[This post was written by my husband, the Reverend. At one point he references a commentary... you all know that ain't coming from me...]
I try to be a good dad, but I’m not a good dad. I admit that from the beginning.
In God’s providence, I was asked to preach on Colossians 3:21 in a Father’s Day tag-team sermon; the Lord knows my struggles, and He wanted me to study His word and change my life.
I can’t help but share what I found.
Colossians 3:21 and it reads, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
A command like this would have shocked Paul’s audience. This teaching was so radical because in that culture it was widely acceptable for fathers to beat their children. Nevertheless, Paul went against culture and told dads that they were required to treat their children well, for if the didn’t, their children would become discouraged.
I would bet that we all have met the dad, or maybe we are the dad, that is the inverse of what Paul described here. This sort of dad:
1. Does not restrain his anger, but flies off the handle. 2. Perpetually points out faults and hardly acknowledges accomplishments. 3. Rules harshly, not gently. 4. Focuses on the TV, computer, yard work or hobbies, rather than his son/daughter and their interests. 5. Calls for unreasonable demands instead of achievable goals.
Part of our role as fathers (and mothers) is not to provoke or aggravate our children. May I suggest that if we do the five things I’m about to offer, life will go well for us and our kids?
- We should instruct our children gently. - - I’m not say that we shouldn’t discipline our children at all, what I am saying is that we should lovingly discipline our children. When we discipline our children, we should do so out of a desire to change behavior, not alleviate our own anger. One commentary had these words (that were penned for me, Chance Newingham), “[As you parent,] remember that he is a boy, and that you were once a boy, and perform your duty as a father always remembering that you are a human being and the father of a human being.” In other words, be gentle; everyone makes mistakes.
- Try, as best you can, to encourage behavior rather than discourage behavior. - - Catch your children doing what is right and praise positive actions. Yes, there will be instances when “No”, “Stop that”, “Don’t smack him” or “Quit that right now. I’m sure that is illegal” will be necessary, but, as best you can, look for situations where you can empower and inspire.
- We should avoid extreme permissiveness and extreme legalism. - - All too often, parents allow one thing one day and then wholeheartedly forbid it the next. In doing so, it sends confusing messages to our kids and eventually it could lead to distrust. Recently, Ginger sent Nasko and I to Springfield to buy dog food for Allen. We returned with dog food and two mice. Needless to say, Ginger was not thrilled. Since two new members have joined our family, Nasko insists on visiting them regularly in the garage. On one day, I’ll see him take the top off of the cage so that he can look at the mice with no obstructions in his view and it’s totally OK, but then the next day, he’ll take the top off and I’ll get angry with him. Why? I let him do it the day before, why wouldn’t I let him do it the very next day? I have determined that my discipline is sometimes based on my mood, and this should not be the case. This sends so many jumbled signals to him. I must work to avoid extreme permissiveness and extreme legalism and work toward consistent behavior, not only on my son’s part, but also on my part.
- We should spend time with our children. - - I read of a survey that concluded that in one specific town fathers spent only thirty-seven seconds a day with their children. Can you believe that? We should treasure our children and do the activities they enjoy. Yes, it hurts your back and knees to get on the ground and play. Yes, it’s hot out and playing catch would make you sweaty. And yes, that water in tea cups bland, but that’s OK; your child loves those things; therefore, you are to love things. Period. We need to get over ourselves.
- We should set realistic goals for our children. - - Parents who hold impossible standards for their kids are setting their little ones up for failure. Don’t set up unrealistic goals. Let your kid be themselves and let your kid be a kid.
Paul’s words make total sense. If a father constantly degrades and humiliates a child, and shows the son or daughter that nothing they do pleases him, the child will become discouraged, give up and stop trying to please dad all together (and probably even his/her Heavenly Father).
Scripture teaches that Paul was a father to the church in Corinth, and in his discipline-oriented letter to the church, he asked, “Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?” Surely the church, and our children prefer love and gentleness.
May our children view their home as the happiest, safest and best place in the world. May we be good fathers and good husbands (and good mothers and good wives).
And now I’m gonna get all “preacher” on you...
Today then, on Father’s Day, let us not only look at dad’s and encourage them to put into practice the truths that we have discovered, but let us ultimately look to our Heavenly Father. He saw us, as children, trapped in our sin. He wanted to be in relationship with us, but our sinfulness prevented it. So, in order to save us and restore the relationship, He sent his so to live among us, cry among us and die among. Jesus, our Heavenly Father’s son, was a substitute and Jesus gave up His life in our place on the cross.
At this moment, forget about your earthly father and think about your heavenly father. Look at what He has done to give you salvation. Will you choose to accept that gift and live a life of obedience?