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Fatherhood
How Important is It?

F. Earle Fox
Christ Our Savior, Torrence, CA

June 16, 2013
Trinity 4, 2 Sam 11:26-12:10, 13-15; Ps. 32; Gal. 2:11-21; John 7:36-50

Audio Version (coming)

C:\EM\EARLE\Sermons-Printed\ChristOrSavior\CoS 13F16-FrDay.odt

Today is Fathers’ Day. What can we learn from about fatherhood from our lessons this morning? Is fatherhood a nice warm fuzzy that we should tip our hat to once a year, or is fatherhood a deep essential at the very core of our Christian faith?

I do not know the history of Fathers’ Day, but I think it came long after Mothers’ Day. There is something about motherhood that catches the imagination more quickly than fatherhood. Motherhood symbolizes the comforting, nurturing side of life. And we all like that. Fatherhood, on the other hand symbolizes discipline, purpose, direction, which can be more demanding of us.

Mothers have the child under their wing first before father does. Fathers can help mother the child, but they do it by mothering, not by fathering their children. Fathers can hold, comfort, rock, cuddle, or feed their children as is age appropriate. But they cannot successfully father them in the sense that fathering is meant to give moral direction until later. The child must first secure his or her being so as to be able to take in the fathering in a healthy way. The child must have a secure sense of being a somebody as a free gift, so that the child will not interpret the discipline of father to mean that the child will be loved only if the child is obedient.

When that happens (all too often), the child will obey the father to get loved, that is, try to earn the love of father, thereby undermining the free gift of love which hopefully mother had given and father should affirm. Earning the love of a parent is the same as salvation by works, doing good things to earn one’s sense of being and identity. That then gets transferred right onto God. We do things to earn God’s love rather than as a free gift to God. We need to be loved. If we do not get it freely, we will do things to get it. The pattern first gets set with mother and father.  The contradiction, of course, is that if the affection or attention is not freely given, it is not really love in the first place.  Love (in the sense of the two Great Commandments) is by definition a free gift.

If father is both a strong leader, and at the same time honors and affirms the gift of selfhood which good mothering conveys, then children will far more likely come to rejoice in the leadership of their father. They will not fear the discipline, but see how that very discipline strengthens their own personality, giving them more control over their own feelings, and helping them find the purpose for which they were created by God.  They know who they are (mothering) and where they are going (fathering). 

 

The story of the image of God begins way back in chapter one of Genesis. God tells us that He is creating the first humans in His own Image, male and female. That means that the first humans will be male and female, and that their sexual nature is an image of the spiritual nature of God. That is not spelled out in Genesis, but my Old Testament professor wrote to me when I inquired of him about the matter, and said that is exactly what the Hebrew says. God is a spiritual being, not a physical being, so there is a spiritual nature in God of which our being male and female is an image, a reflection. We are like God in this very fundamental way.

In the Bible, you have to be two things to be God: Creator and Sovereign. If you are the Creator and Sovereign over the cosmos, then you are God. God creates mankind to be like Himself reflecting those two fundamental ways.

God first created Adam, then brings him to the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it beautiful and productive. He is told that he may eat of every tree in the garden, including the tree of life at the center, but not the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. On the day that he eats that, he will die.

Then God says that it is not good for the man to be alone, and that He will make him a helper fit for him. Many have puzzled over just what “fit for him” might mean. But it corresponds right with the prior verses about being made in the Image of God, male and female. If the role of this newly-to-be-created man and woman was to reflect the Image of God, then Adam, the male, is to reflect the Image of God the Sovereign, to be the spiritual leader for his family. So Adam needs a counter-part to complete the image. Not being equipped to adequately reflect the Creator, life-giving side of God, he needs a helper fit to do that with him.

So, just as Adam was made in the Image of God, the Sovereign, the moral authority, so Eve was made in the Image of God the Creator and Life-Giver. The union of the two would create the first human family.

We talk about our “other half” because there is a powerful attraction between men and women which cements families together. When Eve was given by God to Adam, he responded in that way. The life-giving and the moral leader are attracted to each other to make a whole larger than the sum of the parts. A family is more than merely the putting of a male together with a female. The male needs to become a man, and the female needs to become a woman in order to rightly reflect that Image of God.

That “becoming” requires a lot of growing up, a lot of modeling by one’s own mother and then father. We are given by God to mothers and fathers to raise us so that they can introduce us to God who is our real Parent, both fathering and mothering us. That can happen most deeply and richly if the space between mother and father is a space of love between the two parents, not a war zone, or emotionally desolate.

 

When Mothers’ Day comes, men in prison often almost all send Mothers’ Day cards to their mothers. When Fathers’ Day comes, there is hardly a card sent. Men, perhaps more than women, have had difficult relationships with their fathers. It shows up in the prison population. Their difficulty with their fathers has much to do with the fact that they are there in prison. They were not able to integrate the discipline, moral side of their lives, so they became self-centered and destructive.

We read this morning of the disaster into which King David had put himself in his lustful and adulterous relation with Bathsheba. Perhaps the adulation and honor given t David went to his head. Kingdoms fall when the king rises to a point where they think no one will hold them accountable. Nathan, the prophet, did indeed call David on the carpet for his behavior, and David did in some degree repent. But great damage was done.

It is not clear to me when the Hebrew people began to see monogamy as the Godly ideal. Abraham had more than one wife, and so did David. But monogamy seems to have settled in by New Testament times when among the Jews, monogamy had become the ideal.

In any event, David had several wives who, from their point of view, legitimately bore his children. Bathsheba was only one of them. But when there are many wives, the father does not do much to raise the children. It seems clear that the children, especially the boys, in such a situation would seldom have an adequate father model.

David appears to have coddled and spoiled his son, Absalom, who then rebelled and made war against his father. David did little to discipline the boy, wailing at the death of Absalom by David’s soldiers. It seemed as though he did not appreciate the soldiers who had saved David from Absalom’s treason, for which he was rebuked by Joab, his commander. (1 Sam. 19)

There seems to have been little wisdom abroad about child-raising, no Doctor Spocks advised parents how to raise their children. It was not until the writing of the Wisdom Literature, mostly during the post-exile, 400-year inter-testamental period, that we find wise sayings about parenting. So perhaps David is not totally to blame for his failures as a husband and father. David, 500-600 years before the Wisdom Literature, lived in a culture in which child-raising was hit and miss.

Be that as it may, fathering, like mothering, is essential to Biblical spiritual life. One would expect being made in the image of God to be important to the human race. But we Christians have done little to explore that importance. The current degradation of our own Western culture is much to do with the also current degradation of manhood, and the failure of men in our culture to stand up and be men in the face of anti-Christ forces.

 

By far the best child-raising will be done in those cultures and families where husband and wife do in fact reflect the mothering and the fathering in God, where that which draws the couple together is the passion for the gift of the other so as to share in the mutual fullness of personhood. When God says that the man and woman are to become “one flesh”, He does not mean only that they are to be physically joined, but that in a sense, they become one person. There is a family identity which nurtures and stabilizes the children.

That can happen only where the parents do not lust after each other, but love each other. That love spills over on the children. Children are looking not only to see whether mom and dad love me, but whether they love each other. If they do not love each other, their love for the child will be defective. Good husbanding and good fathering necessarily go together.

For David, his lust after Bathsheba was the turning point in his kingdom. As God warned, “You have struck down Uriah, the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised Me...” Uriah was a Hittite, a foreigner, who had been a very good soldier for David, who was loyal to his fellow soldiers, refusing to take the comforts of home and wife when his fellows were risking their lives. David had brought Uriah home to cover up for his adultery with Bathsheba, wanting him to sleep in his own house with his wife.

But Uriah was a man of honor, proving himself, in this instance, to be a better man, soldier, and husband than David. God considered the marriage of Uriah, the Hittite, just as important as David’s, the king of Israel. The violation of Uriah’s marriage by David was a primal sin. David set in motion forces of evil which would nearly bring down the kingdom which God had given him. He was severely undermining his own ability to be a father-figure, a spiritual leader for own people.

 

Jesus told His disciples that the law was made for man, man was not made for the law. God values persons, not laws, for their own sakes. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” we read in Psalm 119:105. Just as road railings can be meant to protect drivers from going over a cliff, so also the laws of God are meant to increase our life and freedom by channeling that freedom down safe and mutually productive paths.

Life flourishes when we obey God. And we will deteriorate and die if we persist in disobedience. That is His message all through the Bible. The laws of God are an act of love, not of mindless control.

That is the context in which we men are to be father-figures to our children and to others around us. David, who is so highly praised and honored in Biblical history, was not exempt from either of those consequences – good or bad. When we obey the law of God we flourish, when we disobey, we begin to die. It is that important, and thus it is that important that we men become Godly men, first of all growing up in our families of origin. Boys must honor their parents, not by always agreeing with them, but by obeying them in accordance with how God wants families to flourish. We must look at how Jesus obeyed His Father to find out how we are to obey our own fathers.

 

We live in an age which, since the 1960’s, has openly and brazenly disrespected Godly authority, living in open rebellion against God, declaring God of no consequence to our national and public life. We men, we Christian men, said nothing. We did not fight back. I was one of them much of my adult life. I did not see the true picture until about 1992, the Lord awakened me with the discovery that God owns the public arena, God owns the government, God owns the military, God owns the education system..

Our present government is devoted to the destruction of America as a Godly nation. And for the most part, the Church of God has been shamed into silence. We need Godly men, not only in our families but in the public arena, who will bring back a Godly, witnessing church, and support and defend Godly government.

In the 1960’s we were treated to the “death of God”. But it was specifically Father God who was supposedly being killed. Mother goddess was alive and flourishing. Paganism, Gaia, mother earth, were being again resurrected.

Godly fatherhood is not issued in any armory in the world. No government, no education system can give us fatherhood. Fatherhood, Godly moral responsibility, is issued in our homes and our churches, or it will have a hard time being issued anywhere.

Godly fatherhood is built on Godly motherhood. The act of creation is the most motherly thing God can do, giving us life and stability. Being the Creator-ex-nihilo, God is therefore the owner and sovereign over all that is created.

Pray for men to be raised up who are bold truth-seekers, who will know how to discover and publish truth, at any cost to themselves. That is the kind of man that God can use. Let us today celebrate and raise up that kind of manhood.

 

Our collect prays:

Keep, O Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy household the Church in Thy steadfast faith and love, that by the help of Thy grace, we may proclaim Thy truth with boldness, and minister Thy Justice with compassion, for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen

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Date Posted - 06/16/2013   -   Date Last Edited - 06/16/2013