Roy Baldwin

What is a Father?

I am always baffled by how much men, especially fathers, are shamed into action.

The latest satire video from Cool Carl of Sunday Cool, is a very funny but sad reflection of what is often true of the experience some dads will hear this Father’s Day.

I wonder if, at the root of this problem, is our inability to accurately define what a father is, the value a dad’s role plays, or impact he has on his children or family as a whole.

Stop Shaming Fathers

Church sermons, men’s ministry groups, men’s conferences, men’s retreats, men’s prayer breakfasts, men’s accountability groups, men’s curriculums…I have participated in these activities, I have spoken at these activities, I have designed some of these activities. And so often we start off by lecturing men about all the things they are not doing or not doing well, as husbands, fathers, sons, and as men.

Look, I know there is an abundance of data (fatherlessness, divorce, violence, drug use, suicide, depression, etc.) that would suggest men are not doing their parts when it comes to our homes, families, and marriages.

BUT I also know there is strong evidence that would counter this data and say men in some ways are being better fathers and spouses more than ever before (a post for another time).

Although the “over the top” video from Cool Carl is funny, it demonstrates a very destructive worldview that can live in our churches, about who fathers are and what they do or don’t do. I think this worldview is often very subtle, but nonetheless, it bankrupts our understanding of what a Biblical definition of fatherhood is and, on a greater scale, what masculinity is.

Men are drowning in shame

I do feel much of the data overwhelmingly shows that men/fathers are already drowning in shame.

Here are just three of many data points:

Recent research suggests that men have no close friends.

Men commit suicide at a rate 2-4x higher than women.

Depression in men is being called a “silent epidemic” due to its impact on coronary disease and other health conditions.

These factors cannot be ignored or explained away. If men are drowning in shame, the last thing we need to do before throwing them a lifeline is to lecture them on why they are drowning. 

What is a Father?

So often I think we approach men using the same tactics Jesus used when teaching his disciples about the Pharisees or how Jesus interacted with Pharisees. He saw them as hypocrites and “white washed tombs (Matthew 23). If this is our view of men or fathers, then our approach of challenging men to do better and be better misses the mark completely. It’s like pouring salt into an invisible wound.

Our approach needs to be more like the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3. Although the Apostle Paul doesn’t hold back about putting to death the old self, he encourages believers to put on the new self.

In 2015 I wrote a piece for the blog, Authentic Manhood, called “4 Traits of An Authentic Man,” I have updated those 4 traits for this post. Obviously, this isn’t comprehensive in regards to defining biblical masculinity, but I do think it lays down some foundational pieces.

  1. Authenticity (V.16)
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

    Being grounded in God’s word, as described here, isn’t just an intellectual understanding. It’s with the understanding that as Christ transforms me with his Word, I become a different man and it is for the greater good of those around me. People should feel drawn to Christ, not because I have all the answers, but because of the “emotional and relational connectedness” they feel when they are with me.
  2. Content of our Character (v. 12-14)
    “…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

    These attributes become the content of our character as men. Our spouses, children, co-workers, friends family, even strangers are drawn closer to Christ because of these elements. As you will see from these attributes, there is an initial application of messiness (patience) and brokenness (bearing with one another), as well as redemption (forgiveness).
  3. Secure Identity (v. 12)
    “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”

    Paul affirmed their identity in Christ. “This is who you are.” What we believe about ourselves will inform all of our decisions and those outcomes. This is why lecturing men doesn’t work. No one is harder on a man than a man himself. Start leading them. Gain their trust. Create a safe place for men to be true to who God is calling them to be.
  4. Gratitude (V.17)
    “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    As Christ transforms men as they surrender to His work and process of transformation, the entire community (family, home and church) is blessed and grateful for this man who is giving his all for the cause of Christ.

A dear friend and former co-worker Glenn Stanton wrote a book called, “Secure Daughters Confident Sons.” He writes this:

Don’t you think the world becomes a better, happier, and healthier place when men are encouraged to become the best version of who they already are? That’s part of our job as parents raising boys. Still, we are wise to remember that Clint Eastwood is not Albert Einstein is not Harrison Ford is not George Washington Carver is not Abraham Lincoln….is not your husband or your son.” (p.20)

Men need to be inspired, encouraged, and discipled.

Final Thoughts

May we truly change the way we think about the men and fathers in our lives. I know there are a lot of broken promises, disappointments, and unmet expectations out there. My encouragement is to seek to restore, redeem, reconcile, and forgive.

To Fathers (bio, step, foster, adoptive, father figure): Thank you for what you do day in and day out. We play such a vital and critical role in the health and life of our families. Don’t give up. Our families need us more than ever. Be the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical provider and protector God has created and designed you to be. It’s hard…but anything hard is usually worth fighting for.

To fathers who feel like they are drowning and can’t undo what’s been done:
Find another man or person to talk with who will encourage and support you. There are some incredible resources for men out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone. As someone who is coming out of a very dark and hard season, ask for help.

I know this post doesn’t fully answer the question, “What is a father?” I do hope it challenges us to rethink our own beliefs about dads and the role they play especially in the church. I love the sentiment Bart Millard expresses in the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” which captured the true story of his broken yet restored relationship with his dad. May this sentiment be true of us, “God will give us the grace to allow His redemption to come into any relationship whenever we are ready to receive His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.“

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s