By / Dec 27

Someone once told me, “There’s a worldview driving everything.” The comment was made in the context of a conversation about films and television shows. In the years since I first heard that statement, I’ve found myself taking a much closer look at the viewpoints and belief systems revealed in the various kinds of media that I consume. It turns out that when it comes to media, regardless of the forum, you’ll find someone’s worldview everywhere you look. That helps explain why I’ve found myself deeply contemplating the connection between fatherhood, abortion, and a culture of life versus the culture of death. 

A Vision for a Pro-Family World

Recently, the NBC medical drama New Amsterdam decided to explore the reversal of Roe v. Wade by depicting the reactions of various characters to the breaking news. I don’t watch the show, so I wasn’t invested in its take on the subject. But I decided to take a look after seeing a clip from that episode making the rounds on the internet. 

It’s essentially a series of emotional reactions that culminates in a shot of the medical staff gathered in front of a hospital television featuring the news coverage of Roe’s reversal. Clearly, each character is overcome with grief and emotion. Most striking, though, were the reactions of two different fathers to the sudden end of Roe’s nearly 50-year legacy in that sequence.

In the first case, a father who has just seen the news is staring at his young daughter. As she plays with her toys, he just stares and weeps. Though it’s unsaid, he is clearly grieved about his daughter growing up in a world without abortion. Similarly, a second man is seen sitting in front of his laptop in such disbelief that he cannot bear to make eye contact when what appears to be his pre-teen daughter enters the room.

I’m still struck by those images. Obviously, they’re fictional portrayals, but I assume they represent both the reactions and fears of many fathers in America. And that is something worth exploring.

Fatherhood and Human Dignity

First, I want to celebrate that these men have taken up the responsibility of fatherhood. We live in a culture that has told people they can have sex without the consequences of attachment and pregnancy. However, that can only be true for men, because a woman who becomes pregnant is physiologically connected to her child. 

It is because we have freed men of their obligation as fathers that abortion becomes so attractive for many, but pregnancy and childbirth were never meant to be an individual event. Christians ought to push against the idea that a preborn child’s life is the sole responsibility of the mother and call for a culture where fathers take responsibility for the children they create. 

Nevertheless, my initial reaction to that New Amsterdam scene was to ridicule it. 

There is no doubt a crushing sense of irony—to say nothing of cognitive dissonance—in seeing these men grieve that their daughters, whom they both love deeply, now unexpectedly find themselves in a position where each girl would be “forced” to become a mother to a son or daughter of her own. In fact, the emotional response each father has on behalf of his own daughter conflicts with the episode’s intended message. Moreover, their reactions actually serve to underscore the concept of human dignity. 

These men love these girls. They see them as valuable and worthy of protection. But these facts actually serve to highlight the absurdity on display in that scene. Each man obviously recognizes the inherent value and dignity of human life, of which their daughters are but a microcosm. Yet, illogically, they both conclude it is somehow consistent with that view of the dignity of personhood to insist their daughters should retain the right to destroy the life of another human being. The men weep over their daughters’ “loss” as though abortion bears no connection to the value of another person, when, in reality, such fathers should stand against abortion precisely because they recognize the value and dignity not only of their own children but of all children. 

Akin to Injustice? 

As I was discussing this scene among friends, a wise Christian woman made an interesting observation. She remarked that many fathers of young daughters probably did respond with some mixture of anger and fear in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe. Given the alarming statistics showing that 1 in 4 women in the United States “have experienced completed or attempted rape,” she pointed out the likelihood that many fathers are motivated by concerned about their daughters’ ability to terminate a pregnancy that was not only unplanned, but the result of a heinous crime. We would do well to compassionately consider how a culture of sexual assault impacts women and those who love them.

As a pro-life evangelical and the father of two young daughters, I care greatly about these issues. I recognize my girls’ dignity and value. I see them as women created in God’s image, possessing intrinsic and inestimable beauty and worth (Gen. 1:27), and I want them to be safe. Yet, in the same way that I am able to recognize their value and dignity, I am also able to recognize the value and dignity of all people, even in the worst of circumstances.

Many Americans today, indeed many fathers, remain convinced that the reversal of Roe was an injustice. They’re wrong. It was never the case that protecting the dignity and freedom of certain people required or justified denying the dignity, freedom, and life of others. Even so, it turns out that not all of their concerns were illegitimate. 

To be clear, there is no excuse for the intentional destruction of innocent human life. Elective abortions are never an acceptable remedy, even in light of the most troubling facts. Yet the pro-life position is not calloused toward suffering. We recognize that pregnancy represents a significant hardship for many women. Moreover, we sincerely grieve with women who have suffered violence that resulted in pregnancy. Their suffering is tragic, unjust, and inexcusable.

But what does it say about our culture that so many believe prohibiting elective abortions is akin to injustice? And what lies behind the reaction of grief and fear so prominently featured in NBC’s dramatic portrayal? The answer is that many Americans have fallen prey to the ethos of the culture of death. The fearful and angry reaction of so many men and women, both real and imagined, was fueled by a lie that said abortion was the only solution to an unplanned pregnancy. 

Pro-Life Fatherhood 

So as a concluding thought experiment, let us reverse the scenario. How should fathers who recognize the inherent dignity of all people react to the same news? For starters, instead of weeping or silently looking away in disbelief, such fathers would hug their daughters. Instead of battling emotional turmoil, the men would resolve to renew their commitment to the young women they love. And they would pledge that as these girls’ fathers they would always be there to support them, regardless of the circumstances. Finally, instead of lamenting the demise of the culture of death, these men would have the courage to stand for life and call other men to do the same.

Rooted in the culture of death, the scene from New Amsterdam portrayed a worldview where abortion was a sacrament. But a worldview rooted in a culture of life reflects a reality where all life is sacred. Fathers are called to love, care for, and protect their daughters. But it turns out, there is a worldview driving that too. 

By / Nov 30

Magic pixie dust for great fathering. Ok, that stuff doesn’t exist. There is no shortcut or gaming the process of raising boys to men. It is hard work, by design. But effort alone won’t get the desired results. Fathering needs to be deliberate. How does a dad purposefully raise a boy? This is the question Jon Tyson’s book, The Intentional Father, addresses.

Intentional is practical 

Tyson’s work is highly practical. Key tasks are explained and supported from Scripture and research. The reader is not left to think, “OK, I need to do that, but how?” Each chapter is marked with an “Intentional Steps” section. In these pages, the reader is led in a style similar to a workshop to process the chapter’s contents and formulate concrete steps. 

For example, in the third chapter, the reader is asked to think forward to a day when their son leaves the home to strike out on his own. Rather than delaying that moment as long as possible, Tyson guides us to face this inevitability. How do you want your son to be prepared for that day? The workshop pages invite the reader to slow down, think, and write answers to the prompts, “What do you want your son to know? What do you want him to be? What do you want him to be able to do? What experiences do you want him to have?” 

Writing down these answers can provide a plan rather than a laissez faire approach to what sons get from dads. With these goals in mind, this loose plan can minimize the pain of inconvenience. For example, if you get a flat tire, you are stuck. Being stuck is annoying and irritating. However, if you have identified changing a tire as something you want your son to be able to do, this inconvenience has become an opportunity to work your plan. This difficulty is not just a curse but also a blessing. The intentional father begins to have eyes that are always looking to get his son in the classroom of life.

Avoiding the “man-ager” rut

“Man-ager” is a term Tyson and his son use to refer to those who by chronology and biology are adult men, but their way of life is too childish — too much like a teenager. Tyson provides sage advice to avoid or dislodge from the rut of persistent adolescence. He presents this guidance as five shifts: 1) from ease to difficulty; 2) from self to others; 3) from whole story to part of the story; 4) from control to surrender; and 5) from temporary to eternal. 

These five qualities are critical for both men and women to thrive in a life that is lived to please God. They are central to a biblical worldview. If boys are unaware that these are the views God is intending to develop in them, they will not only be surprised when these occur, but they will resist the change they are designed to foster. For example, if boys are unaware that a core change in their view of the world needs to be from ease to difficulty, they will likely misinterpret all hardship as poor planning, unjust people, or hatred from God. 

Dads don’t need to plan difficulty; it is baked into life. Rather, an intentional father is ready to take a hard experience and invite his son to consider what he really wants. Does he desire the tough stuff to just be over, or does he desire the good things like perseverance, humility, and dependence that hard things can grow in us. The boy that embraces that difficulty will not only happen, but that it is also designed for his good, will be less likely to put off the increasingly hard responsibilities of adulthood. 

Likewise, the shift from temporal to eternal is a mark of those that are maturing. For example, dads should take their sons to funerals. They are events that force us to face our mortality and consider what kind of legacy we desire to be remembered. End-of-life moments expose what is temporary and awaken our hearts to consider what is eternal. Furthermore, this change in mindset can aid in curtailing the temptation to look for complete satisfaction in this world. 

Boys that embrace the eternal are not surprised when things of earth are only partially fulfilling. They become men who resist chasing satisfaction in the creation and are less prone to anger when they don’t receive such contentment from the temporal. These men begin to see all temporal things as road signs and billboards pointing their longing of satisfaction to the One who is eternal.

Tyson argues for dads to create a growing realization in their boys that God has invited him to leave the center stage of his own small story and take a role in his grand epic story of redemption. Too many boys, and man-agers, are trapped in an illusion that a life that is largely about their own glory, pleasure, and power. The intentional father is actively leveraging experiences to open his son’s heart to see beyond the three-foot circle he lives in. 

A proactive approach to parenting

The author identifies critical worldview formation that readers may have been putting off. What is a person? What is true? What is good? What is beauty? What is ethical? What happens at the end? People have been asking and trying to answer these core worldview questions for millennia. God has given clarity on these types of questions in his Word. Waiting for a son to eventually “figure it out” is not taking fathering seriously. The world will give plenty of answers to these quarries that won’t make your son flourish. 

Tyson posits that a father must be intentional with the views his son leaves home with. We need to help boys develop a theology of sex, a theology of money, a theology of work, and a theology of satisfaction — not simply telling them what to think but walking them through the long-suffering process of helping them to think. For example, a son who has wrestled with questions of God’s design for sex and God’s boundaries will have a level of protection from the culture in which he will live. That culture will try to catechize the boy into its godless, self-determined view of sexuality. Intentional fathers guide their sons to consider what God has said and prepare them for challenges that the world will raise. 

Additionally, God is a worker, and in making man in his image, he made man to be a worker. Because God works, work has intrinsic value. A man does not avoid work. His dream is not to win the lottery and never work again. Rather, a man experiences God’s goodness through work. He grows in discipline, dependence, and humility before God. A theology of work helps a young man see through the warped view of work his culture is trying to sell him.

Intentional moments

Tyson highlights the need to be purposeful in the threshold moments of life. Life has a series of firsts. First cell phone, first exposure to pornography, first girlfriend, first break up, first exposure to drugs, first exposure to the LGBTQ world, first exposure to death, first job, first exposure to racism, first time with a driver’s license, etc. Fathers are assured that all of these will happen. Being purposeful in preparing sons for these events is loving and wise. 

In order to be intentional, Tyson encourages the reader to embrace the practice of initiation. Most cultures throughout history recognize that age 13 is a period where change happens in the heart of a boy. Though preliminary work can be done in younger years, early teens is when Tyson recommends that fathers really need to get to work in a particular way. Readers are led through a series of exercises to recall watershed moments and gifts in their own journey toward manhood. A deliberate plan to mark the transformation of your boy to a man is a high task that ensures he will get the blessing from his father that every man needs. 

Tyson’s work is most helpful as an example to inspire rather than a blueprint to replicate. He admits as much, indicating that what he did was tailor-made for his son, in their region of the country, and with their resources. These variables will likely differ for readers. Tyson gives several details about the specifics he and his son, Nate, did such as regular early morning meetings. Meeting at the same time with one’s own son is not as critical as the regular meeting at a time that best fits you. 

Embracing intentionality

Don’t skip the step at the end of each chapter. They function like mini commitments and targets. Deadlines help us complete tasks and uphold responsibility. We can experience them as stressful and weighty, but they are usually necessary. You sometimes get to audit a class, but no one gets to audit fatherhood. Even those who abdicate nearly every fatherly task and opportunity leave indelible marks on sons. In addition, no one is sufficient, all on their own, to the task of raising sons. 

There is more than enough grace from Jesus for your son to develop better than the work you put in. Being an intentional father is a means the true and better Father uses to change you. With this volume, you will get to make a plan that is custom fit for your son. God chose you to be his dad. Roll up your proverbial sleeves and get your hands dirty in the heart of your son. It is work. Expect to be frustrated, tired, and at a loss sometimes. But look ahead to the man he will become, knowing all your effort in the Lord is worth the result.

By / Jun 17

In 1972, President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation establishing the observation of one special Sunday each year in honor of America’s fathers. He described the rich heritage our fathers share with us as “one for which adequate thanks can hardly be offered in a lifetime, let alone a single day” and called on each American to “make this Father’s Day an occasion for renewal of the love and gratitude we bear to our fathers, increasing and enduring through all the years.”

As Christians, we should be the most grateful of all on Father’s Day. Ours is an even richer heritage because we have a Heavenly Father who has adopted us as his children and placed us into our earthly families as part of his good plan. We know that any love we receive from our parents is a glimpse of the Father’s love for us. 

But because of sin, sometimes giving thanks for our parents isn’t that easy. The Bible says we should give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), but how do you give thanks when your relationship with your parents is strained or even nonexistent? How can you be grateful when your parents don’t love you the way God intended? 

The only way we can give thanks in difficult circumstances is through Christ. For while our parents’ love toward us may be lacking, Christ’s love for us is always perfect and never fails. He knows your pain, and he will help you to obey his commands to honor your parents and give thanks to him — even when it’s hard. 

5 prayers 

As Father’s Day approaches, let’s do as President Nixon suggested and make it an occasion for renewed gratitude toward our fathers. But even more importantly, let’s give thanks to God, who has graciously given us all things. To help us consider all that he has given us, here are five prayer prompts based on Psalm 100.

Lord, we give thanks to you for you are:

1. Our maker 

“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his” (Psa. 100:3). 

God took such care in creating you — ordaining each of your days and intricately knitting you together in your mother’s womb (Psa. 139:13-16). Give thanks for the man and woman he brought together to give you life. Thank him not only for making you but for making you his. 

2. Our shepherd 

“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psa. 100:3). 

Jesus is a good Shepherd. Thank him for calling you by name and for willingly laying down his life for you, his sheep. Reflect on how he has led you, protected you, restored you, and comforted you throughout your life — sometimes by way of your mother and father — and give thanks. 

3. Good 

“For the Lord is good” (Psa. 100:5)

We have a good Father who gives us good gifts. Bless him for generously pouring out his grace and mercy on you through his son, Jesus Christ. Thank him for blessing you with adoption, redemption, forgiveness, and a guaranteed inheritance. In addition to these spiritual blessings, express your gratitude for the good gifts he has given you by the hands of your parents as well; thank him for a few specifically. 

4. Steadfast in love 

“His love endures forever” (Psa. 100:5). 

When human love waivers, God’s love endures. Thank him for loving you so much that he has called you his child and for promising never to let anyone snatch you out of his hand (John 10:29).

5. Faithful 

“His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psa. 100:5). 

The Lord has been faithful to your parents’ generation, he is faithful to your generation, and he will continue to be faithful to future generations. Thanks be to God! Take a moment to recall specific instances of God’s faithfulness toward you and your family. Then as the psalmist writes, “Shout for joy to the Lord . . . Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Psa. 100:1-2).

Forever thankful

President Nixon was right — a single day of thanks doesn’t seem adequate, does it? When you’re God’s child, there’s plenty to be thankful for. So much so that the psalmist writes, “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” (Psa. 79:13)

Still, we do give special thanks to God for our parents on this particular day. May our hearts be filled with gratitude as we consider all the blessings we have received as children of our Father in heaven and our fathers on earth. 

This article contains an excerpt from 5 Things to Pray for Your Parents (The Good Book Company, 2021).

By / Aug 25

Each August, we take a break from our usual policy focused conversations and host interviews with leaders we admire. This week, Jeff Pickering sits down with retired NFL player Benjamin Watson, who is now an author, activist, and documentary filmmaker. Watson is also a man of deep Christian faith and a faithful family man.

Guest Biography

Benjamin Watson and his wife, Kirsten, are the parents of seven children as well as the founders of One More, a foundation aiming to spread the love and hope of Christ by meeting real needs, promoting education, and supporting local charities. As a retired tight end, Watson is now an ESPN and NFL Network and a prolific media cultural commentator. Watson’s illustrious football career included being the 32nd overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, a Superbowl 39 champion his rookie season, a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Watson has also authored two books, Under Our Skin and The New Dad’s Playbook, and is the producer of a forthcoming documentary, titled, Divided Hearts of America.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Jun 15

“Watch me, dad. Watch me.”

There are few imperatives a father hears more often from his children than “watch me.” It’s a plea for us to recognize that whatever our son or daughter is doing—catching a ball, jumping off a diving board—is worthy of our full attention. They know we are often busy, often distracted, and they want, at least for a moment, for us to truly see them. By seeing them in action, they believe, we’ll appreciate them even more.

We can learn a valuable lesson from their example: If we want our children to develop godly habits we need to imitate them by saying, “Watch me.”

“Watch me” was the command the apostle Paul gave to his own spiritual children. As he told the church at Corinth, “for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Cor. 4:15-16). He also told them, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul repeated this admonition several times to the various people and churches to which he served as a spiritual father (Phil. 3:17, Phil 4:9, 2 Thess. 3:7-9, 2 Tim. 3:10-11).

We have a duty to follow Paul’s example with our own children. As theologian Don Carson says, “Do you ever say to a young Christian, ‘Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!’ If you never do, you are unbiblical.”

Here are three ways your own spiritual habits can be used as a model for your children:

1. Be ‘watch-worthy’

Every day we are becoming either more like Jesus or less like him. Which direction are you headed in today? Because your children are watching you, that is also the direction you are leading them.

Paul was able to say “follow my example” because he was worthy of imitation. And he was worthy of imitating because he was himself committed to imitating Christ.

If we want to be similarly “watch-worthy” we must dedicate ourselves to developing a broad range of godly habits. We must practice the core spiritual disciplines of prayer and intake of Scripture. But we should also be engaged in service and hospitality, evangelism and self-reflection, character formation and developing wisdom, and so on. Above all, we must daily learn to trust and obey God in all things.

These are not practices that come naturally to us. Developing godly habits that lead us to become like Christ requires vigilance and effort. It requires setting aside the necessary time and energy and finding trustworthy resources. The task also obligates us to seek out mature Christians who we ourselves can imitate. If we are to be “watch-worthy” dads for our children we need to model our own behavior on imitation worthy spiritual fathers.

2. Let them see you in action

When do your children see you pray or read Scripture? Do they only see your bow your head to say grace at the dinner table? Do they only see you open your Bible in the Sunday morning church service? Are all your other times of prayer and devotion done behind the closed door of your office or bedroom? If so, then your children may assume such spiritual disciplines are to be practiced alone and in private.

Find ways to let them see you in talking to the Father and engaging with his Word. And welcome their interruptions. Don’t be dismissive when they ask what you are reading. Explain to them—in language they can understand—what you are learning about God and why it’s important to you.

3. Love their mothers

We live in a broken world, and many of us live in broken families. But if you are blessed to be married to the mother of your children, show them what it means to be a godly husband.

The most important way a husband can love his wife like Christ loved the church is to sacrifice himself for her sake. We are also called to model and channel the love of Christ by leading our wives into holiness. A husband should therefore forgive, pray for, and gently encourage his wife to engage in disciplines that lead to her sanctification.

There is no relationship that our children will observe more closely than our marriage. Having them see how we have a Christ-like love for their mother is a powerful example of how they too should love others.

Note: This article is adapted from material in the NIV Lifehacks Bible.

By / Jun 23

Russell Moore recently did an interview with the Washington Times on the importance of two-parent families. 

Read the interview here.

By / Jun 14

Jim Daly on the Father to the fatherless: "God had me in the palm of his hand"

By / Jun 19

Holidays are intended to be special times. They unite family and rekindle shared memories. They delight and bring joy. They give us reason to push pause on the everyday and celebrate a common joy. But for some, holidays are hard. Instead of joy, holidays only bring up painful memories. They are a glaring reminder of loneliness and heartache. They are a day to get through and endure rather than celebrate.

Father’s Day is a holiday that can be hard. For some, it brings grief because their father is no longer alive to celebrate. For another, it’s only a reminder of the neglect or abuse experienced at the hand of a father. Father’s Day can also be painful for the one who never even knew their father. The day only serves to mock the loss.

If you are one of those who cringes at the sight of the grocery store’s card aisle filled with happy Father’s Day wishes, I want to encourage you that this is a day you can celebrate. You don’t have to avoid it or begrudge it. Why? Because you have a Father in Heaven. For all who have been hurt, disappointed, neglected or ignored by an earthly father, your heavenly Father stands there as the perfect father—the one you always wanted and have always needed. Here are four truths about your Heavenly Father:

  1. He has chosen you to be his own: If you are in Christ, know that your Father has loved you before time began. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6). He loved you and knew you before you ever took your first breath (Psalm 139). Through Christ’s work on the cross on your behalf, he redeemed you and made you his own. You are now part of his forever family. As his child, you are also his heir (Gal. 4:7). You have a glorious inheritance to enjoy—a foretaste now and its fullness in eternity (Eph. 1:14, 1 Pet. 1:4).
  2. He will never leave you: If your human father left you, you can know that your Heavenly Father never will. He will never turn his back on you. In fact, because he turned his back on his Son and poured out the wrath you deserved upon him, there is no more wrath left for you. He will never reject, forsake or deny you (Heb. 13:5). He is always with you (Isa. 41:10).
  3. His love for you is perfect: While your human father may have failed you and let you down, God never does and never will. While your father may have said and done hurtful things, God never will. While your earthly father can never love you perfectly, your Heavenly Father’s love for you is perfect and complete. That’s because it is part of his nature; he is a God of love (1 John 4:8). “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps. 145:8). His love for you is so great; he loves you as much as he loves the Son (John 17:23).
  4. He knows exactly what you need: Human fathers often fail to give their children what they need.  Your father may have failed to teach you what you needed to learn. His discipline may have been too harsh or non-existent, but your Father in Heaven knows just what you need, and he never fails to provide it for you (Matt. 6:25-34). Everything he does is for your ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). Any discipline he gives is out of love and for your growth in holiness (Heb. 12:10).

This Father’s Day, when everyone you know is making plans to meet with their fathers, look to your Father in Heaven, and celebrate his great love for you in Christ. Relish what it means to be his child. Dwell on all the ways he has provided for you. Give him thanks and honor him for being the perfect Father who has always loved you and will never leave you.

By / Mar 26

UPDATE (May 19, 2016): Another mysterious airline tragedy is in the news today. EgyptAir flight 804 vanished from radar with 66 people aboard while making its way from Paris to Cairo. Incidents like this can fill us with fear and cause us to question the safety we perceive around us. This article was written last year to remind us of truth and point us to the solid Rock on which we stand. 

I served four years in the Marine Corps as an air traffic control officer. I often heard from more experienced air traffic controllers that aviation incidents seem to “come in waves of three.” The month of March has been no exception. On March 10, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crashed near Eglin, Florida killing all 11 service members on board, including seven Marines and four members of the Army National Guard. A couple days later, on March 12, another Marine was killed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma when his vehicle was struck by a T-59 Hawk that had veered off the runway. Now, this Tuesday, March 24 a Germanwings Airbus A320 has mysteriously and horrifically crashed in the French Alps killing all 150 souls on board, including sixteen young students and two babies.

One of the reasons I wanted to become an air traffic control officer in the Marine Corps is because I had faced my own aviation tragedy. When I was two years old in 1986, my father was killed when the F-4 Phantom he was piloting collided with another F-4 off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean during a training maneuver. His body was never recovered.  That event will forever shape my life.

Coping with the loss of a loved one in an aviation tragedy

As you can probably imagine, one of the most difficult things the family members or loved ones of a victim of an airplane crash face is not having a body to mourn. Sometimes bodies are recoverable, but in many cases, as in the recent Airbus tragedy, they are not.

An airplane crash makes death even more dramatic, too, since the loved one is seen by friends and family one moment only to take off on a plane the next and never be seen again.

Then there are the questions that follow in the wake of the tragedy. Did my loved one suffer? Was it traumatic? Did they have time for any last thoughts? Did they survive the crash only to later?

Now in the case of the recent Airbus tragedy, where it now appears the accident was caused purposely by the co-pilot, there are even more sickening questions. I personally can not imagine what those mothers with babies were thinking as they were holding this little life in their hands, knowing it was about to end.

Unspeakable horror.

Then there are the deeper questions. Why did this happen to them? What if they'd taken an earlier or later flight? If only. The “what if” scenarios can play out in your mind forever.

This Could Have Been Any of Us

Then there's the question some may be thinking but probably not voicing: Why did these people die in a crash and not me on the myriad of plane trips I have taken? 

One idea prevalent in many world religions, including much of the modern West, is karma—good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. If we obey God and help others, in other words, God is obligated to give us longevity of life, nice possessions, healthy relationships, and good health. But if we're selfish and harm others, we're doomed to a terrible existence and possibly tragic death.

The reality according to the Bible, however, is that “good people” don't exist. We are all sinners deserving death (Rom. 3:236:23).

Paul puts it like this: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:11-12). Even Christians, he later says, are still subject to pain and even tragic death: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-23).

So the answer to the question is that these people who perished in the recent aviation tragedies were no worse than you and me. They were all sinners in need of grace. Perhaps some were even Christians. The reality is that because of sin, and unless Christ does not come back in our lifetimes, we will all die in some way.

Tragic Death Reminds Us to Flee to Christ

When I was a boy, God used my father's tragic death (he was a Christian) to open my eyes to the sudden reality and finality of death and judgment. He used it as a beacon to lead me to Jesus.

Some people once asked Jesus about a devastating tragedy in which some Jews, who'd been worshiping in Galilee, had been slaughtered by Pontius Pilate. Jesus replied to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).

Jesus' point is that every one of us is a sinner deserving death and that death often comes unexpectedly, bringing us before the judgment of God. People who experience tragedy are no more deserving than we are. The suddenness of death reminds us to repent of sin and flee to Christ Jesus, so that we can escape eternal death in hell. That's what Jesus is talking about. He continues: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). (For a helpful theological explanation of this passage, see R. C. Sproul's article “When Towers Fall.”)

What does Jesus mean by using the word repent? He's talking about more than a guilty conscience or convicted feeling regarding something we've done wrong. He's referring to a change of heart about who we are as people (sinners before God) and who Christ is (our righteous sin-bearer). As John MacArthur explains, “[Repentance] is a spiritual turning, a total about-face. In the context of the new birth [it] means turning from sin to the Savior.”

How should we respond in the wake of tragedy?

So how do we respond in the wake of such tragedy?

  • We must first and foremost, seek God. Nahum the prophet wrote, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nah 1:7). Ultimately only God can provide peace and stability in the “day of trouble.”
  • We should pray for those grieving that they'll find out as much as possible about the last moments of their loved ones' lives, and perhaps even find their loved one's body.
  • We should remind ourselves that we too are still subject to death, and in fact will all die, unless Christ returns. We must continually look to our Savior, then, who has conquered death for us.
  • We should look for opportunities to share the hope of Christ Jesus, since everyone we know will also face death and ultimately stand before God in judgment.
  • We should thank God that those in Christ will experience a resurrection of life. Paul declares: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Cor. 15:52-55). And this resurrection unto life includes the bodies of saints that have been lost at sea.

I would love to hear your thoughts about how God has used tragedy in your life to bring you or others to deeper (or perhaps saving) faith in Christ.

By / Jul 10

The fifth commandment is about the flow of human relationships, and the home is the key to all relationships. God is commanding us to honor those in authority over us and to require the children in our lives to respect us. God loves us in this command by showing us how to live together in close family units, which will in turn affect every relationship outside our homes.

Show respect

Honor begins in our homes. Honor comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to be heavy” or “to give weight.” It involves taking someone seriously into account, offering profound respect and a place of importance. The opposite of honoring someone is trivializing him, treating him as if he didn’t matter.

Are we living with sensitivity within the range of relationships into which God has placed us? Are the children in our lives seeing us model respect for those in authority over us? If children learn respect in their homes, they will be able to respect other people in authority. We mistakenly believe that we give respect to those in positions of authority because they have earned it. But respect cannot be based solely on personal or professional qualifications. Respect is based on the position that God has given that person.

Think of David in 1 Samuel 26 where he spares Saul’s life yet again. David knew that God had appointed him as the next king over Israel. He also knew that Saul was out to murder him. Yet when David had the perfect opportunity and encouragement to kill Saul, what was his response? David submitted, even at the risk of losing his life, to the authority God had placed over him.

Your family has been established by God. You were placed into your family by him. Families were established by God to be those nearest and dearest to us. This Commandment is placed even before marital faithfulness because what child can respect his spouse if he never learned how respect is supposed to work within a home?

This Commandment does not say, “Honor your mother and father when they are good to you, when they are honorable.” All families struggle, but ignoring your family is not an option for a Christian! Nor does it say, “Honor your father and your mother until you have formed your own household.” We don’t honor our parents because they deserve it. We honor them because the nature of the gospel is that God gives us what we don’t deserve. We don’t do it for their sake—we do it for Jesus’ sake.

Think of Jesus. He created his parents! In Luke 2:50-52, Jesus is twelve years old. When he stayed at the temple in Jerusalem instead of sticking with his family, his parents didn’t understand him at all. They just didn’t get it. Yet he returned with them and “was submissive to them.” And he continued to honor his mother, even as he was dying (John 19:26-27).

This commandment is not teaching us how to have great families. It is teaching us how to be a great family member.

What are some ways we can honor our parents? Let there be a distinction in your mind between turning away from false advice, or even wicked ways, and turning away from your parents themselves.

  • Speak kindly to and about them. Do you save your most glowing compliments for your best friend? “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
  • Show them consideration—make time for them. Do you feel your duty is done with the Sunday afternoon phone call? “Love is patient and kind…it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4,6).
  • Let them into your life. Let them share your highs and lows. “Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice” (Prov. 23:25). Do you share your deepest intimacies with others but never open up to your parents? Jesus warned about this in Matthew 15:4-6.
  • Provide for them. “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).

Require respect

Not only must we model the fifth commandment. We must require it of our children. We must help them understand how respect for authority is the thread that governs our society and ultimately preserves our freedom. They need to see that this is from God.

Children must learn that respect is not a matter of preference—it is a mandate from their eternal Father! Honoring your parents in the early years is largely manifested through obedience. Why are children to obey their parents?

  1. Because parents stand in the place of God to their children, performing God-like functions (loving, providing, caring, protecting, etc.) as God’s special agents. When young children disobey their parents, they are rebelling against God. Disobedience to parents indicates a corrupt, out of control, anti-God spirit (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
  2. Because it pleases the Lord (Col. 3:20).
  3. Because it is for their best interest (Deut. 5:16: Eph. 6:3).

Children disobey for two reasons: Either we let them or the pain they have experienced from disobedience in the past is not enough of a deterrent to keep them from disobeying again. How can you best help your child to obey you?

  • Model it—make obedience a part of your life. It must be just as much “Be what I am” as it is “Do what I say.” Obedience is for all of God’s children. You are under authority, too—God’s authority. And it is your privilege to be there.
  • Define your priorities. What are you willing to go to the mat for? What’s really important to you? Spend your energies here.
  • Follow through on your instructions until you have been obeyed. Say yes whenever you can. But when you say no, mean it. When your child hears a firm “No!” and survives the frustration that inevitably follows, he is strengthened. He has learned self-control and endurance and will be better able to tell himself no when he is on his own.
  • Teach your child to respect people and property. In words and actions, children must show that people and things are not targets of their scorn and anger.
  • When you must discipline, make the pain of the discipline outweigh the pleasure of disobedience, or it will be meaningless to your child.
  • Give many rewards. Children should learn that good and pleasure go together as surely as sin and pain. Reward cheerful obedience, good manners, kindness, respect, hard work—all those qualities that you long to see developed in your child.

God is lovingly at work in this commandment enriching relationships. He is sensitizing every one of us to the privilege of belonging to one another. When his grace is upon us we discover who we are, how we fit in, and the blessings begin to flow (Eph. 6:3).

This was originally posted at The Gospel Project.