Earthly fathers affect our views of God the Father.
Some of us may have watched the movie The Case for Christ, which is based on the true story of how investigative journalist Lee Strobel took on the challenge of examining the historical evidence surrounding Jesus, and how he changed from being a hardened skeptic to becoming a Christian. The reason it took him so long to accept that there is a God, despite the overwhelming evidence he encountered, was his own difficult relationship with his father.
In Dr Paul Vitz’s book, Faith of the Fatherless, he wrote that after studying the lives of more than a dozen leading atheists, he found that a large majority of them had fathers who were present but weak, present but abusive, or absent. The author also examined the lives of prominent theists, and discovered that these theists had good relationships with their fathers.
In John 14:9, Jesus said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (NIV) Do our children see God when they look at us? Do we speak to them the way God would speak to them, or do we shout and ask them to go away?
Do we love them the way God loves them, unconditionally and with longsuffering, or do we love them only when they do something right in our eyes, or match our expectations for them? Do we comfort them when they face failures in life the way God would comfort them, or we are too absorbed in our own pain to even notice theirs?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, NIV)
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8, NIV)
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15, NIV)
Since leaving full-time work in 2013, I have been able to find time to mentor young men and fathers. It is through this that I learned the importance of spiritual fathering and one-to-one mentoring. All of us should ideally have three fathers – Abba Father, our earthly father, and one or more spiritual fathers.
My chief goal in mentoring is to represent God the Father to my mentees. For those whose fathers are absent or abusive, I help them see and understand that God does not love in the flawed way that their earthly fathers do. God is love. God cannot not love. Just like ice is cold; ice cannot be not cold.
Why are their fathers not able to love the way God does? If their fathers had loved them the way God the Father does, then they would not have been so broken and struggling with confidence, identity (including sexual identity), and self-esteem issues throughout their lives.
My mentees come from different churches. Why do they look for me? Why aren’t they able to find a spiritual father in their own church to mentor them? Why aren’t older men rising up to be spiritual fathers to the fatherless in their midst? Does the church even know who are fatherless in their midst?
There are many men in our churches. But where are the fathers? Where is God in human skin?
“Even if you had ten thousand guardians (instructors/teachers) in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I become your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15, NIV)
Fathers are not perfect. No one is perfect. Our fathers cannot give us what they have not received from their own fathers.
When Jesus was on the cross, He said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV) We, too, need to forgive our earthly fathers for not fathering the way they should, and they, in turn, need to forgive their own fathers.
Now that we know how important fathers are, let us father (as earthly fathers and spiritual fathers) like our heavenly Father, so that we can be like God in human skin.
Jason Wong –
is Chairman of Focus on the Family (Singapore) and also of Elijah7000, a Christian movement to turn hearts of all fathers to their children. He will be one of three speakers at this year’s Aldersgate Lecture. See P8 of this issue for early details of Aldersgate SG 2018, and look out for more details in upcoming Methodist Message issues!
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