The Best of Fatherhood

June 16, 2017

We often ask a little boy or girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My childhood answers included cowboy and fireman. As you get older, it is easy to entertain many job and career paths. I thought about teaching, psychology, and computer science in my teen years to name a few. We gain a lot of our identity from what we do. Meet someone new for the first time and likely the question after “What is your name?” and “Where are you from?” will be “What do you do?”

When I was making career choices, my thoughts were not on fatherhood. In the back of mind, of course, there was the idea that someday I would marry, and we would have children. I even took a college course, “Marriage and the Christian Home,” just in case. We spend a lot of time at work, it could easily reach half of our waking hours. Work that is honorable is good. I’ve found satisfaction in work, but over time I’ve concluded, fatherhood is the best job in the world!

Work is rewarding. At the bare minimum, there is a paycheck. We may feel satisfaction in creating, producing, growing, or problem solving. (And yes, every job has its drudgery. It is part of the curse on the ground, Genesis 3: 17-19). Employers may reward years of service or ideas to a suggestion box. Although I have personally found work satisfying, how do the rewards compare to fatherhood?

As a father, I’ve witnessed two births. I’ve experienced the thrill of first steps and first words. I’ve felt the joy of hearing for the first time, “I love you.” (Yes, your child will probably say, “I hate you,” at some point in the growing up. It is the risk of free will after all, but the moments of bluster pass away when your relationship is healthy.) There are proud moments of sporting events, graduations, and first jobs. Grown children whom you love and enjoy are a great blessing which includes the joy of adult and even spiritual conversation with them. I have found fatherhood is the most rewarding job in the world!

Most of the things we work at won’t last. Goods produced wear out. Buildings constructed may someday be torn down. Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is temporary, “all is vapor” and “a time to break down, and a time to build up.”* Yet, when we were expecting our children, one thought struck me: we were bringing a life into the world who has an eternal destiny. It is an awesome responsibility. Fathers if they are spiritually aware recognize that we are raising for eternity. I cannot but help admire Joshua as a father:

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, ESV)

Joshua drew a line in the sand and made a spiritual commitment to his family. He recognized fatherhood is a job with an eternal impact!

I know that I’m prejudiced because I’m a father, but it is the best, most rewarding job in the world. Happy Father’s Day!

*“Vapor” is a literal translation of the Hebrew hebel in “All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 1:14, 2:17, 3:19, 12:8) and the other line is from Ecclesiastes 3:3.

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Temporary Residents

June 9, 2017

Peter begins his first letter by addressing it to “those temporarily residing abroad” (1 Peter 1:1, NET). He then goes on to mention the various provinces in which they are scattered. It is likely that many of these Christians had lived in these places all their lives. In what sense could they or we, for that matter, be temporary residents?

The Christian is an alien, a sojourner, or a temporary resident in that his true citizenship is in heaven. This affects the way we approach life, even though we might live in the same house all our earthly life, our values and affections will show that our destination of heaven is what is most important. If we think of ourselves as temporary residents, we will not loose sight of our goal. Our trust will not be in this world. The world in which we live is but a temporary place. The Christian must look beyond it for his true home.

The Epistle of Diognetus has an interesting section on the Christian being a sojourner. The letter is an uninspired, anonymous letter dating from the second century A.D. The writer is attempting to explain the differences of being a Christian instead of a pagan or a Jew. His thoughts make an excellent commentary on what it means to be a temporary resident:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric life-style. This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious men, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do. But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. (5:1-9)*

Keeping our eyes on the goal is not always easy. There is much in the world to distract us. The Christian life must be life of watchfulness. Reminding ourselves that we are only temporary residents and sojourners in this world may help us to keep our eyes on the goal.

*Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, p. 541.


Facing Slander

June 1, 2017

Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, ESV). It would be a mistake to look at this verse through the lens of later state persecutions in the Roman Empire. Our minds shouldn’t conjure up the images of Christians being thrown to the lions or burned as torches in Nero’s garden. The “fiery trial” likely refers to 1:7 and the refiner’s fire that purifies gold.

When we look at the letter in detail, Peter is addressing the problem of Christians facing slander.

  • when they speak against you as evildoers, 2:12
  • by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people, 2:15
  • Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless… 3:9
  • when you are slandered, 3:16
  • they malign you, 4:4
  • If you are insulted for the name of Christ, 4:14

The situation is not so much physical persecution as mental — facing slander. Failure to see this may cause us to minimize the problem of slander while the New Testament takes it very seriously.

What happens when the Christian is slandered for being a Christian? The group slanders to get the Christian to conform to the group’s standards or in other words, the standards of the world. They are attempting to get the Christian to give up his or her faith or so compromise the faith that it no longer offends the prevailing culture. In the circumstances of slander, a Christian will possibly re-evaluate commitment to Christ. The Christian may stand firm, lash back with slander, or stop the slander by conforming to the group.

What lessons do we learn from 1 Peter to help us face slander? First, Peter emphasizes the value of salvation. When we begin to ponder whether living as a Christian is worth it, Peter reminds us of what God has done for us (1 Peter 1:3-12). Salvation is precious.

Second, Peter warns us that pressures will come. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. He forewarns us, so that we are better able to hand it. It is a mistake to think that being a Christian will always be easy.

Finally, Peter cautions us not to retaliate in kind. We will win over the slander, not with slander, but with a quality of life that demonstrates Christ (1 Peter 3:8-4:19).