Our society gives mixed messages on fatherhood. The American Psychological Association in an article called “Deconstructing the Essential Father” asserts that fathers do not make a “unique and essential contribution to child development.” Their purpose is to influence public policy by legitimizing a variety of family structures—unmarried parents, gay parents, and single moms.
Yet the empirical evidence supports a conclusion that God’s plan for a family is really best. 70% of juvenile delinquents come from fatherless homes. Sixty percent of rapists and 72% of adolescent murderers come from homes where they have not known or lived with their fathers. Even the mother-child bond is weakened by an absent father.
In the midst of so much brokenness, we need to capture a vision of the ideal father and strive towards it.
God wants fathers to be leaders in their homes. Paul taught “…the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23, NASB). No doubt Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 5 was counter cultural to the first century with his emphasis on a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife. Yet it is also counter cultural to feminism and political correctness. The leadership Paul taught is not tyrannical, but the servant leadership that is taught elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 20:25-28). It is a call to sacrificial love and spiritual leadership. Too frequently wives have no spiritual support from their husbands.
God wants fathers to love their wives. Although men often like to point to the words “Wives, be subject to your own husbands” (Eph. 5:22, NASB), Paul wrote more to husbands in this section of Ephesians than to wives. The constant refrain is “love” (the word is used 6 times in Eph. 5:25-33). Love your wives as Christ loves the church—that is sacrificially. Love your wives as you do your own bodies. Love your wives as yourself, which echoes the second greatest commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, NASB). Our culture emphasizes the feelings of love. I suspect that if we followed the New Testament’s emphasis on the deeds of love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) we would have less trouble maintaining the feelings of love.
God wants fathers to instruct and discipline their children. Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NASB). We will need to know the instruction of the Lord before we can pass it along to the next generation. Teaching and discipline require involvement and time. God has given us a responsibility that we must not shirk.
Few of us would feel like the ideal father, and regrettably, some boys may have to learn to be fathers without ever experiencing as a son what a father should be. But the only answer for the brokenness of our culture is to strive for God’s ideal.