Summary: Even if our kids are old and have families of their own, they still look at us as their father, and their relationship with the God of the Universe is shaped by our character.
Forgiveness, Celebration, and Embrace
Father’s Day June 17, 2012
I find father’s day quite a difficult day to preach. There are lots of reasons – first is the great diversity in our various experience of father. Some here today had wonderful, affectionate, Godly fathers and so today is a day of warmth and celebration and thankfulness, while others had absent, distant, incompetent, or even harmful fathers and so today is a day of sadness and loss. Second, some of us celebrate the way that our husbands are good to our children, while for others that is also a source of pain. Third, some of us, myself included, are fathers and desire desperately to be the wonderful, affectionate, Godly fathers that we know our children need, yet it is hard to be that in a culture that pushes us in other directions, offers virtually no good examples or role-models, and that traps us with so many other expectations that form our identities.
So it is hard, yet it is vitally important: not the holiday – that is largely a marketing tool for makers of tacky ties. But rather, the entire idea of father is vitally important. Especially if we are to really, deeply know the God who calls us to Himself as children and who describes Himself as our Father.
And so, this morning, I want to spend some time on this difficult, emotional idea. My goal is that some of us would be deeply thankful and praise God for our good experiences; others would experience some healing and restoration; and that still others of us would have some guidance and encouragement in what it means for us to be fathers to our children.
Galatians 4:4-7 (NLT):
This morning’s Scripture is Gal. 4:4-7. 4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, Abba, Father. 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Starting with Sin:
I don’t want to be a heavy, but I feel the need to start with sin. Sin has wrecked all sorts of stuff. Tainted life itself with all kinds of poison. Twisted incredible gifts of God into some painful things. Fatherhood is one of those things that has been deeply affected by sin. We all know that; we’ve all experienced that either personally or in others we care about. But now here is the truth: Jesus has broken the power of sin. Jesus came to restore relationship, chief among those relationships being the one between us and God as our Father. Jesus came to heal that, to make it good and pure and safe and wonderful again. Jesus came to heal whatever pain we may have experienced, set us free through the power of forgiveness, and clear the way so that we could have a whole, healthy, positive experience of God as our Father. So while we start with the reality that sin has made a mess of life, Jesus comes and heals, redeems, restores, reconciles us back to life and wholeness. Jesus even rescues the whole concept of fatherhood.
This is the meaning of Gal 4:4-5. It is about Jesus coming, at just the right time, to buy freedom. To set us free. To see us really, truly, free. From all our slavery to sin. God sent Jesus, Jesus defeats sin that sets us free from slavery, and clears the way for adoption.
We must act, though, in order to experience this reconciliation, and the actions are twofold: forgiveness and acceptance.
Let’s start with forgiveness. If we don’t forgive, we keep ourselves locked in a cage of pain. Sometimes we think forgiveness means letting the offender off the hook, letting them go scott free, taking away a punishment that is rightly deserved, and so something in us (namely, the God-given hunger for justice) resists that kind of forgiveness. It’s because we have our definition wrong. Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. It is not sweeping hurt under the carpet. It is not pretending everything is good now. No! Instead, forgiveness is this: facing the wrong, feeling the hurt, knowing that justice demands that the one who caused the hurt experience the same hurt themselves as punishment, and then making the critical choice: to let retribution go. To choose to give up the right to hurt back. And here is the most glorious thing: forgiveness sets us free, far more than it sets the one who hurt us free.