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A Christian father
What does it mean to be a Christian father? A reflection uncovers a plan of action.
After the guests from the baptism celebration had gone, Steve sat next to his father on the patio. "Steve," his dad said. "Few blessings are more precious than God's gift of children. And few responsibilities are more important than the responsibilities that come with being a father. Different people have different ideas about what it means to be a good father. I pray that you will be a Christian father."
His father's words came to mind often as Steve was initiated into the experience of fatherhood. He thought of some of the fathers he knew. One father went to work very early on mornings his children had afternoon activities so he could leave early to attend. Steve remembered hearing others comment about this man's dedication to his family. He thought of Uncle Mort, face-to-face with cousin Riley's baseball coach, berating him for not playing his son more. No one ever questioned that Mort would be there for his family, but Steve knew his uncle's explosions on the ball field weren't the healthiest way to express support.
He thought of his neighbor Sean. He threw the football with his son every night for an hour, even when his son begged to quit and go inside. "If you are going to be good and possibly get a college scholarship," he heard Sean say, "You have to work hard." Steve thought of his friend from work who took on a second job in order to provide a nicer house and a comfortable life for his family. He thought of another friend at church who drove an old car and lived in a modest home so that his wife could stay at home and raise their children. He thought of a family down the street. With two children in club ball, they spent most of their weekends traveling to distant sporting events. He thought of his boss, the perfectionist, who grounded his son because he got a B on his report card.
Steve guessed that all of these fathers imagined that they were good fathers, doing the right thing for their children. But he suspected his dad had something else in mind when he prayed that Steve would be a Christian father.
With those words in the back of his mind, Steve ventured into a Bible class on parenting. His pastor opened the class by asking the participants to imagine that it was judgment day and that Jesus was dividing the sheep from the goats. "Imagine that, from your vantage point among the sheep, you look across to those among the goats. There, to your chagrin, you see your child."
About then, if someone had asked Steve a question, he would have had a hard time answering through the lump in his throat. But he suddenly had a much clearer picture of what it meant to be a father—a Christian father.
In the end, it wouldn't be the amount of playing time on the athletic field or the trophies that would matter. It wouldn't be their grade transcripts or their class rank that would give his children comfort on their dying day. It wouldn't matter how high they climbed the ladders of corporate success or how much money they earned. In the end, what would matter is that they would hear the words, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).
This article came for Northwestern Publishing House's Parents Crosslink, a quarterly publication designed to strengthen and encourage Christian parents.