Looking around the streets of my hometown of Windhoek, they’re full of young boys and girls desperate for a father. You see women with smaller children or babies, begging for money. As these children grow up, many will attest that they never knew their father. Others knew who their father was, but rarely enjoyed his presence. This fatherhood deficit shows, from young adults looking for love in all the wrong places, to teens angrily despairing at their lot. This is certainly an area where Christian fathers should be standing out, setting a very different example.
My father died in 1999, when I was just 9 years old. Before he died, he wasn’t very present in my life. So I struggled, both with and without him. I lacked a father figure, to follow and imitate. I battled with the idea that I was unlovable. A few years later I attended a men’s Bible study. It was impossible for me not to end up looking to those men as I might have my own father. Inevitably, I was disappointed because none of them could meet my longings. None of them loved me according to my expectations.
Men who’re truly convicted by God will transform their families and ultimately their communities.
In his word, God exhorts husbands to love sacrificially. Imagine the difference a generation of men committed to selflessly loving their families would make. Imagine how different our societies might look if men thoughtfully and spiritually lead their families, caring for them not only economically but also emotionally. That’s the basic idea of this post: men who’re truly convicted by God in this way will transform their families and ultimately their communities.
Men, Recognise that You’re Needy
Before we consider the role of fathers, we need to understand that we’re weak on our own. Without God’s grace, and much prayerful humility, we will never be the kind of Christian fathers that God desires. So there are two things that we need to work on as men. And I believe that if we do these two things, we will become better fathers.
1. Spend more Time with God
We need to understand that for us to be better fathers, we need help from God our Father. We learn about something by investing our time and selves in that something. For example, when you want to get to know your phone, you need to spend time with it. Joshua is commanded by God as a new leader of Israel that he must be close to the word of God, meditating on it (Joshua 1:7-8). When we do this, God’s voice becomes clear to us. As we spend time with him, our fatherhood starts reflecting our heavenly Father.
2. Acknowledge that you’re Weak
We are not perfect beings. But, in a sense, the world is trying to convince us that we are. Countless adverts and movements insist that we are strong. That we can do anything we put our minds to. Only, every father knows it isn’t that simple. We struggle with sin, not only our family’s sin but our own. So, we need God’s help.
God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses.
There will be many times when you don’t want to lead or take responsibility. So, with Paul, we must learn that God’s grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, submit to God, just as Christ surrendered his will to his Father knowing that he had his best interests as well as the good of others in mind (Luke 22:44; Romans 8:28).
The Role of Christian Fathers
Now that we have looked at the two things that we need to do to help us become better fathers, we need to consider our role. I have identified three roles for us to fulfil as Christian fathers, though there are certainly more. These will help us to become the kind of fathers that God wants.
1. Love Your Wife
Paul is clear in his instructions for husbands: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). Love is always about the other person. Love is not about our desires being satisfied, but it is about the desires of the other person being satisfied. Christ’s love for the church brought salvation for the Church. It brought what’s best for the Church. Likewise, you are to lay down your life for your wife’s sake. We are to ask, again and again: ‘What is best for my wife?’ Paul’s injunction for wives to submit to their husbands finds its balance in those same husbands selflessly loving their wives.
As Christian fathers serve their wives, they will teach their children.
All of us learn by observation. This means that we tend to live in patterns similar to those we grew up seeing. For example, if your mother always cooked and washed dishes while the men sat waiting to be served, chances are you’ll carry that over into your own household. But imagine we saw fathers asking, ‘How can I help, as you prepare dinner?’ What about: ‘I will do the dishes tonight’? As Christian fathers do this, they will teach their children that it isn’t only mommy who serves daddy. For daddy also serves mommy. And when they grow up, they will serve others.
We need to remember what Christ did. That even though he was God, he became a servant (Philippians 2:4-7).
2. Take On Responsibilities
There is a common mistake among fathers. That is: as long as the mother is spending time with the children I don’t have to. After all, I provide for them. But this won’t do. Christian fathers must take responsibility for their children’s needs, beyond the financial. There’s a reason God designed families to have both a father and a mother. They are to share the responsibility of actively raising children. This includes discipline.
Children will benefit far more from their father’s presence than an inflated bank account.
However, being responsible for discipline doesn’t preclude sensitivity and care. We need to spend time with our children, to keep us from simply becoming law enforcers. This should include playing and conversing. Such things shouldn’t be seen as the mother’s responsibilities. Parenting is a team sport. Don’t let work become an excuse for not spending time with your children. In the long run, they will benefit far more from the presence of their father than they will an inflated bank account.
3. Lead Spiritually
Take the initiative in helping your family grow spiritually. As Confex wrote about family worship: Christian parents, especially fathers, must gather their children and teach them the word of God. Of course we sometimes forget. But there’s a major difference between that and neglect. Again, family worship isn’t the exclusive responsibility of a Christian father. If you’re struggling to read regularly with your children, seek help from your wife. She is, after all, a “helper” given by God (Genesis 2:20). As I’ve suggested above, this might involve humility. So put off pride and parent together.
Fathers must gather their children and teach them the word of God.
Christian fathers are God’s appointed leaders in the home. But being a leader doesn’t mean bossing people around. Following Christ’s example, it’s the call to be a servant (Matthew 20:26). We must lead our families by setting an example of what it means to be a servant. When our wives look at us, they must see a servant and when our children look at us, they must see servanthood. Let us lead our families in family devotion and in being an example of a servant.
Small Changes With Incredible Potential
As I conclude, let me return to where I started. There are many people desperate for a father figure. For many, fathers are absent or indifferent. As Christian fathers there are two things that we need to be constantly working on: personal devotions with God and the ability to recognise that we are not superman. You’re only human, meaning you need help, especially from God but also from other people. Doing this will enable us to better fulfil our role as fathers: loving our wives; being responsible at home; and taking spiritual initiative. Though these seem like small things, the impact they will have on our culture and communities is tremendous.