Today Pastor Choi talks about fatherhood. Based on Peter Chin’s article, he begins his message with the reasons for a poor self-image of fatherhood among men today: the wrong assumption on “born perfect” and the bad influence from the media. Then, presenting how God the perfect Father does His fathering for His children, he exhorts the earthly fathers to do the same: love your children by putting their interests first, know your children by spending time together, and instruct them with God’s Word.
Following is a summary of his sermon:
Ephesians 6:4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Happy Father’s Day!
The message this morning is for all dads present: dads in their 20s and dads in their 90s. Dads who are raising kids at home and dads whose children are grown up. It is for the adoptive/step/ biological fathers. It is for every father.
It is also for the “perfect” fathers and the not-so-great fathers. It is for the fathers who consider themselves “bad” or even “the worst” father in the world. It is for all fathers who would like to grow mature.
My intention is not to remind us of what a lousy job we have done as fathers. Rather, I would like to give all fathers a glimpse of hope; the hope of improvement in fathering no matter how old we are or no matter how a bad job we have done (parenting is not over until we die). I also would like to encourage every father to do a better job and go on unto perfection (Hebrews 6:1).
Now, before I dig deeper, let me remind you that my message is for fathers not for children. My heart goes out to those children who struggle with their not-so-great earthly fathers. They may have a hard time getting along with their fathers. Some of them may have not forgiven their “terrible” fathers yet. Others may not talk to their dads at all. I don’t have time today to cover the topic “how to get along with our hard-to-forgive dads,” however, be patient with me. I may come back to that topic at a later time.
So, let me begin with a simple question to all dads: What kind of self-image do you have when it comes down to fatherhood? Why do some of us fathers, if not many, carry a poor image or a mediocre image at best?
I think the answer comes from Peter Chin. He points out a couple of sources of the poor image of fatherhood among men (Confessions of a Bad Dad, p. 52, Christianity Today, June 2014).
First, we carry the wrong assumption/understanding of “perfect” fathers. We believe that some fathers out there were born with a natural aptitude to do a great job of fathering. They are cut out for the job. It comes naturally for them. They do it with no sweat! We think this way: Look! Those “perfect” dads are always loving, they are cool all the time, everything seems under control in their homes, they never lose their tempers, they know all the right answers in every single situation, they are strong both physically and emotionally, they provide everything the family needs, and so on. We feel somehow that those fathers were born with a genetic superiority, while we weren’t. From their birth, they know it all (A to Z) in parenting, while we are clueless.
The second thing that contributes to our poor self-image of fatherhood is the influence in the world, particularly from the media. Peter Chin continues, “On television, I watched Al Bundy from Married with Children. Homer from the Simpsons, and Peter Griffin from Family Guy. These fathers were bungling and lazy, oblivious and indifferent to the needs of their family. They normalized mediocre fatherhood, creating the impression that these types of fathers were, by their nature, irrevocably incompetent. Not only was there little possibility of improving as a father, but there was little need because nothing more was expected from a dad than to sit on the couch all day, a beer in one hand and a remote control in the other” (Ibid.)
These two factors (the wrong assumption of born perfect and bad example to follow) undercut any inclinations in us to grow as fathers, therefore, keep most fathers unmotivated in fathering.
So, if we want to be better dads, we need to alter our course and start going into the right direction. We need to replace the wrong assumption about perfect dads with the right understanding about ourselves.
What is the right understanding, then? No father is born perfect. No father knows it all; no father is equipped so well with skills that he scores a bull’s eye in every parental duty from day one. That means that you and I have hope. Every father makes mistakes. We all do. Every father has room to grow. No one is born perfect, yet all of us can grow mature and go on unto perfection in parenting. Onward and upward.
Another part of the right understanding is this: growing as a father requires time and occasions. No father learns about fathering instantaneously. No father masters the knowledge by reading books only. It takes time and occasions for us to grow mature in our relationship with our children. E.g. Peter Chin shares his lesson on fathering through his wife’s cancer and treatments. Before her diagnosis, he didn’t know much about fathering. Thrown into daily parenting duty to help his wife, after the initial despair, he began to grow mature as a father. He learned about cooking, doing dishes, cleaning, laundry, taking kids to school and activities, and so on. By spending time with his kids, he began to know them better—their personalities and idiosyncrasies. “In those nine months, I went from a terrible father to a good one, or at least a better one. And it didn’t take all that much for this to happen, only my wife falling gravely ill.” He concludes, “I’m not sure anything less would have gotten the job done” (op. cit., p. 54). Likewise, we need to welcome and embrace the time and occasions God provides for us to learn lessons for fathers, rather than avoiding or running away from them.
I talked about the bad influence from the world. It is time that we turned to the good influence and the right role model. For that purpose, let me introduce to you God the Father, who is a perfect parent for His children. We earthly fathers can imitate Him in our parenting. In fact, the Scripture reveals how God does His job as our loving dad so that we can model Him after. At least a dozen ways, but I have condensed them into the following three:
First, God the Father loves His children (John 8:42). What’s that mean ‘loving His children’? Love never forces anyone, so it means God never forces His children to do anything against their own will and wishes. The lesson for fathers is that we too never force our own will or plan for our children against their will. If we do, we may provoke them to anger (Ephesians 6:4). I am not saying that we should let our children do anything they want. There are times that we should insist on certain things for their best interests (E.g. don’t play with the knife, brush your teeth before bed). But, here I am talking about the danger of pursuing our parental dream against the child’s wish. E.g. My experience with my child’s violin future. Let’s always put the child’s best interest before ours.
Next, God the Father knows His children (John 10:15). Every good father knows his children. Not just about them, but of them. Like the Heavenly Father knows of us through and through. Do you know your children? By the way, how do you get to know them? By spending time together, right? Do you spend enough time with your children, with each of them? E.g. Guess Mr. Warren Buffet promises a reward of $ 1 million each to 1,000 fathers who would spend 30 minutes every day with their children for the next 30 days. I bet in no time he will spend $ 1 billion. I am sure all of you would apply for the reward as well. Let me tell you something. Even though you don’t get $1 million after spending time with your children, you would get a far greater reward than money. You know what that is? A wonderful relationship with your children. You cannot buy such a thing with money. I bet there are some billionaires out there who would rather exchange their entire wealth for wonderful relationships with their children. Know your children by spending time together.
Thirdly, God the Father instructs His children (John 12:49) and disciplines them in the way they should go. So should we. God gives His children His law, the Torah, the Bible and disciplines them in the fairest way. So should we. He provides with them the best tools for life, here on earth and the life beyond. So should we. If you, fathers, really love your children, you would make sure that they would take God’s Word seriously, more than anything in the world, and far more than education and money.
I have seen some Christian parents with all good intentions providing what they think their children need: education and some cash in the bank. Sadly, however, many of them don’t include God’s Word in the list. Here’s a thing: if God the Father takes His Word very seriously, so should we. From the very beginning of His relationship with humanity, He provided His commandments to Adam and Eve. He did it with Noah. He did it with Abraham. He did it with Moses. Jesus the Son also took God’s Word very seriously. He said man cannot live by bread alone, but by the word of God that proceeds from His mouth. Paul the Apostle said the same: bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). How much more should we emphasize the Word of God in our children’s life?
Do you want to be a good father to your children? Introduce them to the Bible. Instill in their hearts early on a habit of getting into God’s Word daily, and your children will forever appreciate it (by the way, you need to set the example first before them). E.g. I am a father too. The best thing I ever have done for my child is to introduce her to God’s Word, the source of wisdom, courage, insight, hope, love, assurance of salvation, and strength. In times of need, she doesn’t need to rely on human wisdom and might, because she can tap into the divine resources.
Fathers, turn your hearts to your children (Luke 1:17), and your reward will be great. What’s the reward? A wonderful relationship with them. When you turn your heart to them, your children also will turn their hearts to you. Not the other way around. You have to do your job first before you expect your children to do it. My hope and prayer is this: all the fathers in our church enjoy such a wonderful relationship with their children.
Let us pray.