Holidays honoring parents can be complicated days, am I right?
My relationship with my dad is a perplexing one. It’s not neat and tidy. Father’s Day conjures a wide scope of emotions that quickly arise each year when I hunt for a card that feels fitting.
I’m not the only one. Many of us in ministry have complicated parental relationships. And the more the family unit has broken down in our society over the past couple decades, the more complicated those relationships have become for the students on our campuses and in our ministries.
I’ve read, recited, and prayed through the Lord’s Prayer countless times in my life, but recently I was struck by the power of the first two simple words:
God the Father
We’re so used to hearing this that we don’t think twice about it. But what struck me is the fact that while old hat to us, Jesus’s use of this phrase might have been mind blowing to Jesus’s audiences.
It’s not that the concept of God being a father was entirely absent from the Jewish faith. God was their father in the sense of being their Creator. And He was their father in the sense that He was the originator of their identity as a people. He was the Father of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel). They were His sons (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). They were His chosen people with whom He had a covenantal relationship. There are even passages like Hosea 11 and Psalm 103:13 that use fathering imagery to describe God’s relationship with His people.
But these same people could not enter God’s presence without sacrifice and the mediation of a priest. The concept of God as a father to the people of Israel was not revolutionary (see Isaiah 64:8-9), but the concept of God as a personal, close daddy was. It makes me wonder if Jesus’s disciples were confused, astounded, and mindblown by these first two words.
In teaching the disciples to start their prayers with “Our Father”, Jesus was inviting His disciples—and us—into a close, personal, intimate relationship with God the Father. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus…but through Jesus, we get to come to the Father (see John 14:6)! Our Father, “who art in heaven”, is fully accessible to us at all through the Spirit, who, as Galatians 4:6-7 says, cries out in our hearts “Abba, Father”! (see also Romans 8:15) That is good news!"In teaching the disciples to start their prayers with "Our Father", Jesus was inviting His disciples – and us – into a close, personal, intimate relationship with God the Father." @BritneyLynHamm #collegiatedisciplemaker The Good New… Click To Tweet
Jesus the Son
Jesus doesn’t tell us to say, “My Father.” And He doesn’t say “Your Father” or just “Father.” He says, “Our Father.”
One little word with huge implications! “Our” implies shared possession. Because of the gospel, we share the same father with Jesus. The word “Abba” that’s used in both Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15 is used only one other time in Scripture, and that’s in Mark 14:36 when Jesus is praying in the garden before His arrest and crucifixion. It is perhaps the most personal moment we see of Jesus’s life in the entire Bible and the most intense prayer recorded in Scripture (I can’t think of any other examples of someone praying so fervently they sweat blood).
I’m not a biblical or Greek scholar. But even with my limited understanding, it’s a profound reality to see Jesus refer to God as Abba in His most private, intensely grief-filled moment and then send His Spirit into our hearts crying out Abba Father.
Not only is Jesus saying that we get to share His Father, but we get to share His relationship with His Father. We get full access (see Ephesians 2:18, Romans 5:1-11). No more separation, no more barriers, no more human mediators. Everything Jesus has, we get to have—we are co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17). Jesus is our Lord, our Savior, and our King…but He is also our brother (see Hebrews 2:11, Romans 8:29, and Mark 3:34-35). That is more good news!
This two-word “Our Father” is a profound key to unlocking a limitless trove of spiritual treasure. It is an invitation into a close, personal relationship with a Father who…
… will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-8)
… adopts us as His children through no merit of our own and seals us with His Spirit permanently (Galatians 4:4-6)
… sees us, made us, and knows us intimately (Psalm 139)
… chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-6)
… gives us an inheritance that will never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:4)
… promises us the eternal security of His love (Romans 8)
For those of us who struggle with distant, difficult, or estranged relationships with our earthly fathers, these simple words are even more poignant, especially on the heels of Father’s Day. Knowing God as my Father, a Father who is perfect in all the ways my earthly father isn’t, has empowered me to heal, to love, and to forgive.
I guarantee there are college students in your church, your ministry, and your life who are experiencing a myriad of emotions today—including grief, guilt, turmoil, anger, disappointment, and discouragement—because of the ways their earthly fathers have failed to love them, care for them, provide for them, and protect them. A day like Father’s Day only drives the knife in deeper. One of the best things you can do for them is to introduce them to Our Father.
Maybe they already know Him and just need to be reminded of the profoundness of their spiritual adoption. Maybe they’ve never quite grasped the concept of God as a Father because their own was such a poor reflection. Maybe they’ve never heard this good news at all. What if you could share it with them? Walk them through the Scriptures in this article. Help them grasp the significance of the first two words of Jesus’s prayer. Teach them to relate to God the Father through Jesus the Son and access all the spiritual blessings available to them.
The more they know God as their Father and Jesus as their brother, the more they can experience hope in the midst of their broken earthly relationships, and as Romans 5:5 says,
Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
That is very good news!