Our Father

I have seen some big changes over the years. The change I’m thinking of now is the way we address other people. Whilst at one time when making a business phone call I would ask for Mr Black or use a job title, latterly I would be asking for Bob Black in whatever his department or just plain Bob. Likewise, it became that I would never introduce myself as Mr McHaffie. It would always be first names first time. When all our offices had become open plan, it wasn’t easy, in fact it was difficult, not to overhear others’ phone conversations. Sometimes a colleague could be heard introducing himself as Mr…. and the disdain from the rest in the office was obvious – “who exactly does he think he is?” Sometimes there would be smirking, even ridicule for being so pretentious. Only thirty years previously things were more formal. The need to show deference whether merited or not was the accepted practice and of no particular concern.

There is no doubt that Jesus in Galilee was of great concern to the religious authorities of the day. They took offence at his message, his claims, his behaviour, his heritage. Who did he think he was and who gave him the right to say the things he said, to give forgiveness? He had no great education, no heritage – a mere Galilean, no authority. They on the other hand were very precious of their breeding, their status and their authority. Their self-esteem didn’t need any encouragement. Jesus was a challenge – wrong footing them in public discussions and debates. He avoided their ambushes and the trick questions aimed at publicly belittling him.

The Jewish leaders were highly strung in the protection of their status whilst vehemently holding a faulty understanding of what God wanted of them. Indeed, they were so afraid of getting things wrong with God that they couldn’t even speak His name. The only exception was the high priest and only on a special occasion. Jesus on the other hand spoke directly to God as his Father and not distant and not forbidding. And certainly not one who permits only very special people to address Him by name. Jesus openly taught of God being caring and generous as in Matthew 7v11 – “if you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” When teaching the disciples how to pray, what we call the Lord’s Prayer, it doesn’t start with all sorts of fancy pompous titles. Instead it is simply – “Our Father…”

The apostle Paul made a breakthrough leap from being the arrogant self-righteous Saul – a hard-line traditionalist pharisee of his earlier career. His understanding of what God wanted led him to brazenly hunt down the early Christians in an attempt to eliminate Jesus’ followers. As Paul, he realised he was a child of God with no special credentials, able to call on God as “Abba” – the normal Aramaic word for father.

Realising that Jesus accurately represented what God is like (as he wrote in Colossians 1v15) had a profound impact on his understanding of what God really wanted. It required a huge change from him and made a great change for us. We are not trying to deal with an angry, fearsome even vengeful god who is quick to punish those who step out of line. That was a complete misunderstanding from the past. Rather He is like Jesus who called on his followers to see God as the great creator and to be in awe of him. Yet, astonishingly, to allow Him to be as close as a father can be.

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