Of all the names for God, “Father” is the most important. Yes, the Lord is King, and when you sense that life is out of control you are certainly comforted to know that he has kingly authority and control, but Father is better. When Jesus revealed the Kingdom of Heaven to us he taught a radical new way to pray—“Our Father . . .”
But while some people hear father and think intimacy, affection, mercy, compassion, home and rest, others cringe. For them father means anger, rage, lies, violence and rejection. Their earthly fathers have poisoned the name. As a result, they distance themselves from the Father and opt for the gentler members of the Trinity.
Time to protest
Understandable? Yes. If you grimace every time you say or hear the name father, why put yourself through that torture? But hold on. If this describes you, you are closing your ears to some of the sweetest music in Scripture! Don’t allow it! Don’t allow anyone to poison something so good!
A long, slow protest
Slow and steady is the way to go. In this case it means to set your heart on knowing the true Father as he reveals himself throughout Scripture, and especially how his character is most fully revealed in his Son.
Notice that though the name Father is implied throughout the Old Testament, it is explicit and prominent in the New Testament. The contrast between the two suggests that the New Testament writers, following Jesus’ example, were moving into territory that would have been considered a bit audacious at the time. They had gone from Yahweh, which was a name that the Israelites thought should not even be spoken, to Father, which is personal, intimate, and spoken in every prayer. Your goal is to share in their excitement, even if the process takes time.
So begin by gathering some favorite passages.
And [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ . . .” (Luke 15:11-12)
This story about the prodigal son must be on your list because the father’s patience, kindness and enduring love, all on display to a rascal, are enough to dispel any confusion about the character of your heavenly Father. This is how you let the New Testament writers endow the name Father with new meaning.
And a blitzkrieg
But sometimes the slow and steady method of dislodging contaminated names must be supplemented by something more aggressive. Perhaps there are times when you hear stories of our Father in heaven as mere information rather than God’s words to you. One way to avoid this is to yell out a hearty “Amen!” to every reading of the prodigal son. “Yes, Father, I believe this!” This is one way to get nasty with distorted images of the Father.
The other is to confess them. When in doubt, repent. This is good advice, especially when you feel stuck. Confess that you are viewing God in an ungodly way. This, after all, is idolatry.
You are being controlled by a creature more than the Creator.
You have taken the face of your human father and fit that mask on God. This is another way of making God in your own image.
You have exchanged the Holy One for the profane.
This could be perceived as heaping on guilt when you already feel condemned and shamed, but the intent is exactly the opposite. The intent is to remind you of how powerful confession is. It’s saying to God: “Yikes, what am I doing? I am allowing lies to infect my knowledge of my true Father. Father, forgive me. Please open my eyes to who you are, and please keep them open.” Such prayers can bring relief from Satan’s devices and disrupt the status quo like nothing else.
Fight to take back the name
So take a look at where you are. Are you stuck, confused, avoiding the Father, and controlled by someone other than God? If you find yourself in this place, know this: time alone will not heal it and passivity is not an option. Instead you need to go on the offensive. Confess when you need to and pray that you will hear what Scripture teaches about God the Father. Fight to take back the name.
Listen to a sample of Ed Welch's latest audio resource here