“What a Father Should Be”
There once was a newspaper advice columnist named Jeffery Zaslow. He was known for fielding any question a person might want to ask. One day a woman wrote to him: “My husband is a very special man, and I would love to see his face on Mt. Rushmore. I know this is a big request, but how might I go about getting this idea in motion?” Signed, “His Biggest Fan.”
Well Zaslow took up the question and called up the folks at Mount Rushmore and asked them. It was not the first time they heard this question, and the answer is always the same. Mount Rushmore has no more carvable rock.
So Zaslow told the letter writer: ‘”Should Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt ever fall out of favor, I suppose their likenesses could be recarved to resemble someone else–your husband, perhaps. But I don’t want to encourage unattainable pipe dreams. I suggest you find a more modest way to honor and glorify your husband. Maybe your local luncheonette could name a sandwich after him.”
Happy Father’s Day! Now you know of one gift you can take off your list. Regardless, Dad’s can be special people and today we want to acknowledge all the men in our lives who we look up to and have been present for us. In light of today and our scripture let us consider what our relationship with God teaches us about being a good father, and how that relationship shapes our lives.
First, from God we learn that a Father should be loving. God is love. Mostly what the apostle Paul is arguing for in Galatians is that we are made right with God by our faith in Christ. [John 3:16 (NRSV)] “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The motivating factor that causes God to forgive us and provide a way for us to live is God’s love for us. This can be a helpful insight. Sometimes we are not always perfect. We all make mistakes. We all get caught up in life with our own garbage. People can get grumpy and be mean, shortsighted, and sometimes selfish just to name a few of the human imperfection. Now not every day is a bad day and some days we all can excel to be our best selves, but other times maybe not so much. If you are like me,
sometimes I just sigh and think, “Well God I did not do that right, did I?” Once I considered what I might say to my own son in a similar situation and my response would probably be son, don’t worry about it. Let it go, you’ll do better next time. It occurred to me that I usually find it harder to forgive myself then I do others. If God is our Father, then God is not interested in our punishment, but more so in our personal growth. God is not against us but for us. This is love. Forgiveness works because it is what God wants.
But secondly, we may learn that a father should be just, for God is just. Love is good but every child needs to know what they can and cannot do. The world is filled with boundaries and limitations. If a child wants to learn to ride a bike, then a child must contend with balance and gravity. If a person loses their balance, then you feel the effects of the law of gravity. There are actions and there are consequences.
In relationship to God, we see this question at work in the giving of the law. God gave the ten commandments, the dietary laws, dress codes, and civil laws. You name it there was a law for it, so that people might come to understand the will and nature of God from which all limitations and consequences come.
However, as Paul would repeatedly point out, still the law was unable to give us life. The law proved unable to save us. In our passage, Paul describes the law as a strict school master assigned to a young child who needs to learn. The child will one day be the owner of the household, but as a young person the child must learn and adhere to the direction and discipline given out by his strict teacher. This was a common image. The child will not come into his or her inheritance until after they have grown.
This was God’s justice. The law causes us to recognize our own inability to live righteous lives, but in this recognition of God’s holiness and our own failure we are able to receive life as God’s gift. God’s love comes with a price that Christ paid for us when he lived obediently even to death upon a cross. If we learn that we will fall, then we are able to rise. Sometimes a good father must allow the child to slip and fall so that the child may stand and walk. But all the while God is rooting for us to succeed. God is just and teaches us that there are limitations and consequences. The quicker we learn the easier life is.
Finally, from God we may learn that a good father will provide and rejoice in his child’s success. Now in our case where God is concern, this becomes a truth beyond our imagining. God receives all who come in Jesus name and extends a position of great privilege. The apostle tells us [Galatians 3:26–29 (NRSV)
“…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
We have become more than conquers through him who loves us. The order and hope of life have radically changed. In Christ we are given an inheritance that begins today —the fullness of which we have yet to realize. Jesus is the answer to the questions that separate us, and in Christ is our inheritance to a higher life. Sometimes I have visited places like the Tippecanoe Place Mansion in South Bend, Indiana. It was built by Clem Studebaker who eventually founded what became the Studebaker Corporation. You can visit and tour the opulence of his former home. As a child of God, you are the heir of all that God owns. Compared to what is coming not even the richest corporate executive is more privileged than you. Everything in this world will pass away, but what God desires to give you as one of his children is eternal. Therefore, live life as such a beloved child.
God reminds that we should do as we are able for our children. A good father will: In love, in teaching even sometimes the harder lessons of life, in providing; life may grow in a good way. This is God’s way with us. I wish you a Happy Father’s Day Dad. Make it a good one, because God is with you. Amen.