By Scott Keith –
Living as the men we have been called to be means that we live as men who love. The Apostle Paul is clear about this in 1 Corinthians when he claims that, no matter what we say, if we speak without love, we are no better than a banging gong:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So in one sense, it does not matter how your father treated you. It maybe does not even matter if you had a father. What matters is who you are. You are a free child of God who has been called to faith and to freedom in Christ. It is that freedom that allows us to truly love. Paul can say what he does in 1 Corinthians 13 because he is not talking to those who are yet slaves to the Law and the death it brings. Christ is the end of the Law for us. We are free. Being free, we are now free to be servants to one another in love. That is why love is the greatest, because its origin is freedom. So in turn, we too are free to forgive.
Some will criticize the idea that the father has a particular order in life, in the family, and in the home because what is presented here may seem like some kind of backward, antiquated social order. Yet, we know from God’s Word that He, more often than not, tends to work through these social orders how and why He chooses to do so. Vocationally, the role of the father will always be different than that of mother. We may choose to deny this reality, but our denial does not equate to changing the way things are.
The whole of Scripture speaks against a denial of this order. The father is to speak in encouragement and love to exhort his family in the love of the Lord: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” Further, he is the head of the house: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” But his headship is intended to point to love, forgiveness, and encouragement. It is not a headship that lords power over those whom he is called to serve. It is a headship meant to be that analogia entis (analogy of being) to a good and gracious God.
In God at Work, Gene Veith describes the reality that, as Christians, we do not give up the natural order of things or our earthly vocations. Rather, we now embrace them in freedom and love. Veith explains that “when He says to live as you were called, he is saying, among other things, do not change your various vocations just because you became a Christian.” Rather, understand that God’s order, or first use of the Law, is still in place among Christians.
We ought to acknowledge that some things we do as men, rightly and wrongly, support our vocations as father, while others detract from it. When we use our power to serve only as a means of punishment and intimidation, we detract from our intended headship and fatherhood. When we disrespect our calling as husband to our wife, we teach our children that our grace has limits. When we fail to love, we show that we misunderstand what it takes for God to love us—namely, the atonement wrought by His own Son. But the Gospel changes all that. The Gospel breaks in and speaks peace, hope, deliverance, forgiveness, and love into our hearts. And on that powerful Word of life, we ride into the lives of our families speaking those same words of peace, hope, deliverance, forgiveness, and love. When we do this, our headship in the family is confirmed. When we do this, we teach our children that God’s grace has no limits because it took a limitless grace to forgive us. When we act in love, we merely shadow God’s love as a pale reflection. But sometimes that pale reflection is just what is needed to provide hope!
The real-life application seems to be that, as fathers, we need to accept our vocations as handed down to us, or gifted to us, by God. This means being confident in our state of being as fathers; not desiring to be something we are not, but recognizing our fatherhood as a gift from God. My intent is to show you the importance of your vocation as a dad. Being a dad is a calling so great that it literally points your children in a real and substantial way to the cross of Christ and a gracious God who loves them and desires them as His children.
My only words of intentionally practical advice to you will be this: you are forgiven in Christ. He has called you to Himself and to be a dad. Be confident in God’s purpose for you as a father. As a father, you are in a position to be an analogy of being to a good God. God has called you to this, and you are merely walking in the steps that He has laid out for you. Live freely as the dad God has called you to be.
Happy Father’s Day!