause us, O God, to follow in our Father’s footsteps.
TODD HANSEN | Resolute Contributor & Member