Summary: The Bible provides helpful, relevant guidelines for today’s fathers.
A BIBLICAL VIEW OF FATHERHOOD
Fatherhood is not doing well in our modern society. Consider these facts from a man who wrote a book on the subject in 1995 entitled Fatherless America. Here is some of what he said:
1. Tonight, 40% of all American children will go to sleep in a house in which their fathers do not live.
2. Before the age of eighteen, more than 50% of our children will spend a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers.
3. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with a dad. Today, an American child can reasonably expect not to.
4. Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend in this generation.1
The Bible does not have a lot to say specifically about fathers and their role in family life. We have read the only two passages in the New Testament that deal specifically with fathers, and in those two brief passages, it would probably be better to translate the word as “parents” rather than “fathers”. I suppose that the Bible assumes that, if God is our Father, then fathers ought to be towards their children like their heavenly Father is towards His children. That seems to be rather obvious, doesn’t it?
The two passages are quite similar in content. Both of them present a negative command. Ephesians adds a positive admonition to the negative. The double emphasis on the negative side may tell us that we fathers face more problems from our negatives than we do our positives. In other words, we may need more help with the wrong things we do in relation to our children than with the right things we fail to do.
Children are commanded of the Lord to obey their parents for it is the right thing to do. However, there is the other side of the coin.
I. Fathers must constantly guard against a heavy-handed, overbearing attitude towards their children. Our children are fragile, vulnerable creatures. A man comes home from his work where he has been dealing with people in a hard-fisted, tough, sometimes cruel world. His language and his attitude is geared to dealing with the harsh realities of that tough world out there. Suddenly, he is home, in a different setting. If he is not careful, his children will often get the same treatment others got in the rough-and-tumble work place. In their sensitive and tender hearts, our words come across as harsh, insensitive, and uncaring. They feel that we have not understood or cared about their feelings. We haven’t listened well enough before we spoke.
In the movie, "Dead Poets Society," Neil Perry was a boy from a wealthy family studying in a very exclusive New England prep school. He wanted very much to become an actor when he grew up. But his father wanted him to be a medical doctor. The school produced a play in which Neil had the lead role. His father reluctantly attended. Neil was the star of the play. His performance received a standing ovation at the end. After the play was over the father took his son home and laid the law down: "Son,” he said, “I’m not going to let you waste your life being an actor. I’m going to take you out of this school tomorrow and send you to a military academy." That night, tragically, the young man committed suicide. He couldn’t take the frustration of being denied his dream of being an actor. The father’s heavy-handed overbearing attitude was more than he could take.
“Fathers," Paul admonishes, “Do not aggravate your children. Do not provoke them to anger. Do not deal severely with them to the point they become desperate and frustrated and dispirited.” You may deal with them decisively when you have to, but soften your words with love and consideration for their point of view.
II. Now for the positive side: the Scripture says that we are to bring our children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
The two sides of this admonition mean to “educate by discipline” and to “educate by instruction.” He went on to say that the best way to achieve this twofold admonition is simply to teach and model for your children what it means to live the Christian life.. If you want to be a good father to your children, if you want to obey the Lord’s command to you as a father, just be a Christian before them. Talk about what it means to be a Christian. Demonstrate it to them in your personal life. Let them see what the Christian life looks like when it is lived out day by day.
Two suggestions about living out the Christian life before your children: