Jesus spoke to God as his Father, using the Aramaic term abba. This expressed shocking intimacy with God, something virtually unknown among religions of the ancient world, including Judaism. Yet, perhaps even more surprising, Jesus taught his followers to call God Father, inviting us into his own relationship with the Heavenly Father. When we become Christians, the Spirit of God helps us to know God as our own “Abba, Father.”
For many of us, this comes as welcome good news. But for many others, Father is not a comfortable title for God. The problem is with our experience of our own human father. If he was a harsh or emotionally distant person, someone who always made demands upon us but was stingy in communicating love, then we tend to project these characteristics onto God. Those who had an abusive father often find it even harder to relate to God as a father.
The problems associated with projecting negative father images onto God has led some people to back away from speaking of God as our Heavenly Father. But this deprives us of the chance to grow more deeply in relationship with the God whom Jesus revealed as our Abba. If we let the Spirit help us to know God as father, if we allow the Scripture to show us the gracious fatherhood of God, and if we open our hearts to his love, not only will we know God more truly, but also we can experience healing of the hurt that lurks within us because of our relationship with our earthly father. Thus calling God “Abba, Father” sets us free to live in the freedom and joy of being one of God’s beloved children.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When you think of God as father, what images or ideas come to mind? How has your relationship with your Heavenly Father touched your life?
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, how I thank you for making yourself known as Abba. What a privilege it is to know you in such an intimate way. What a joy to know that I am one of your beloved children.
Yet, you know, Lord, that it’s hard for many people to think of you as father. Because of their experience with their earthly father, they easily project their sense of fatherhood onto you. They can think of you as distant and uncaring or even as harsh and cruel. For those whose hurt keeps them from knowing you truly as Abba, I ask for healing. May your Spirit touch their brokenness. May they know you as a loving, forgiving, faithful father.
Help me, dear God, to know you more and more as my Heavenly Father. May I find security and confidence in your love for me. May I live in the joy of being your child. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
During the last few weeks of the summer, I take a break from writing new reflections. We’ll be sending out reflections I wrote a couple of years ago on Paul’s letter to the Romans. I pray that God uses these to deepen your relationship with him and to strengthen your faithfulness as his disciple. We’ll begin sending out new reflections on Tuesday, September 6.