For such a large book, the Bible gives surprisingly few direct commands regarding being a father. But one warning sticks out for sure. This command is so important that God gives versions of it in two places:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." (Colossians 3:21)What does it mean to exasperate or provoke my children? Those are things I do to cause them to feel discouraged, to look at life and to have a loss of hope, and to miss the truth about our Heavenly Father.
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Parenting PitfallsIn Parenting Pitfalls, Dave Bruskas gives "two main ways that Christian dads discourage their kids: being permissive and being perfectionistic" (emphasis mine).
The Permissive Dad
"The permissive dad tries to love his kids without correction. He is an enabler who fails to confront sin and foolishness. He never employs hard consequences for disobedience.
"His children, despite his best intention towards the contrary, feel unloved. They will commonly rebel just to get a reaction from dad. . . . And when dad refuses to act, the child refuses to believe he really loves him or her.
"In this way earthly fathers distort the view of our heavenly Father."
The Perfectionist Dad
"The perfectionist dad tries to correct his kids without love. He is controlling and overcorrects his kids for failure or immaturity. . . .
"His kids may exhibit outward signs of compliance, but their hearts are hard and moved by fear instead of love. They too rebel in hopes that dad will love them no matter what. And when he doesn't, his children conclude that dad won't ever love them.
"In this way, earthly fathers distort the view of our heavenly Father."
A Distortion of the GospelBruskas continues to explain that, by being permissive or perfectionist, we are not only missing a chance to point to the truth of our Father, but that we also miss the truth of the gospel for ourselves. If we are lean towards permissiveness, we believe in the false gospel of licentiousness. And if we lean towards perfectionism, we believe in the false gospel of legalism.
So if the choice is to be either perfectionist or permissive, choose the gospel. And when we fail to parent our children under the truth of the gospel, "model the work of the gospel in your life by confessing to your children your sins and asking for their forgiveness. . . . As a father, you want to point your children to Jesus by sharing your life and trusting in him. Share your life and how Jesus has forgiven you and changed your life with them."
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Greater ExpectationsBeyond these gospel truths, you may be wanting some more concrete ideas about what God expects from you. Here are 5 Things God Expects from Every Dad, by Chris Sprad:
- Insane patience
- Intentional forgetfulness
- Create peace
- Be a father
But then again, even being insanely patient should be a result of my growth in Christ and dependence on Him. I need to keep the gospel at the forefront, so that all the "good fruits" are a result of the gospel changing my life. Yes, I need to be patient, forgiving, peaceful, etc, but these attitudes should be the results of the Spirit's work in my life.
Because above all else, do you know what God expects most of all for me as a Dad? That I would be grow in my walk with Him.
**image courtesy of agastecheg via sxc.hu