From the Pastor's Pen
From the Pastor’s Pen…
Perhaps you have noticed: the concept of “fatherhood” has undergone considerable erosion and revision over the course of the last half century. Gone are the days when Ward Cleaver,
Ben Cartwright, and Howard Cunningham supplied the nation with a positive, consistent image of fatherhood every night of the week. Somewhere along the way popular culture traded-in Sheriff Andy Taylor for Archie Bunker, and Mike Brady for Homer Simpson. In film and on television, fathers are more often depicted as bigoted, bumbling, boozers than as righteous, responsible dads capable of making good decisions, disciplining their children, and generally being the leaders in the home that God created them to be.
There is probably no single trend or movement to which we can assign blame for the degradation of fatherhood that has taken place in recent decades. Part of the responsibility, no doubt, lies at the feet of fathers for failing to acknowledge—much less live up to—their high calling before God. A portion of the fault lies with the fathers of my generation who failed to teach their boys to become men, and mothers who refused to let them. The modern radical feminist movement is not without culpability, either. There has been (and continues to be) a very real effort to create a society where, not only is male bias eliminated, but fatherhood is cast aside as a relic of an oppressive, patriarchal culture.
This war on the traditional concept of fatherhood extends even to the fatherhood of God Himself. Many egalitarians favor a “gender neutral” edition of the New International Version of the Bible that effectively neutralizes gender distinctions in Scripture. Gone are references to “God the Father;” In its place, “God the parent.” Some radicals have even taken steps to remove any hint of “maleness” from religious discourse, embracing instead the “divine feminine.” Thirty years ago, these things were a hot topic for debate and very much “in the news” of all things religious. We don’t hear much about them these days, but this is not because these radicals (the ideas and the people behind them) have faded from the scene. It is because they have become commonplace.
“What’s so wrong with that?” some may ask. “At least they believe in God.” No, they do not. They believe in a concept of a deity that is of their own making, straight from the ancient pantheons of paganism, not the One, True, and Living God of the Bible. While it is true that God is, in very essence, neither male nor female, the inescapable truth is that God has chosen to reveal himself as ‘’Father.” Why? There must be something inherent in the very essence and nature of God that is most clearly illustrated by fatherhood. To understand the fatherhood of God is to understand that He is creator and provider, that He is loving and compassionate, and that He guides, directs, and disciplines when needed. It is to know that our relationship with Him is one of intimacy, not that of a despot, while also realizing that He requires our reverence, obedience, and respect. Because God is Father to all who enter into a trust relationship with His Son, we understand that we are one family in Him and have an inheritance that cannot be taken away.
Fathers have an awesome responsibility. Not only do fathers have the responsibility of protecting and providing in the stuff of daily life, they also profoundly shape their child’s concept and understanding of God. It is not so much what fathers teach their children about God (though extremely important) that will have the greatest impact; it is how they model the heart of God in the day-in, day-out, flesh-and-blood, dimensions of life that will shape their understanding of God most deeply.
Dads don’t always get it right. Sometimes they get it terribly wrong. Sometimes even mature adults have a very hard time trusting God as their heavenly Father because their earthly fathers abandoned, betrayed, or abused them in sometimes horrific ways. If you count yourself among them, the answer is not to give up on having a heavenly Father in Whom you can place your trust; the answer is to get to know God, Who is everything you’ve always known in your heart a father should be.
On the 17th day of this month, sons and daughters across this nation will celebrate Father’s Day. This is right good, for the Fifth Commandment instructs us to honor our fathers. Dads, may we let this day remind us of the tremendous responsibility we have to model for our children (whatever their ages) the fatherhood of God. Sons and daughters, let us honor our fathers and give thanks for dads who, by their lives, taught us about the fatherhood of God. But above all, let us all give thanks to our Heavenly Father who watches over and keeps us, as every good father should.