Our text for consideration at Fellowship Church today was Ephesians 6:1-4, and it got me thinking about what Ephesians has to say about earthly fathers and how it relates to our heavenly Father.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I was focused intently on v.4, dealing with my fathering and all the ways I provoke my children to anger (Jesus, have mercy on me). Part of my reflection came around to how our authority is from God (Rom 13:1) and that our fathering will either help or hinder our children from receiving fathering from God. Ideally, I am to father my children in such a way that lays down an imprint for them to understand and receive the correction and instruction of the Father of Jesus. When my fathering is corrupted by sin, I create obstacles and stumbling blocks for my children.
God the Father created earthly fatherhood to model his heart and convey his kingdom, and Ephesians is one of the few places that I know of in the Scripture that directly links this relationship.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14-19 ESV)
The phrase, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” seems to imply the link between God the Father and earthly fathers (and more generally, families). The fact that this relationship is tied to our ability to receive the love of Christ only reinforces the importance of fatherhood.
The last thought I wanted to share is possibly the most important – what do I do with my broken, sinful fathering? I always feel so guilty hearing sermons like this, so much pressure to do better. For the most part, I have long given up on the project of “trying harder.” The only thing such efforts produce is either more profound failure or insufferable self-righteousness.
I realize all too painfully that my only hope is to return to the Father through the shed blood of his Son (my elder brother) Jesus. His blood covers not only my fatherly failures but also my fatherly successes, for all of it falls short of the glory of Father God. My only hope, and my children’s only hope, is in the righteousness of Christ bestowed upon sons (and daughters) by faith. His gracious fathering provides all I need to father my children with grace, wisdom and faith.