“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

What is a father? Merriam-Webster online defines it as “a man who has begotten a child.” Is that all there is to being a father, the physical ability to produce offspring? In today’s society, there are those who think no more of it than this, whose concern is more gratifying their own sensual desires than in being responsible. However, for those who consider being a father from a Biblical perspective, there is more to fatherhood than this.

When a man is joined in marriage to his wife, and then with the coming of children into that relationship, he must understand life is not just about his wants and desires, but about the well-being of his family. Yes, he is to consider the needs of his children, whether with providing food, clothing, education, or needs socially and emotionally. Paul reminded Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

Being a father, though, must also include the spiritual. Paul reminded fathers in the church at Ephesus, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Real men, real Christian fathers, are in the forefront of teaching their children spiritual principles, of understanding the word of God and its implications for their lives. Praise God for godly women and mothers who many times fill the gap when such fathers are AWOL in such spiritual training, but shame on dads who leave it to them, who aren’t involved in making sure they are more familiar with Scripture and the spiritual as they are sports, television, video games, and any other physical pursuit.

The statement of Paul to imitate him in his example of imitating Christ is an excellent statement of what a father seeks to do. He not only imparts his knowledge of Scripture by direct teaching, but in how he lives it out daily. The example of fathers is of utmost importance in helping shape children spiritually. Praise God for dads who don’t send their offspring to Bible class and worship, but take them, accompany them, so they understand how important it truly is. Praise God for dads who have daily family devotionals, who pray in front of and with their children, who aren’t perfect, but do their best to show Scripture at work in their priorities, their speech, their actions, the whole of their lives, and not just occasionally, but all the time. Being such a father is a lifelong endeavor, which points the way to the heavenly Father, to lasting values, to the hope of eternal life.

It is my prayer that Father’s Day stirs memories of such dads; it does for me. It is something I have tried, as imperfect as I am, to share with my children and now grandchildren. The closer to eternity I get, its value and importance become dearer, more urgent. This is what a father’s role is all about, to help his family understand nothing is more important than living for eternal life, of not only sharing in life today, but being part of heaven together. Bringing them up to be a success today is good, but it’s nothing if it’s a substitute for the spiritual. Bringing them up to have life today and eternally is best, is clearly where a father’s heart should be, the goal he seeks to instill in his family’s heart. For every father who loves, provides, disciplines, instructs, and lives a godly life for his family, thank you. This is what being a father is really all about.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."

Robert Johnson