Summary: Christian fathers are called to be faithful in many ways, They are called to lead their families spiritually, to live exemplary lives, and to represent Christ at home.
“A good father should be… sober, decent, supportive, patient, authoritative, respectful, playful, fair, affectionate, exemplary, engaged, and present.” Can I hear an “amen”? According to an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune a few years ago, good fathers are:
1. Sober (because being drunk is never helpful);
2. Decent (controlled and clean in word and deed);
3. Supportive (in a world filled with critics, we all need cheerleaders);
4. Patient (a prerequisite for any intimate relationship);
5. Authoritative (fathers should stand for something);
6. Respectful (as the Bible says, fathers should not provoke their kids to anger);
7. Playful (whimsical, childlike);
8. Fair (even-handed and unbiased);
9. Affectionate (which means “showing” love in word and deed)
10. Exemplary (being a “role model” for the kids);
11. Engaged (being attentive to and involved in children’s lives);
12. Present (showing up- “being there” is a huge gift to children).
The parenthetical comments are mine, but we can all agree that these 12 character traits are necessary standards for fathers. It is hard to imagine a good father who is never home or who doesn’t show any interest in either affirming or disciplining his children. These behaviors are necessary for fathers and they are affirmed in the word of God. For instance, the familiar words of Psalm 23 (and a host of other passages) assure of that God is present at all times in our lives. In fact, as Jonah learned, even if we try, we cannot escape God’s presence. Psalm 139 also makes this point, and it is self-evident that God, our Father, is supportive, authoritative, fair, engaged, and most certainly, patient! All of these traits are faithful to Scripture, and I must emphasize showing affection in word and deed. Somehow, somewhere along the line, men acquired the notion that it is not manly to say, “I love you,” or to buy a bouquet of roses, but God showed His love for us by hanging and dying on a cross of wood. Moreover, throughout the ages, God has said over and over again, “I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU.” If you want to experience God’s sensitive and expressive love, read Hosea 11 or Luke 13:34ff and measure yourself against that standard. I wish that I would’ve heard the words, “I love you,” from my father, ad so I tell our girls over and over again, “I love you. I love you.”
Again, let me lift up the 12 traits that we have discussed so far are surely necessary for real fatherhood, but to borrow a phrase from science, they are “not sufficient” They are necessary for men of faith, but they are not complete, and with this in mind, I will add these characteristics:
13. Christian fathers must lead their families spiritually. In the church, it’s very, very common to have families in which the mother is the spiritual leader and, sometimes, the only spiritual model the children have. Praise God for the mothers and for the “godly” women who fill our pews, but throughout His word, although not entirely, God has expected fathers to provide spiritual direction for the family. “Choose this day,” Joshua said, “Whom you will follow, but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Also, in recent decades, we encounter more and more families in which the children themselves decide whom they will follow. The chances of this happening would also be reduced if fathers stepped to the plate.
14. Christian fathers are Bible teachers at home. They are called to offer grace at meals, to discuss daily activity within the context of God’s word, and even lead the family in a brief reflection on a Bible verse or two;
15. Christian fathers should manifest the fruit of the Spirit, and this cannot be done unless they have personally done business with the living God. The fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience (already mentioned), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are gifts of the Spirit and they are born out of a life-giving relationship with Christ. In short, Christian fathers must make the commitment to be Christians;
16. Christian fathers honor the image of God in all people, and especially the people who surround them at home. Prejudicial conversation, discriminatory labeling, and any sort of abuse to a family member will reduce a father’s effectiveness and Christian witness;
17. Christian fathers honor their marriage vows because they know that they have been united in Christ and that they are part of a sacred union. They are called to see marriage as a covenant which includes God. Fathers honor God when they treat their wives with the greatest respect;
18. Finally, Christian fathers forgive. They forgive because they know themselves to be forgiven, and like their Father in Heaven, they also throw away their scorecards and forget about the score. Worrying about the score, what you have coming to you, what the other has coming to her, what someone has to do to get back even with you, or what you must do or accept to get even with someone else- all of these lead to either pride or resentment- and both of them are fatal spiritual and relational cancers! Besides, from His decision to empty himself of divinity and to come to earth so vulnerably, to his words on the cross, “Father, forgive them,” forgiving us was at the center of what Christ’s life and work was all about. Forgiving then, is the most Christian act you can perform. If you are a fan of WWJD, forgive someone. Forgive a parent, forgive a child, forgive a spouse, and get about the business of living for Christ.¬¬¬