Tuesday, September 09, 2008

4 Minute Devotions: In the Name of the Father

Why are we so reticent to call God “Father” these days? If Jesus did it, then why don’t we?

Podcast version here

John 10:32 Jesus replied, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?"

In this politically correct world, we often forget how radical and dangerous it was for Jesus to call God “Father.” The Jews of His time were outraged because He dared to declare a closeness and intimacy with God that was blasphemous to their ears. God was supposed to be holy, sacred, and distant. Christ’s familiarity with God was sacrilegious. His message was too bold and undermined 2000 years of tradition. He had to be stopped; He had to be silenced; He had to be stoned to death.

These days, it is becoming more subversive to call God “Father.” Whenever I go to Presbytery, I am often saddened by the politically correct statements of faith that reflect our culture, instead of Christ’s words. In an effort to make everything palatable, God is often referred to as Creator. There is no intimacy or relationship with that word; God may as well be called Manufacturer of the Universe or Chief Producer of Life.

Christ came among us to reveal how intimate, involved, and interested God is in our lives. He called God “Father” because of the real relationship He had with God. Jesus wanted His people to get over their holy hang-ups and sacred taboos because those things were creating a gap between themselves and God. So boldly, fearlessly, and faithfully, Christ named God as Father. It was such a distinct and true relationship that even His last words from the Cross were, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

We need to get back to basics and stop messing up our faith with cultural conveniences. Jesus faced stoning because He dared to call God “Father.” He opened up a radical way of being in relationship with God, despite the protests of His peers. And in the end, it was His faith in His Father that triumphed over His miserable, lonely, and painful death.

As Christians, we call Jesus “Lord” and seek to follow His ways. If calling God “Father” was good enough for Jesus, then why isn’t it good enough for us?

Prayer: Father God, break down our self-imposed barriers and politically correct structures which fence off our intimacy with You. Liberate us from modern day conventions and enable us to fully accept and embrace You as our Father in Heaven, the Father of our hearts, and the Father of our faith. Give us the boldness of Jesus to step out from cultural limits, so that along with Him, we may boldly declare You as our Father. In Christ’s Holy Name, we pray. Amen.


Ruth said...

You raise some interesting thoughts, Stushie. I have two comments. 1. A label like "politically correct world" is alienating, don't you think? You don't need to put on boxing gloves, as this phrase does. 2. The word Father is not gender-neutral. But God does not have a penis. So yes, the language is too confining. Maybe you don't see that as a problem. Other people do. There are lots of possible ways to use language to talk about, and wish, God. So why whine about it? (Yep, "whining" is a boxing glove word, just testing you!)

Stushie said...

I'm not "whining" about it, ruth. I'm stating facts that most PC people don't like.

As for the penis part, that's typical PC stuff. I go with what Jesus said...take up that issue with Him. It seemed very important to Christ to call God "Father", or do you think that He was just whining in Gethsemane?

Ruth said...

I don't like being called "typical PC" and then dismissed. What I'm saying is that closeness to God (which I think was your point) doesn't need to be folded into a word that is so gender-specific. It's like 2 different issues get collapsed, and the important one gets lost. I hear your point about Jesus' closeness with God. Do you hear my point about gender being too confining for God? Also, please watch the boxing-glove language. Really.

Stushie said...

I read what you say, Ruth, but I certainly don't accept it. You make it a gender issue, I don't. I make it a Jesus issue - He specifically called God "Father," - not Mother, not Creator. As I said in the post, if that's good enough for Jesus, then why do we think it's not good enough for us?

God be with you.

Ruth said...

Just because you don't want it to be a gender issue doesn't mean it isn't. Does the word Father have gender or not? As for Father being "good enough" for Jesus, just remember that there are some people for whom the word Father is not "good" at all. I have worked a lot with incest victims, which is why I am attuned to this issue. For me it's pastoral. Isn't this a situation where a word (which is a human construct) becomes a barrier rather than a tool of communication? Jesus used the words that were right for him, in his moment. Wonderful. I don't quibble with that. I just don't think that means that those words are therefore the ones we must, or should, embrace, exclusively. Most folks I know who use "Father" or "Heavenly Father" use it exclusively.

Stushie said...

Just because you make it a gender issue, Ruth, doesn't meant to say that Jesus ever did.

As for those who have bad fathers and imprint the same qualities on God, I feel sorry for them. They've become victimized and confined to their own experiences, instead of being liberated by the real Heavenly Father, who is all that a father should be.

Motherhood can be the same - my mother was a terrible example of abusive, insane motherhood to me and my siblings - she almost strangled my youngest sister to death as an infant; if I hadn't stopped her, she would have killed my sister. Despite this, it does not stop me from using and cherishing the term "Mother Church."

William Young in the Shack has a great section on this very subject.

People also come from cultures where the gods are crazy, but when they get to know Christ's God as Father, they lose their pain and fear.

God bless your journey.

Ruth said...

Ah, no wonder the idea of "Mother God" is not so appealing to you! I'm sorry to hear your mother was/is crazy. That must be tough. And yes, you moved beyond that experience. Great. But please don't assume that everyone will, or must, do that. Why let our language for God be a stumbling block? From our conversation, it's apparent that we bring a lot of baggage to our words, that's what people do.
I find it interesting to think about your assertion that calling God "Father" is not a gender issue. Are you saying it wasn't to Jesus? I'm willing to think about that in a new way. But it is a gender issue now. And this is the context in which we minister.

Stushie said...

It may be the context in which you minister, Ruth, but it is not the one that I know. The church I serve is beginning to thrive and if you want to have a look at how we do prayers, please check out my weekly Sunday prayers site: www.beardofaaron.blogspot.com. Maybe you should try that style and see if it diminishes or grows your church.

The pastor before me was very politically correct and the church rapidly declined. We are now looking to build a brand new sanctuary with double our capacity - this is the context in which I minister.

Ruth said...

You do love the "PC" label, which you might want to rethink. It is not helpful for dialogue, as I said earlier. So this will be my last response to you. As far as ministry context, I meant simply: we minister to a broken world. Whatever the size of your building.

Stushie said...

Nice discussing the issue with you, Ruth. God bless.