Sadly, we live in a society that finds nearly half of all its children in homes without a mother and father together. In most of those instances, it is the father that is missing from the picture. No matter how hard one may try, it is impossible for one parent to adequately fill the role of two. The responsibilities and impacts on the life of the child are different and cannot be fully engaged without both parents.
In consideration of fathers and their role in the home, there are three basic attributes that a father has the responsibility to present to his children. If these three attributes are present, the child will have a distinct advantage in overcoming the trials and struggles of this life. They are among the greatest responsibilities the father will ever undertake, but they are also among the most rewarding experiences of this life. Consider the relationship God expects to find between fathers and their children.
A relationship of love. There should never be any doubt in a child’s mind that he or she is loved and important in the life of the father. True love is a love of sacrifice (1 Cor. 13; John 3:16). Sometimes that sacrifice is one of time: time spent helping, playing, or enjoying life with that child. Sometimes that sacrifice is one of pleasure: doing something you do not particularly like because your child enjoys it. Sometimes that sacrifice is one of protection: having to tell the child no about something they want to do or have, because it is wrong or harmful to the child’s development and relationship with God. Fathers must love their children enough to do far more than tell them they love them, but to show them every day, by the decisions they make and the time they take, that their children are the greatest treasures in life and the greatest joys in their world.
A relationship of instruction. Fathers have the distinct responsibility of instructing and preparing their children for life. The word “instruction” means, “a spoken or written statement of what must be done; teaching in a particular subject or skill; the act, process, or profession of teaching.” Fathers are to be teachers. Paul wrote, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The responsibility of preparing our children to serve God lies squarely on the shoulders of the father. This is a responsibility that has often been placed on the already laden shoulders of the mother, but it’s time to put it back where it belongs. Dads, it’s time to be teachers again.
That instruction may come in a variety of areas. It may be teaching your child to build a fort, to ride a bike, to challenge the mind to further inquiry. But the greatest area of instruction needed is found in what is necessary to obey God and serve him acceptably. Fathers, if our children do not know, both from experience and instruction, what it means to love, serve, and worship God; if they do not know what God’s Word proclaims as necessary for a life of righteousness and why those things are the case; the blame falls directly upon us. God said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Gen. 18:19). Could God say the same of us?
A relationship of discipline. It is unfortunate that, in today’s society, discipline is considered a dirty word. It is seen as negative and derogatory. But consider the definition of “discipline.” It is, “Training to act in accordance with rules; activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops a skill; punishment inflicted by way of correction and training; behavior in accord with rules of conduct.” When we speak of discipline, it should not just be in the form of punishment presented for misbehavior. Rather, discipline should be approached from the perspective of positive training and preparation for that child’s development into an adult. The rules that are placed in the home should not be to cause the children to be the least possible distraction to the father’s course of life; but rather to prepare that child for a life of love, service, and dedication to God and his righteousness.
In the Scriptures, fathers such as Eli (1 Sam. 2) were held accountable for not showing discipline, either positive or negative, to their children. For a father to adequately fulfill his role, he must engender a relationship of discipline with his children. It must be based in love, God’s Word, and the child’s welfare, but its necessity is unquestionable.
The greatest example of fatherhood a man can have is God himself. John describes us as the sons of God (1 John 3:1-2), and when one considers God’s interactions with man all three of these relationship attributes are readily evident. God has shown his love for mankind in the greatest way possible with the death of Jesus for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-19). He has shown his instruction for mankind through the delivery of his covenant in the New Testament. He has shown the discipline necessary for mankind through his rules and his promises of reward and punishment depending upon our actions (Mat. 25:31-46). He is the ultimate example of fatherhood.
Fathers, let us make sure we are building the correct relationship with our children. Many men can father children, but there are few in our world today who are willing to take on the responsibility of being a father to their children. May God bless us with more godly fathers who are willing to raise their children and guide their families in service to God.