Biblical Fathering: On Being Forthright
Part four of a four-part series on fatherhood.
In the three previous posts on biblical fathering, using Paul’s instructions to fathers in Ephesians 6:4, we discussed how fathers are to be fair (“do not provoke your children to anger”), flexible (“but bring them up”), and firm (“in the discipline and instruction”). The end of the sentence “of the Lord” shows the need for fathers to be forthright—the last attribute of a biblical father I want to draw out of this verse.
There are three basic approaches that most fathers use—knowingly or not—in raising their children. The authoritarian style demands unquestioning obedience and often a literal “hands-on” approach to discipline. The permissive style is where anything goes, within reason of course, and usually takes a hands-off approach. The third and, I suggest, biblical approach is the authoritative style where obedience is expected for clearly stated reasons with the father consistently modeling the desired behavior.
Biblical Fathering Is Authoritative, Not Authoritarian
Instead of the authoritarian father who says, “do as I say, not as I do,” or the permissive father who says, “do what you want as long as you don’t bother me,” the authoritative father says, “do as I say and as I do.” He is confident in setting the example for his children because he lives in a forthright manner as he works to conform his life to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The father who exercises his authority in the family in a godly manner and who lives in consistent obedience to God’s commands will accomplish his parenting responsibilities in a forthright and consistent manner. It is said that Christianity is as much caught as taught, so fathers who follow this pattern are indeed raising their children in the instruction “of the Lord” and are then obedient to the commands found in this verse.
Biblical Fathers Present Christ as the Center of Their Lives
In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Cor. 4:15b–16). As the spiritual father of the congregation in Corinth through the gospel he preached to them, Paul urged his spiritual children to imitate him as he imitated Christ. In the same way, fathers are to present Christ as the center of their lives in a forthright manner to encourage their children to imitate them as they imitate Christ.
Raising godly children is a complex task requiring the best efforts of both parents. Men and women are given different attributes, preferences, and gifts that are intended to display part of the picture of God to their children. Together dad and mom are to present a full-orbed picture of our loving, nurturing, holy, and just Creator, even though they will do so imperfectly. We want our children to love God, and we pray they will, as we prepare them to be the next generation of responsible Christian citizens.
Biblical Fathering Develops and Celebrates Each Child’s Gifts
In summary, God desires Christian fathers to be fair by taking the time to know, develop, and celebrate each child’s particular gifts, limitations, and personality. He desires us to demonstrate flexibility by listening carefully and then nurturing patiently while directing the child toward proper action. God wants us to be fathers who firmly correct by gently but firmly pointing out errors or misbehavior, and always with a caring heart. Finally, the biblical father does not hesitate to proclaim his commitment to following Christ and living out that commitment in a forthright manner as he encourages his children to do likewise.
As a biblical father, raising godly children is one of the most important tasks you have, second only to loving your wife and leading her spiritually. May God’s Spirit equip and empower you, as you work with your children throughout their lives to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Click here for Part 1: “Biblical Fathering: On Being Fair"
Click here for Part 2: “Biblical Fathering: On Being Flexible"
Click here for Part 3: “Biblical Fathering: On Being Firm"
Recommended: Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
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