Honoring Our Fathers – Introduction
To those who are fathers, or who fill the role of a father, Happy Father’s Day. Exodus 20:12 tells us to “honor thy father and mother.” This, of course, is something we should always do. Of course, we should honor our fathers and mothers always. But today is the day we set aside each year specifically for honoring our fathers.
“Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, singers of songs.”
A Little History
Father’s Day was inaugurated to complement Mother’s Day as a way of Honoring our Fathers. Following the success of establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday in 1908, Sonora Dodd is credited with being the driving force behind establishing a day for honoring our fathers. She and others tried numerous times, yet each attempt was met with cynicism, even jokes and sarcasm. Even several attempts were made for congressional action, each bill failed due to fears of commercialization. Mother’s Day was established in 1908. It wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers on the third Sunday of June. And it wasn’t until six years later in 1972 when President Richard Nixon established Father’s Day as a permanent holiday by signing it into law.
And so, today, June 15, in honor of fathers everywhere, we celebrate Father’s Day.
Like Mother’s Day, writing a message for Father’s Day can get a little tricky. We want to honor fathers, but we also must be sensitive to those who have not had a great relationship with their dads; and to those, like me, whose dads are no longer with us. A lot of us have, or had, great dads. Some of us are dads, and we’ve tried, or are trying, to be great dads. Others may not have had such a great dad; and some of us may be struggling with our own role as a father.
If we have, or had, great dads, we remember fondly all that they did for us and all that they taught us. If they’re still with us, we can spend time with them, either in person or on the phone if they’re far away, and we can let them know just how much we appreciate them. If our dads have passed, as mine has, we can spend some quiet time today and reflect on our memories of them, and we can be thankful for the time that we had with them. Even if our dads aren’t or weren’t the greatest, we can at least be thankful for the fact that they gave us life; we can honor them for that, and we can spend time with, or remember, those who filled the role of a father in our lives.
And, if we’re dads ourselves, hopefully our children are thinking of and honoring us today, too.
A Good Father
Scripture has a lot to say about being a great father. I’d also like to acknowledge Pastor Lynn Floyd for his thoughts on this subject.
As we review some of the verses, I invite you to reflect on the great father figures in your lives. And, for those of us who are fathers, we can also reflect on these verses to see how they might apply in our lives:
- A father loves his children.
Psalm 103:13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children…”
The Hebrew word translated as compassion means love, tender-hearted, merciful. This means a father puts the needs of his children before his own. It means striving to do what’s right for the sake of the child. That may look different from family to family, but the concept remains the same – fathers are to love their children.
- A father treats his children fairly and with kindness.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…”
This ties back to loving – being loving and merciful. Fathers are to treat their children fairly, with kindness and gentleness. One Bible translation uses the word exasperate; which means create hostility, or to cause irritation or anger. This doesn’t mean that children are allowed to do whatever they want to do, that fathers aren’t supposed to punish errant behavior. But it means that any such punishment must be given fairly and lovingly.
- A father provides discipline.
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24
The original word in the KJV, translated in modern versions as diligent, is betimes; which means early or occasionally, at times. Children need boundaries, and they need to learn consequences. At times, this means discipline for errant behavior. This instruction must be tied back to treating children fairly. When punishment is necessary, it must be administered with love and with a sense of fairness, and never out of anger. Of course, the child won’t necessarily like it at the time.
No child likes being put on time out, is thrilled by getting grounded, or enjoys getting a spanking. Paul speaks to this in Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
- A father takes the time to train and instruct his children.
The second part of Ephesians 6:4 says, “Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.” Instruction the Lord would approve of is moral and spiritual – giving our children a sense of right and wrong, good and evil. The best way for a father to do this is by example. Fathers must live the lives they wish their children to emulate.
- Fathers provide for their families.
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This verse makes it clear that fathers have a responsibility to provide for their families. This doesn’t just mean necessities like food and shelter. Fathers should provide stability and security, and provide an environment in which children can flourish and grow into responsible, successful, loving, adults.
Personally, I’m grateful I had a father who lived up to each and every one of the above Scriptures. He provided for our family. Though we weren’t rich, we never lacked for anything. He worked hard to provide the material necessities, he provided stability and security, and he created an environment in which we could flourish. He spent time with us, took an interest in our interests, gave us a sense of right and wrong – and he taught by example. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of some lesson he gave me, whether by word or example. When necessary, he had no qualms living up to Proverbs. True to Paul’s words, I didn’t like it at the time. But, looking back, though they were painful at times, I’m thankful my dad cared enough to discipline me when needed; and I can honestly say I deserved, and learned from, every whippin’ I ever got. (Well, except for one I got when I was put in the position of making one of two choices – both of which would have earned a spanking. Dad and I talked about that incident years later and he agreed that I really didn’t deserve that one. On the other hand, there were many, many that I did deserve that I didn’t get, so we just called it even.) He was always fair, never abusive, and never treated one of us differently than another. And, even when he had to punish us, it was done fairly and lovingly.
Most of all, he genuinely loved us – he put our needs above his own, and his greatest joy was to see us grow into honest, loving, responsible, and happy adults. Like our quote, I had the privilege of having a dad who was a story-teller, an adventurer, a singer of songs, and a hero.
I hope that you, too, have had that type of father. If not, I hope you had a father-figure in your lives. If you have, and if you are able, take a moment today to reach out to that special person. Let him know how much he is loved, and how much you appreciate all he has done to help shape you into who you are today. And, if like me, your father or father figure has already passed, or you are otherwise unable to reach out personally, take a moment today to spend some quiet time reflecting and remembering him.
If you’re a father, or if you are filling that role for someone, I invite you to reflect on these Scriptures and let them guide you into being the best father you can be. And, due to circumstances, are not be able to be an active part of your children’s lives, start with simply loving them. Set aside any selfish desires you may have and make decisions for them that are in their best interest. And pray that they have a father-figure who will provide for them that which you are not currently able to provide.
I invite you to keep one other thing in mind. There is one other Father whom we should be honoring today. Regardless of the type of dad we had, or the type of dad we are, we all have a Heavenly Father who loves us. Ephesians 4:6 reminds us, “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Our Heavenly Father will never leave us. Even if our earthly father is absent, we always have God. Psalm 27:10 tells us, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” And Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, “…He will never leave you nor forsake you.” God loves us as much as He loves His own Son, Jesus. In John 17:23, Jesus’ prayer states this plainly when He says, “…Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.”
John 8:43 tells us, “Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here.”” Regardless of whether or not we have, or had, what we might consider a great dad, through our faith in and love for Jesus, we have a Father who remains constant in our lives. God, our creator, is our Heavenly Father. And so, today, when honoring our earthly fathers, let’s also remember to honor God, the Father of all.
I’d like to close today by sharing a poem by Claris Dye:
A LETTER TO DAD
There are so many things I’d like
To tell you face to face;
I either lack the words or fail
To find the time and place.
But in this special letter, Dad,
You’ll find, at least in part,
The feelings that the passing years
Have left within my heart.
The memories of childhood days
And all that you have done,
To make our home a happy place
And growing up such fun!
I still recall the walks we took,
The games we often played;
Those confidential chats we had
While resting in the shade.
This letter comes to thank you, and,
For needed words of praise;
The counsel and the guidance, too,
That shaped my grown-up days.
No words of mine can tell you, Dad,
The things I really feel;
But you must know my love for you
Is lasting, warm and real.
You made my world a better place,
And through the coming years;
I’ll keep these memories of you
As cherished souvenirs.
- Exodus 20:12
- Psalm 103:13
- Ephesians 6:4
- Proverbs 13:24
- Hebrews 12:11
- Ephesians 6:4
- 1 Timothy 5:8
- Ephesians 4:6
- Psalm 27:10
- Deuteronomy 31:6
- John 8:43
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