This motive—reverence for God—is a slippery one. This lets in a great deal of the clutter that gets between us and God, because it seems like the proper thing to do.

“Papa, I come to you this morning” has a totally different feel than “Almighty God and Everlasting Father.” Even if you do not start out that way, addressing God with a coat-and-tie formality you would never have wanted between you and your dad will end up starching the relationship. “Papa” is what Jesus gave us. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ ... Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

The point is not the words; the point is the fruit, their effect. Stained-glass language reflects a view of what Jesus is like; it shapes our perceptions of him and, therefore, our experience of him. Whatever the term may be, just ask yourself: Does this sound like his actual personality? Does this capture his playfulness, infuriating the Pharisees; his humanity, generosity, and scandalous freedom? Does this sound like the Jesus at Cana, at dinner with “sinners,” on the beach with the boys?

These ways of speaking about Jesus perpetuate distorted views of his personality and keep Jesus at a distance, the polar opposite of the intimacy his entire life was committed to. It makes it hard to love him. This stuff actually gets in the way of loving Jesus. Listen—you can honor him, respect him, insist that others do, and never actually love Jesus. This is not what he wanted.

False reverence is a choice veil of the religious fog. It will bring a shroud between your heart and his.

 

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