Greetings and blessings to all fathers-although late, I extend the honor and blessings due you for doing a very tough but so vital job: that of being a father without which the world could neither exist nor continue. In fact, the role of Father is so important that God has called Himself our Father in Heaven.
But sadly we are in a very fallen world and nation which is so often filled with broken fathers and so broken families and children.
Father. Dad. Daddy. Papa. Whatever name one puts on his male parent, the word for some people evokes fond, sweet and happy memories. For others, the word “father” or “Dad” can provoke strongly painful and even fearful memories best left buried in the past. For one person, the thought of Father stirs tears of joy. For another person, the same name sends haunting memories of pain-driven tears.
Our nation now lies increasingly broken and fatherless. Whether through divorce, abandonment or abuse on one hand, or simply dads that spend more time at the office than with family, who themselves are broken and perhaps abused, or who for whatever reason just can’t connect to the hearts of their kids, our nation is going through what has been called a “fatherless generation.” For many such reasons, so many men and women lie as casualties on a battle-field, wounded and dying. Of course, for our healing to begin, we must forgive our parent’s failure as our Lord Jesus instructs us. And while it doesn’t justify it, so often such fathers are only reacting out of what their fathers failed to give them-or did give them in abuse or other wounds.
The prophet Malachi in the last two verses of the Old Testament prophesies this heart-breaking condition as well as promises God’s answer. The prophet declares :”Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord—and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” While Bible students might interpret these verses in different ways, it is clear our nation is in the throes of a society in which the hearts of fathers and children are not connected—and the many problems in our nation can be traced to this division which indeed seems to be a curse.
The result: what some call the “orphan spirit” which in contrast to the healthy sense of security, worth, belonging, identity and destiny that comes from a good father-child relationship, a person feels lost, disconnected, alienated from other people and society. Such “orphans” feel abandoned and not belonging—even around other people at times. And yes, sadly, sometimes even in a church. We see this not only in more and more young people, but even in older men and women.
One tragic example of this orphan spirit is shown in the current news story of nine people tragically being shot down in Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The Body of Christ nationwide rightfully weeps with this sister congregation. But the pastor of a church I visited this past Sunday morning pointed out another tragedy: the killer himself is a young man so lost and disconnected and bearing the orphan spirit which is not again isolated but so ravages our nation and much of the world. The other day I saw a photo posted on FAcebook of a young man whose face in so many places was pierced with all sorts of hooks and metal objects. Sadder was the comment of so many people, many of whom I suppose would count themselves Christians—who quickly threw “word stones” of judgment and condemnation against this lost young man—rather than having the heart of Jesus to help this young man find his way home to Father God’s loving arms.
But the silver lining in Malachi’s word gives hope for all peoples and nations. The New Testament and the Gospel or Good News of Matthew follows Malachi. And what do we see? John the Baptist comes both announcing the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth, as well as the coming of Messiah, Jesus Christ. And what did Jesus come to reveal: besides forgiveness of sins, He also came to also announce the Kingdom of God coming to earth —and to reveal Abba, Father God, our heavenly Father. In so much of what Jesus did, He made clear He was revealing the Father heart of God—even that the Father was just like Jesus. Humble and gentle, kind and loving. Not the picture of an angry, violent-tempered being many get from their own earthly fathers—and even filter their portraits of Father God—through unbalanced pictures of God from theOld Testament under the law. Yes, God is holy and just, and hates sin. But His response was not to condemn or destroy, but to send His own Son Jesus Christ to take the punishment for our sins—so we could be set free from our sins which destroy us so we could live free in the Spirit from both condemnation and the law.
Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). To the contrary, God’s word says “To as many as received Him (Jesus) to them He gave right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12) When we receive Jesus Christ, Messiah, by faith as our Lord and Savior, we are born again and become sons and daughters, children of the Family of Heaven. We receive “the Spirit of adoption—the spirit producing sonship –in the bliss of which we cry Abba [That is] Father.” (Romans 8:14-17 AMP). So in Messiah Jesus we are given the reality of becoming beloved daughters and sons of God.
But here is the other half of Heaven’s remedy for the curse of fatherlessness ravaging our nation—and many of us: Heaven’s perfect father who can re-parent us where our earthly father’s fell short and so heal the wounds of heart and soul probably almost all of us bear to some extent. “Abba, Father” both Jesus and Paul the apostle called Him. Abba is the Aramaic word for Papa or Daddy. A tender expression inviting all of us who are broken and bruised in body or soul, all who have lost hope. Have lost heart—to come as Papa God’s precious little girl or boy, putting away the pretense and pride of being adult (regardless of our age, we are all to some extent broken, hurting, little kids in need of Daddy God’s perfect, tender loving embrace.) To just crawl up in his lap, and let Abba—Papa God—hold and comfort us as we just soak in His great love, or pour our hearts out to His all-compassionate tenderness. As with the prodigal son, Abba’s arms are always open and welcome us home to His great, unfathomable heart of love which nurtures, heals, and makes us whole.
So happy, happy Father’s Day you fathers wherever you are. Not only biological fathers, but those perhaps whose children are mainly spiritual children—this kind of fathering to the lost and dying “orphans” of the world is one of the greatest needs in our world. To both kinds of fathers: your role is so critical for truly you represent the heart of Father God to your children—a most critical role. Oh, don’t fret. Papa doesn’t expect you to be perfect-only to do your best by His grace to point the way to Him, the only perfect Father. And just remember—no matter how old and “mature” you are, Papa God’s arms are always there for you, and for all of us.