The word “Father” is perhaps the most significant name of the God of the Bible. It occurs 1,488 times and sets Christianity apart from all other religions.
God could have called himself anything but He chose to reveal himself as Father. It was Jesus’ favorite term for addressing God the Father. He prayed “Abba” — papa, daddy — a word of endearment, affection and intimacy. That was something unprecedented in Judaism and in world history. Amazingly, God invites us to call him “Abba, Father.” As a dad and grandfather, I’m humbled to think I have been bestowed with a title that God claimed for himself.
For this Father’s Day, let us remember that human fatherhood is patterned after divine fatherhood. Every one of us human fathers is an imperfect reflection of our perfectly loving, heavenly Father. Yet the foremost call of every father in this life is to live in such a way that his children glimpse what God the Father is like.
For many of us, Father’s Day is not easy because we had or have a difficult relationship with our earthly father. Growing up, we may not have really known him, even if we lived with him. I know something about that. My dad wasn’t there for me. He was absent, and we were estranged for much of my life.
My dad and I never played catch, or hunted or fished together. We never worked on cars, hugged or just hung out. He never saw me play ball, learn to swim or ride a bike, or graduate from high school and college, or get married. We never really talked about sports, sex or much of anything else.
He never told me what it means to be a man, or about God and the things of God. I never heard the words, “I’m proud of you, son,” “You have what it takes” or “I love you, son.”
For most of my life, my father was not there. Many of you know the wound of an absent dad. A man’s deepest wounds are not physical but wounds of the soul that render an orphan heart. They often come from the most important man in our lives.
God commands us fathers to care for our children as our Father in heaven lavishly cares for us, and to teach them about and live lives of truth, honor and unconditional, sacrificial love.
Thirty-seven years ago at age 33, I came to faith in Jesus Christ and discovered “the greater love of the Father” that no earthly father can give. I read in Psalm 68:4-6 that He is “a father to the fatherlessness” and realized that I was not fatherless. My real Father is my Heavenly Father — the one we call “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” He is Abba Father! Poppa — Daddy!
In time, by God’s grace, I came to see my need to forgive my father for his absence. I also came to see his sin and brokenness. I began to pray for his soul. As his health deteriorated, my dad confessed and repented before the Lord. Then before drawing his last breath 22 years ago, he made things right with me and the rest of my family.
My dad died in faith, and because of that, this one thing I know for sure: My dad will be a bigger part of my future than he ever was of my past!
If you’re a father, you can reclaim the damaged relationship with your children and others through Christ. You can commit to leaving a legacy to your children of a father who loves them and their mother with the unconditional, sacrificial love of God.
Likewise, God can reconcile you to an absent dad. In Malachi 4:6, we read that God “will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers ” That’s exactly what God the Father did for me and my dad! The God of all comfort can fill your aching void and reconcile your broken relationships.
• Dave Brown is director and pastor-at-large of the Washington Area Coalition of Men’s Ministries (wacmm.org), a nonprofit, nondenominational organization that helps pastors, church staff and men’s leaders across the region in their ministry to men. He also pastors at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.