Fatherhood

Fatherhood

What Does Fatherhood Mean?

In his earthly ministry, Jesus used “Father” more than any other name for God.1 And God has been father since before the foundations of the world were laid—in the mystery of the Trinity, he has always been Father to the Son. Yet, too often we forget what being a father is, what fatherhood means.

Some have assumed that by using that term Jesus is helping us understand God, something we do not know, by comparing him to something we do know, namely, human fatherhood. God is not a literal father, of course; rather, he has certain remote similarities to fathers. But actually, the associations are reversed: God is the literal father. Earthly fathers have certain remote similarities to him. The essence of fatherhood is found in God, not in human beings. And an awareness of vocation goes further: God exercises his fatherhood, in part, by means of human fatherhood.

Our Heavenly Father

Scripture is clear that all earthly fatherhood finds its origin in our heavenly Father, but it also reveals more than that. When Jesus referred to his Father during his earthly ministry, “father” expressed his particular child-parent relationship, which he then extends to us. The word also captures an important aspect of who God is. Our God is not a distant creator or one who occasionally dabbles in history; he is a father.

Just as Ephesians 5 describes Christ’s connection with marriage, Ephesians 3:14–19 describes our Lord at work as a father:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14–19)

From this Father “every family in heaven and on earth is named.” The word for “father” in the original Greek is pater; the word in this verse rendered here as “family” is patria. The two words are closely related. Greek scholar Marvin Vincent explains that “family” in our sense would be expressed in Greek as oikos, that is, “house.” (Compare the Reformation vocation of the “household.”) But patria means a set of individual families, all of whom have a common father. “Observe the play of the words,” comments Vincent, “which can scarcely be reproduced in English, pater, patria.” The verse is saying that from God the Father all lineages of fathers are named.2

What does our Lord do as our Father, according to this text? He grants according to his riches, strengthens with power, reaches even into our inner beings, and desires our eternal salvation through Christ. This is not a checklist, neither for him nor for human fathers, but it expresses the essence of loving service to children. When our Lord describes himself as a father, he does more than reward or chide or discipline. He even does more than teach. He who instituted family in the first place now draws us into his own family, where he reveals himself to us in love and generosity.

In the parable of the loving father and his two sons—also known as the prodigal son—Jesus talks about a father who has every right to be disappointed in his younger son (Luke 15:11–32). His son wants to leave his father and spend all his money and time in reckless living. This son valued money and pleasurable living over having a father. While the younger son was still a long way off, his father saw him. Recognizing him in spite of dirty clothing and extreme poverty, he was moved by compassion. Without another thought, he ran to, embraced, and kissed him. The father restored the prodigal to his former status and prestige as his son. In this parable God clearly connects fatherhood with his own abundant and unearned love and forgiveness.

He who instituted family in the first place now draws us into his own family, where he reveals himself to us in love and generosity.

When this same father learned that his older son was not rejoicing, he sought him and found him. He entreated him. He spoke graciously with him. He withheld nothing: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). This father loved his two sons, in spite of pain, disrespect, and discontent, a picture of our heavenly Father with his generosity, patience, mercy, and tenderness. Our heavenly Father is constant. He does not leave us. He does not strike us down when we are angry or already defeated. He restores what is lost. This parable is very frank about how our heavenly Father sees and responds to us as our father.

God is not just our Maker—again, what we make is different from ourselves—but “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). God becomes our father and fully incorporates us into his family: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:1–3). That God is our father means that, as his children, we have a special status. Families—patria—are one flesh with the father. This will be manifested fully in eternity. “We shall be like him.”

Notes:

  1. Nancy Leigh DeMoss, ed., Biblical Womanhood in the Home (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 49.
  2. Marvin R. Vincent, “Ephesians 3:15,” Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985).
This article is adapted from Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and Mary J. Moerbe.

How to Grieve Racial Violence through Lament

Silence Speaks

The issue of race may be one of the most relevant and complicated applications of lament in our contemporary church culture. Lament has the potential to provide a first step toward uniting people when hurt and misunderstanding are in the air. The sacred song of sorrow does not resolve all racial tension or injustice. But it does give the church a prayer language of compassion and a starting point toward understanding.

How should the church respond to moments of high-profile racial incidents?

The issues are often so complicated and the pain so raw. My response in the past has been to err on the side of silence because I don’t know what to say. But my pastoral silence sent the wrong message.

Corporate Lament

This is where I think corporate lament can be uniquely helpful. For those of us who have not experienced pain or unfair treatment because of our ethnicity, lament can be the language we use to weep with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). It allows our first voice—our first step—to be one of compassion. We can turn to God in prayer and join our minority brothers and sisters in their pain. We can identify the brokenness in our world, mourn the racial tensions that still exist, and offer our “complaint” to God about the history of injustice, misunderstanding, and racism. Together we can ask God for healing and for kindness in our hearts. Rather than allowing racial tension to drive a wedge between us or to frighten us into silence, lament can invite all of us on a journey toward seeking God’s grace together.

Lament provides the tracks along which the pain of racial issues can move forward.

Lament can also be the place for the expression of fear and hurt for our minority brothers and sisters. When national events resurface personal pain and shine a light on potential injustice or inequity, lament offers a redemptive framework as people are led to turn, complain, ask, and trust. Lament invites those who have been hurt by mistreatment to turn to the author of all healing. Through complaint they are able to bluntly share their pain. In asking for God’s help, they’re able to clarify for themselves and others what their heart longs for. And by ending with trust, people struggling with the lingering pain of racism can reaffirm their hope in the One who judges justly (1 Pet. 2:23).

Lament provides the tracks along which the pain of racial issues can move forward.

A Starting Point

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not naive enough to believe that lament is the single solution for racial tension. There is much work to be done in listening, understanding, addressing injustice, and fostering hope. But I do think lament is a starting point—a place where people from majority and minority backgrounds can meet. The beauty of this biblical language of sorrow is its ability to provide a bridge robust enough to handle outrage and empathy, frustration and faith, fear and hope. Lament can be our first step toward one another when racial tension could drive a wedge.

It is a God-given means for vocalizing complicated and loaded pain.

For centuries lament has been the minor-key voice of people in pain. It is the language of loss that should be prayed together. While lament can be applied to moments of individual loss, its redemptive power is multiplied as we pursue it together. Whether it is expressed in a funeral, modeled in a sermon, prayed or sung in a worship service, applied in a small group, or voiced in the middle of racial tension, lamenting together is an essential ministry of the body of Christ.

There is a song of mercy to be sung under dark clouds. The church should lead the way. Through every injustice and every sorrow, followers of Jesus can help one another find their way through the pain.

Lament is the language of loss as we grieve together.

https://www.crossway.org/articles/how-to-grieve-racial-violence-through-lament/?utm_source=Crossway+Marketing&utm_campaign=f850059c8a-20200513+-+General+-+Racial+Violence+Lament&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0275bcaa4b-f850059c8a-286122653 This article was originally posted on May 12, 2020 and adapted from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop. His new book, Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliationreleases in August 2020.

Carlos Whittaker: Fixing Racism in the World Starts by Examining Your Own Heart (Author of Kill The Spider org. posted 10.3.2017)

Self-care Tip #01

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of 5 Love Languages shared the following helpful words:

I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve been affected in one way or another by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are we concerned for our health and safety, along with that of our loved ones, but over the last few months we’ve had to make drastic readjustments to life all around. Schedule changes, close living quarters, and, for some, unemployment and financial collapse have caused much heartache, struggle, and fatigue. To say we are in a time of disruption might be quite an understatement. In times of great stress, our capacity to handle challenging emotions and external pressures diminish rapidly. You may have noticed that small things that once didn’t bother you have begun to irritate you now. There might be increasing tension in your stomach or a heaviness on your chest as the days go on. You might even be struggling with symptoms of anxiety, fear, grief, or depression. Like a car low on gas, it’s important to refuel in order to find the energy you need to keep going in a positive emotional direction. So what can you do if you find yourself in such a place? Here are a few tips:

Breathe — When you find yourself at capacity, find a calm, quiet place for a few minutes, and practice deep breathing. It will help you relax and do wonders for stress tension.

Pray or Meditate — Take a moment to talk to God and release the burden of whatever weight you are carrying to Him. Express gratitude for the relationships in your life. Take five minutes to be silent, and meditate on a few things you are grateful for. Gratitude does wonders for the heart.

Exercise — Sometimes you just need to work it out. Start an exercise routine so your body can release endorphins—your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. These endorphins are also known as the body’s natural pain killers. If you feel better physically, you will be able to handle stress better when it sneaks up on you.

Sleep — If you find you are simply cranky and cloudy, chances are you may be sleep deprived. Try going to bed at an earlier time, and seek to get at least eight hours of sleep. The more rested your body feels, the more capable you’ll be in dealing with the stress sneaking up on you.

These are just a few ways you can begin to combat the stresses you may be experiencing in your life right now. They may not change your circumstances entirely, but they may help to increase your capacity to handle those things in a healthier way. So put them into practice. You’ll likely find yourself feeling a bit more like yourself, and even more present for the people you love.

Wash Your Hands, But Don’t Forget To Wash Feet

Wash Your Hands, But Don’t Forget To Wash Feet

*Disclaimer: At the time of posting this blog, these ideas align with government guidelines, we understand however, that recommendations for safety change daily, therefore, check with your local authorities before moving forward with these ideas.

Unprecedented times call for an unprecedented response.

Luke 10 describes Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end of the story, Jesus poses the question:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 36-37)

In this parable, Jesus taught that a neighbor isn’t a specific person, rather it is a role we’re invited to fill. Jesus called his followers to live a lifestyle of service. Being a neighbor means we can “Go and do likewise”. But what does that look like right now? We are in a global pandemic. We are told to stay home and socially distance from others.

Now, more than ever is the time for Christians to be the Church. Here are a few creative ways to serve.

Serve your Family.

The Good Samaritan in Jesus’ story cared for the person is his path. For the foreseeable future, your family or the people you live with, are the ones in your path. Intentionally change your mindset to see the value in serving your family. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cultivate joy! Serve your family by intentionally lifting their spirits with something fun or meaningful. Defer to an activity a family member enjoys or put on a fun playlist while cooking. Joy is infectious!
  • Serve with your hands. Tangibly serve your family with a hands-on project—rake the yard, cook a meal, clean the bathroom.
  • Tune in, not out. Your family is important! View this time stuck at home as a blessing to engage with your family in new and different ways. It is easy to find distractions on your phone or TV but choose to intentionally interact rather than simply coexist.

Serve with Encouragement.

Drop kindness like confetti to those near and far.

  • Write a letter. Or postcard, email or text. The point is to go out of your way to let someone know you are thinking of them and checking in on their well-being.
  • Create visual encouragement. Break out that sidewalk chalk and write some words on the sidewalk near your home. It could mean a lot to someone to see words like “we can do this” and “there is hope”. You could also create signs for your windows with similar messages.
  • Utilize Social Media. Record a devotional thought and post it to your Facebook page. Share a fun throwback photo. Post a link to your church’s weekly online message. Use this platform to care, rather than scare.
  • Have Fun & Be Creative. Leave a singing voicemail, rehang Christmas lights, play worship music from your deck, smile and wave to pedestrians… There are endless ways to radiate love for others through laughter and fun.

 

Serve Local Neighbors

  • Keep a pulse on the need. Use resources like the Nextdoor app or community Facebook groups to stay up to date on the needs of others in your direct community. If you see a need, be the person to fill that need!

  • Little Free Library. Fill these little boxes around your neighborhood. Depending on the need, fill them with books for kid’s literacy, food items, toiletries, etc.

*For those living near Colin L. Powell Elementary in Centreville, there is a cute one near the school’s main entrance.  Maybe you can make a temporary one in front of your house?  Get creative! Here is a link to start your own.

Serve Through Generous Giving

Many service-focused nonprofit organizations have a higher demand for their services, with potentially less funding than they have ever had. If you are able, consider giving!

  • Food Insecurity Services. With schools moving to distance learning, there is a need for food for kids. Consider financially supporting backpack food programs or other organizations in your area working to address food insecurity needs for both kids and adults.
  • Support where you already serve. For the next few weeks, many organizations are unable to take volunteer groups. If your church usually serves an organization in person, consider switching to a financial gift for this month.
  • Social Service Organizations. Consider sending your financial gifts to organizations that directly work with the hurting or marginalized in your community. This could include organizations that serve the homeless population, domestic violence survivors, senior citizens, etc.

In the past few weeks, so much has changed but take heart, a few things will never change:

  • God loves you and your neighbors.
  • God is faithful.
  • We are called to represent Jesus in this world.

In a time where we can’t go anywhere, there is plenty we can do. 

 

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