Our Father “Abba”
By Michael Ward
Luke 11:2 “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.”
For years I tried to reconcile the tension between an austere Father and a loving, tender, welcoming Pappa. Maybe you have as well, or maybe you’ve never given it much thought. The term “Father” in Luke 11 is an English translation of an Aramaic word, “Abba”. Technically, “Abba” does mean “Father”, but that translation is an arm’s length away from its intended meaning, which is, “Pappa” or “Dad”. I know it sounds scandalous to speak in such a way about the God who stands from Eternity to Eternity. And honestly, that’s why I had such difficulty seeing the heart of the Father and His tenderness. How do you ever see the Creator of the Universe as, “Pappa”? What sort of mental and theological gymnastics do you have to accomplish to arrive at that kind of intimate reconciliation?
Religion and Legalism told me I had no right to throw around His Name in such a way. He was God and I was just a sinner saved by Grace. He was Holy and I was someone He was mostly displeased with. He was perfect and I was struggling and broken at times. Like a square peg fitting into a round hole, I just couldn’t make such an intimate connection with the idea of “Pappa”. I knew exactly who I was. I knew my laziness and the hypocrite that lived in me. But I knew my good days, also. Days when I went the extra mile to show God how serious and consecrated I was to please Him. On those days, I felt better about myself. Yet, it still seemed as if it wasn’t quite enough. In my mind, it was a step in the right direction to get God’s attention and affection, but I now see that my issue was not with making a tender, loving Jesus, Holy. My issue was with making a Holy God, tender and loving.
I’m beginning to understand that God loves me unconditionally, and as Brennan Manning wrote, “ just as I am and not as I should be”. To many of you, that may seem heretical or unbalanced. It may seem like the utterances of an immature believer. Hear me when I tell you that the majority of my years as a Christian were galvanized by spiritual renewal, and discipleship. Ironically, many of those attempts produced good and wholesome spiritual fruit in my life but still held a sense of dissatisfaction. I felt like I could never do enough to allow myself to be seen as worthy of Sonship.
Out of desperation, I put aside my religious propensities by allowing myself a moment to stand before the Lord, bare and unvarnished. There wasn’t any Pomp and Circumstance, but He came to me in an ordinary kitchen, void of throne rooms and angelic hosts. It was the arms of Abba that surrounded me that night. He called me, “Son”. And I began to feel the weight of one whose eyes burn like fire, and who loves me just as I am and not as I should be. To my legalistic ears, it sounded reckless to throw around such phrases. But that’s exactly the love of Abba.
The Abba revelation is paradoxical but it is far from sinful. It rekindles fire and revives a dry and thirsty soul. It leads the way to paths of righteousness and holiness without having to strive for them. The union I have found in Abba’s unconditional love has opened the door to be sanctified, consecrated, satisfied, restful, faithful, and alive. In Him, I’m a better father, husband, and co-worker.
“Just as you are, and not as you should be”
It’s scandalous. It’s freedom and it’s the altar. It’ll leave you feeling uneasy and unmoored.
But it’s also the journey your heart was built for.
Michael Ward is an Associate Pastor at River of Life Church in Valdese, NC. He is a father, a husband, a son, and a follower of Jesus Christ. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org