It's Difficult to Be a Father!

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Fathers Day
June 19, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: It's easy to become a father; it's hard to be a father. As Christ loved and led the church, so fathers must love and lead the family. The path to such a worthy position is a serious pilgrimage of growth and development from self-focus to selfless focus. There need be no apology for such fatherhood - it is of God.

Poet Wilhelm Busch coined a phrase: "Vater werden ist nicht schwer; Vater sein dagegen sehr." (To become a father is not so difficult; on the other hand, being a father is very much so!)

On this day we pay special attention to the quality that marks successful "fatherhood." Our scripture, broadly shunned in this day of the Feminist Movement, gives us a vital clue to successful father and mother - hood. It tackles the critical element so often missing in relationships, and raises the issue to the spiritual level where the only true success lies.

If, as a pastor, I wish to get into trouble very fast, I suggest Ephesians 5:21-33 as the scriptural inspiration for a wedding. Hardly any prospective bride can get beyond verse 22, "Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord;..." We've all had our consciousness raised to look for any element of sexual discrimination that would place women on a lesser plane. This scripture seems to do just that.

But does it, really? Jumping to verse 25 we read, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for it..." Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, "Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature was his from the first; yet he did not think to snatch at equality with God, but made himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave. Bearing the human likeness, revealed in human shape, he humbled himself, and in obedience accepted even death - death on a cross." (2:58)

In like manner, husbands should adopt a spirit of giving which matches and exceeds the wife's giving of herself to the relationship. In this posture of mutual subjugation of the husband to the wife and the wife to the husband, we begin to see the true nature of "fatherhood" and "motherhood."

The true nature of fatherhood lies outside of the self. By nature we grow to the proper role through a God-given progression, part of God's plan for Creation. As children we are first the recipients of "fathering;" as we grow and develop from childhood to parenthood, we grow from child-dependency to fatherly ascendancy. Biology and chronology require us to grow in the physical; God's freedom invites us to grow in the spiritual.

Jesus the child was subject to exactly the same developmental process that we are. As a child he was under the protection of his father and mother. We're told in Luke 2:41-52 that when Jesus was twelve, he went with his parents to the synagogue. There he was exposed to further growth in the Spirit as he was among the teachers and as he opened himself to their examination. In the fullness of time he "went back with (Joseph and Mary) to Nazareth and continued to be under their authority; his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. As Jesus grew up he advanced in wisdom and in favor with God and men."

Jesus' growth continued. He developed spiritually to such a point of selflessness that he was able ultimately to give himself in subordination to God's divine plan for salvation. This givingness was the focus of great amazement to the Apostle Paul. He wrote the Roman Church, "For at the very time when we were still powerless, then Christ died for the wicked. Even for a just man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one might actually brave death; but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God's own proof of his love towards us. And so, since we have now been justified by Christ's sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution." (Romans 5:6-9)

We are saved! We are saved to what? We are saved to the promise of new life and maturity in the image of Christ.

I'm speaking to fathers now. We are saved to grow from selfishness to selflessness. We are saved to grow out of our focus on self to a focus on our proper role in mutual subjection to our spouse and to our families.

If we're a married person with family, do we remember the opening words to the marriage ceremony? In at least one ceremony, the instruction to the couple reads:

"God has ordered the covenant of marriage: that husband and wife may give to each other companionship, help and comfort, both in prosperity and in adversity; that he may hallow the expression of the natural affections, that children may be born and nurtured in families and trained in godliness; and that human society may stand on firm foundations."

That's a prescription for fatherhood (and motherhood) if I've ever heard one. That's a prescription for mature manhood, and I make no apologies for speaking of manhood and fatherhood. We may be sensitive to the need for justice for women; we must never lose sight of the proper role of manhood in that justice picture.

However, though God has established a plan for salvation, that doesn't mean things always go according to plan. Human freedom means the freedom to perversity. God's plan calls for us to move from focus on the self to an enablement for focus outside of the self. That is the plan; that is the struggle.

Just as the Hebrew people struggled forty years in the wilderness to achieve an identity as a people, so we struggle through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood to establish our identity as a child of God. Christ has shown us the way.

Occasionally, we don't progress along that pathway. Occasionally, we need to be prodded on. We're well aware of the serious difficulty facing marriage in the modern age. Our covenantal commitment to marriage is all too often broken because we're either unwilling or unable to face the struggle of growth it involves.

However, in the United Kingdom there is a plan afoot to encourage growth. The Law Commission is expected, later this summer, to make a recommendation: Couples thinking of divorce would be required to notify the courts of their intention. Then, at least nine months would be spent confronting the crucial details such dissolution would entail.

First and foremost, before matters of money, property or maintenance are addressed, the question of the future of any children that issued from that union would have to be resolved. Only then could the couples approach the court for divorce.

It is hoped that by requiring parents to look at the consequences of family breakup rather than focusing on the perceived cause/excuse, couples will improve their chances of saving the marriage.

Lord Chancellor Mackay is quoted as having told the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, "This part of family law needs to turn the adults' attention away from asking whether the marriage is giving them what they want and towards a full recognition that they created the family, that they are responsible for it and that, if there are children, their interests must prevail."

Thus the law would require what we as Christians should accept as our proper role in father/motherhood - mutual subjection of our interests to the overriding interest of God's creation resting on firm foundations. How God wept for Israel! - and in Jeremiah we read, "The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. ... But this is the covenant which I make with Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become my people." (vv. 31-33)

In order for us to be a father, we must write the laws of Christ's redeeming love on our hearts in indelible selflessness, subjecting ourselves to one another in Christlike love. There need be no apology for such fatherhood - it is of God.

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