The showing of proper respect is a lost art in western society. Examples abound of both active disrespect and passive failure to show respect where it is due. The sad reality is, I believe those failing to show respect do not even know that they are failing to do so. So prevalent is this behavioral trend that when we see proper respect being shown, it is shocking because it is such a break from the norm.
Alean and I enjoy curling up together on the couch, and watching Fixer Upper, a television reality program featuring the home renovations of Chip and Joanna Gaines, in Austin Texas. Frequently, we are treated to scenes wherein the couple is interacting with their children. Inevitably, Chip will ask the children a question, something like, “Are you ready to go get some ice cream?” And rather than scream out, “Yeah!” the children respond with an enthusiastic, yet respectful, “Yes, sir!”
The children’s response is not given our of fear, but rather comes from a position of adoring respect for their father who clearly loves them with life itself. They do not say it with any hint of repression. Instead,it flows from them as naturally as laughter.
So it is for our interaction with God Almighty. He is the creator, and we are the created. That alone warrants our respect. From that baseline, there are a handful of phrases we need to eliminate from our vocabulary – a few truths we should embrace.
1. Jesus is not my Homeboy.
2. Yahweh is not the man upstairs.
3. The Heavenly Father is not my Daddy God.
Some will want to object, having been taught all their lives that “Abba ho pater” is best rendered “Daddy God,” as the language a child would use to address their father. While adorable and heartwarming, this is an errant teaching with no linguistic support, one that originated with the German, Lutheran, New Testament scholar, Joachim Jeremias.
While Jeremias never linked Abba to the term “daddy,” the “chatter of a small child” concept did begin with him, and has since been widely criticized and repudiated. He later altered his thinking on the matter in the face of the strong peer criticism.
The difficulty for English speaking persons is that we have no true English equivalent for the word Abba. What we can say, contrary to popular myth, is that Abba is not a young child’s term. Rather it is an Aramaic term used by fully-grown children to address their parents later in life.
Thus, it is entirely appropriate for Jesus to use this term as the Son of God whom John 1:18 says, “dwells in the bosom of the Father.” That is intimate. That is Abba – the term of intimate and respectful affection from an adult child to their parent.
More appropriate renderings might include “my dearest father,” or “my beloved father.” There is nothing casual or colloquial about the term Abba.
The late Georg Schelbert, historian and linguistics scholar, posthumously published a 432 page volume in 2011, addressing this very subject – Abba (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus/Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments (NTOA/StUNT)).
Laurenz Schelbert, of the Bethlehem Mission Society said of George Schelbert, “He learned the ancient languages to a high degree of competence, playing on them like a pianist on the piano.”
According to professor Shelbert, “in the Aramaic language of the time of Jesus, there was absolutely no other word available if Jesus wished to speak of, or address God, as father. Naturally such speaking of and addressing thereby would lose its special character, for it is then indeed the only possible form!”
We find the term Abba only three times in scripture.
Mark 14:36 – ESV
And [Jesus] said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
The image of God as father, even intimate father, is found throughout the pages of scripture. But never are we to approach God with presumptive disrespect, because we also know that “our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)
Jesus is not only the Son of God, he is the all-powerful creator of all that exists (John 1:1-3, John 1:10, Colossians 1:16). To reduce Jesus to “my homie,” while playful and cute, reduces the majesty of creator of the universe to the familiarity level of our golfing buddy from down the block.
Jesus is Messiah, Sovereign, my Lord and my King, not my homeboy. Heaven is his throne and the earth his footstool. (Acts 7:49, Isaiah 66:1-2) Indeed, he is King of all kings, and I am nowhere near on equal footing with that status.
Jesus said, in John 15:15, “I have called you friends,” but he did not say, “Hey, we’re ‘buds.'” I read once that John, the author of Revelation, could surely be called a “friend of Jesus,” but he didn’t slap Jesus on the back and pal around with him when Jesus appeared to him in the Revelation! Jesus has been (and remains) exalted to the highest position and holds the name that is above every other name.
…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:10-11, ESV
Or, consider this scene when Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne, the train of his robe filling the temple, the seraphim flying and calling out to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.” The foundations trembled and the temple was filled with smoke.
Then said I, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” – Isaiah 6:5, KJV
God is holy, and it is the very holiness of God that inspires our reverent fear of God, and the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Or, as Mark Batterson once said, “Our lack of fear is the beginning of foolishness.”
God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 6:15-16, NIV