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June 11, 2024: Father's Day Thoughts

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass— he blooms like a flower of the field; when the wind passes over it, it vanishes, and its place is no longer known. But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him, and his righteousness toward the grandchildren of those who keep his covenant, who remember to observe his precepts. (Psalm 103:13–18, CSB)

It was a Father’s Day for me, unlike any I have ever experienced. It was June 15, 1986. I was serving my first Sunday in my first congregation as a senior pastor. It was my first Father’s Day as a father, and for the very first time my own father was in attendance to hear me preach. And so, Father’s Day has become something special ever since.

This year, Dad will not be sitting in one of the pews. But though he is with the Lord, he is very much with me. His influence continues to instruct me and to guide me. So, while on that memorable day 38 years ago I thought of how we might honor our fathers, this year I put before the fathers in the Church how we may better live out our roles in serving our children and grandchildren.

In this 103rd Psalm, David likens our heavenly Father to the best in our human fathers. It is this model of fatherhood on which I want to focus. Compassion is the English translation of the Hebrew word, רָחַם. It is that tender love that ever desires to draw another near to oneself. Love is ready to forgive when grieved, that reconciliation may take place. We see Jesus’ portrait of a father exercising such forgiveness in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Such a willingness to forgive is not only for us to give to our children, but to model for them to everyone. How many times are we to forgive? “Seventy times seven.”

The tender love of a father compels him to model and instruct in holiness. Jesus answer to Peter about forgiveness is given immediately after the call to confront sin with genuine accountability. A father does not discipline despite his love for his child, but because of that love: Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe his discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11–12, CSB) Discipline is not the same as punishment. It seeks to train in righteousness, restore in relationship, and emphasize the life of holiness. This a loving father must do.

Tender love instructs in the truth. A faithful Dad will be proud of his child’s accomplishments. His primary desire is not that his children earn accolades or attain wealth or fame but that his children grow in the love and knowledge of the Lord. He sees to it that they are brought up in the Church, that they study the Scriptures, and that they pray. He will personally teach his children the faith and how then they should live it out. He will see to those things even when the world emphasizes lesser things above them.

A Father will serve his children. Godly parents will always “put themselves out” for their children. Their children thus learn to “put themselves out” for their family. And where this happens, Christians learn to “put themselves out” for one another. We live in an age in which such self-sacrifice has become rarer—all the more important then, that we model and then teach selflessness in contrast to the world’s self-centeredness.

As for myself, I have had such fatherhood modeled for me. I have imperfectly sought to live it out in my household. I have failed many times, but still we are to strive to live it all our lives, because fathers and grandfathers are always responsible to this duty and great privilege to which we have entrusted. We, though imperfect, are called to model the one perfect Father in his compassionate love. Let us recommit ourselves to be such fathers at every age.

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