By Max Dawson
Fatherhood is in trouble. We cannot sit idly by while another generation of kids grows into adulthood, half of them not knowing what it is like to have a father in the home! It can be seen in almost any community. See how many kids are being raised in father-less homes. By the early part of the next century, half the children in America will be socially deprived as they are raised in homes without fathers. That is the premise of David Blankenhorn’s book, Fatherless America. You do not have to wait until the next century; today, there are many single moms trying to fill in for men who left home. Many teenagers have never met their dads.
A home without a father used to mean a tragedy, like war or an accident, had snatched the father away from his family. Today, fathers are missing from homes because of tragic choices made by men (and women).
What is the root cause of the missing man syndrome? It is the fact that fathers have abdicated their God-given responsibilities. Not only do families suffer because of this, our whole culture suffers. Do not over-look the fact that those men who neglect their responsibilities will also suffer; they are guilty of sin and will face the judgment of God. Our duty and responsibility is to call those men to repentance.
What help is there for failed fathers? What is needed is straight talk from the word of God, not pop psychology. Popular psychology often makes excuses for failures and offers unbiblical solutions. Men need help from heaven, not the boastings of the boys at the bar. Too many men live by a code that is born out of the foolish and arrogant philosophies of their con-temporaries, rather than the objective standard of the word of God.
It is not just the missing father that is the problem. Many fathers fail to be the leaders God intended them to be in the home. Fathers need to take the lead in demonstrating obedience to God. When they do not, is it any wonder that their children do not obey God? Adam, the father of our race, obeyed his own will when he ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:1-12). Are we surprised when his son, Cain, obeyed his own will in slaying his brother, Abel? Every father must face the fact that his conduct has a powerful impact on his children.
When fathers do not lead in disciplining their children, they often wind up with the kind of boys Eli had (1 Sam. 3:11-13; 2:22-25). Eli’s sons were wicked and vile; they turned out the way they did, in part, because “he did not restrain them.”
The patriarch Jacob exemplifies what can happen when fathers do not teach their children fairness and impartiality; they wind up with the kind of problems Jacob had with his sons (Gen. 37:3-4). He had shown partiality to his son Joseph and, as a result, Joseph’s brothers despised him. These brothers not only sold Joseph into slavery, they lied to their father about the matter. While the brothers are to be faulted for their crimes, we cannot overlook Jacob’s failure. Men rarely see the far-reaching consequences of their actions. Certainly Jacob did not fore-see the results of his partiality.
The cases of failed fatherhood are not all found in the Bible. They are often found in the church. How many Christian fathers today are failing to teach their children the Bible? Where are the Abrahams of our generation? Abraham taught his family the way of God (Gen. 18:19). A generation is being raised today that does not know the word of God. This failure will ex-act a terrible price from both those children and the church. When young people in the church are raised with-out knowledge of the Bible, they wander aimlessly in life and eventually cause the church to wander. For a while, they will rely on traditions and past practices to guide them, but ultimately they will make grievous errors because they do not know the will of God. When controversy arises, they will not know how to deal with it and will be easy prey for false teachers. When decisions have to be made, they will be guided by opinions, not by a “thus saith the Lord.” Failed fathers not only produce faltering families, they are a contributing cause of apostasy in local churches.
There are many more problems created by fathers who abdicate their responsibilities. But, it is not enough to merely point to problems. We must offer solutions. Here are four areas where fathers ought to excel.
A father should be a friend to his family. What does “friend” mean? In our times, we have reduced it to mean “my buddy.” A friend is much more than that. Jesus is the perfect model of what a friend is. (See John 15:12-14.) A friend sacrifices; he is someone you can trust. A friend is a commitment-maker and a vow-keeper. When he talks, he listens and remembers his word, for it is sacred to him.
A father should be a teacher to his family. A father must have a heart that wants to show his family the right way. Again, Jesus is the model (Eph. 4:20-21 ff). A father must live the truth in his own life first, then train and ex-plain guiding his wife and children. Like Jesus, he must show the way for them to follow. Jesus never asked others to do what he was unwilling to do. A father doesn’t just teach things to his family, he teaches them how to live. The word of God is his standard for teaching his family.
A father should be a protector to his family. Just as Jesus is the protector of the church (Eph. 5:29), so is the father to his family. He protects them from the cold, hunger, and any harm or danger that might befall them (1 Tim. 5:8). A protector esteems highly that which is in his charge. He holds to high principles; he is willing to live and die for those under his protection. That is what Jesus did. That is what real men do. He serves as a defender of his family, shielding them from any enemy.
A father should be a leader to his family. God designed the man to be the leader (Eph. 5:23). The father is the ruler of his family, just as Christ is the ruler of the church. As such, a father must be a benevolent ruler. In his heart is a desire to lead, to provide order, justice, and mercy within the family. The father who is submissive to God leads with a kind and generous spirit. The most significant part of his leadership involves leading his family to serve God. Joshua exemplified that kind of leadership (Josh. 24:15). Joshua not only had the courage to speak for himself, he had the courage to speak for his family. He had confidence that his family would follow his example. He was unwilling to just let his family be thrown to the world to and see how they would do. Joshua provided spiritual leadership for his family. Because he was God’s man, he was God’s leader in his family.
The missing man (addressed in the forepart of this article) fails on each of the above four points. He cannot be a friend, teacher, protector, or leader to his family because he is not there. As God’s people we must hold in high esteem those fathers who fulfill their God-given duties. By contrast, we must regard those fathers who abandon their families as being disobedient to God. In the local church, we must have no toleration of fathers who abdicate their duties. A sure sign of apostasy and departure from the faith is seen when we make excuses for such fathers and refuse to discipline those who leave their families.
Unlawful separations and frivolous divorces are tolerated in too many congregations. We sometimes act as though it is perfectly acceptable with God for one to put a spouse away without the lawful grounds of Matthew 19:9 (“except it be for fornication”), as long as there is no remarriage.
While remarriage would constitute adultery, we must remember the act of unlawful divorce is sin! Where did the idea come from that says, “It is OK to divorce as long as one doesn’t remarry”? It is not OK with God! See Matthew 5:32, Malachi 2:16 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Every passage that talks about a man loving and honoring his wife, being the head of his household, rearing his children in God’s way, and being the spiritual leader and example to his family is violated when he unlawfully divorces his wife! It is time to call fathers and husbands back to God’s pattern for the home. It is time to call unlawful divorce what it is sin! It is time to call churches back to God’s plan of discipline so that they may scripturally deal with the father who fails to honor his vows.
Fatherhood is in trouble. Kids are growing up without dads in the home. Many fathers are failing. Will we stand idly by and watch it happen? We can do something about it. Will Christian men have the courage to hold one an-other accountable in doing right? What would happen if Christian men went to a brother who is failing and held him responsible for his actions? What if we made it clear that his conduct is intolerable? Would it make a difference? It might. Will we have the strength of character to truly be men of God?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 12 p. 10-11
June 19, 1997