Why are mom’s heralded as role models on Mother’s Day while dads are admonished to get their act together? During that inevitable Father’s Day sermon a few wives clutch their husband’s arm and whisper “He’s not talking about you, sweetheart…”, while other wives simmer or elbow him in the ribs, hoping the message has gotten through.
But God commands that we honor both parents, so let’s use Paul Harvey’s 1964 speech “If I Were the Devil” as a model to lay out what fathers mean to God, what they face, and what we need to do to honor men in our churches.
Fatherhood defines you —Did you know “father” occurs over 1,100 times in the Bible? That’s twice as often as “love.” In Scripture fatherhood is an essential construct. Take Abram, for example. For most of his life his name, which meant “Exalted Father”, was a source of embarrassment for him. Yet despite being childless, God promised to make him “Father of Many.” Three thousand years later, millions still identify themselves with father Abraham.
Jesus also used fatherhood to declare spiritual reality. He said you are set free when God adopts you (John 8:31-50). What are we set free from? Scripture says we come into this world by the intentions of our earthly fathers — ultimately Adam — but are then adopted by our Heavenly Father when we’re saved through Christ. Many struggle with God because of bad fathers, but that doesn’t negate the meaning of fatherhood.
To paraphrase Harvey, if I were the devil, I would try to make fatherhood meaningless.
Honoring fathers honors God — As Paul says, “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment with a promise (Ephesians 6:2). Dads are a picture of God’s loving authority, and that lesson starts at home. But the sinful lesson of dishonoring fathers too often also starts in the home. If I were the devil, I would remove the honor of children for their fathers. By the way, moms: Paul also commanded, “…Wives, honor your husbands as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Emerson Eggerichs wrote that unconditional respect is as powerful to men as unconditional love is to women. Can you imagine hearing “I would love you if only…” Yet how many men have heard “You gotta earn my respect!” If I were the devil, I would whisper to women that respect for a husband is old-fashioned, just loud enough for kids to hear.
Honoring fathers revolutionizes society — Fatherhood is crucial to society. According to Dr. Warren Farrell, dads influence compassion, impulse control, memory, and adaptability to change in kids. Farrell found that infants with dads at home were considerably ahead in personal and social development. On the other hand, he also found that poverty, infant mortality, delinquency, truancy, and teen promiscuity are rampant in father-absent homes. Nearly every shooting over the last year involved a young man whose parents divorced or were unmarried.
So where have all the good dads gone? Men look at fatherhood today and see the rules stacked against them. Fatherhood is a huge risk when moms initiate 70 percent of all divorces and win 85 to 90 percent of custody awards. Dr. Helen Smith writes that 80 percent of suicides every year are men, and that many kill themselves over child custody. Meanwhile, media portrays fathers as chronic idiots or serial abusers. God built men to seek help for others but their help is not wanted and the risk is too great.
The devil has already done a remarkable job convincing all of us that fathers are the problem, not the solution.
Honor fathers to build up the church —Robbie Low, citing years of family research, concludes that dad’s religious practice often determines whether his kids will attend church. When both parents attend regularly, 75 percent of their kids will attend church routinely whether mom goes or not. But if dad is absent and mother is a regular attender, only 2 percent will become regular attenders themselves. Fatherless churches can expect two-thirds of their Sunday school kids to be lost completely to the Kingdom. Still, the Church has accepted the devil’s lie that fatherlessness is normal. Men are abandoning churches in droves and taking kids with them.
The devil appears to be winning, but we know God has given us victory. What can we do to change the view of fatherhood?
Embraces God’s priorities for fatherhood. John Piper was astonished at what Old Testament prophet Malachi prophesied about Elijah announcing the arrival of Jesus Christ. “I would expect a look back at the faithful work of God in the past and a look forward to the final victory,” he wrote. “Instead, Malachi says that God’s priority is to ‘Turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.'” Luke confirms this same message in the New Testament.
Honor fathers unconditionally. God help us if we teach little ones to dishonor their fathers. Pray for grace and cooperation for divorced couples raising kids under separate roofs so that Christian dads can remain influential in their children’s’ lives. And pray for Godly male influence in the lives of kids raised by single moms.
Stop tolerating father-dishonoring messages. Treating moms well does not require dissing dads. We are ultimately accountable to God our Father to encourage both moms and dads with godly love, honor, and respect.
Inspire and support fathers. Men respond to heartfelt and specific recognition. Take a look at all ministry areas in your church — music, Christian education, and small groups — and create value for both men and women.
Ask what men are getting from your church. Do we just want their wallets or do we engage their potential? Do single parent programs include single dads? What’s your father outreach strategy? It’s not a coincidence that states with the highest number of fatherless families also have the nation’s greatest financial and spiritual poverty. It’s also not a coincidence that the Brownsville Revival began Father’s Day, 1995.
Start today to start honoring fathers — both Heavenly and human — and put the devil on the run.