Happy Fathers’ Day. Allow me to start by sharing a bit about my father. This is my father about 30 years ago, and this is me about 7 years ago. Not only that I took after his look, I took after his personality as well. 3 months back when Pastor Matthew visited my dad in the hospital, he remarked “Now I know where you learn all your nonsense.”
|My father 30 years ago|
|Myself 7 years ago|
My father is a man of virtues: funny, talented, outgoing, gentle, humble and loving. He’s also stern, honorable, respectable and dependable. At the same time, he is also stubborn, careless and a little foolish at times.
Personally to me, my father is my role model. I look up to him as the man I want to be. I remember how my dad used to discipline my sister and I. I was always given a harsher scolding and a thicker stick. As the eldest son in the family, my dad wants me to be the protector of the family in his absence and to be the brother to my sister. Well, I got the beatings because I did exactly the opposite. Conversations with my dad are few. Our phone calls last averagely 15 seconds. But he nevertheless played an important role in my upbringing.
The role of fathers are over overlooked in the Chinese culture. We sing songs about mothers, but few are the songs about Fathers. Their contributions to families often go unnoticed and unappreciated. However, the Bible seems to give more attention to the role of fathers.
Today, I’ve taken a small portion of Paul’s instructions for the Christian households in Ephesus and put that focus on the role of children to their parents as well as the role of fathers to their children.
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.
1. Children, be obedient
Back in June 2008, about two months into my journey as a new believer, I had another episode of argument with my dad who was recovering from his surgery. My dad was greatly disappointed in my decision to convert. Perhaps he felt most agonized by the fact that his son chose to rebel at the time when he was most vulnerable. I was on the other agonised by the insults hurled at me about this God whom I had recently chose to follow.
At the time, my relationship with my earthly father was in great tension. As a new believer I didn’t know how to deal with it. But my Heavenly Father was watching the entire episode and sent guardian angels. One of them was my Mandarin teacher at school. With a tender and loving gesture, she sat me down in the school canteen and listened attentively to my story. She went on to share her testimony as a new-born Christian in a non-believing family. She remarked that most non-believing fathers tend to think that they lose a child when the child converts. But she encouraged me to keep holding on, to obey my parents, and let God transform me from the inside out because Christianity doesn’t take my father’s son away from him, but instead, make him a better son.
Paul’s instruction for children was simple: obey your parents. To obey our parents is a universally recognised by any law or culture as righteousness. Paul said that it is the right thing to do. Even the Ten Commandments specifically spelt out that we should honor our parents, and greatly emphasized on its importance by giving it a blessing that follows. I remembered how these Words of God was a great encouragement and comfort for me at the time.
My father could not be swayed by words. Despite all that logical conversations with him, there seems to be no way to break his stubborn heart with words. So my teacher encouraged me to persuade him with my actions instead. Christianity makes us better children, and our transformation in Christ speaks volume for us. Over the years, Christ has made amazing transformations in my family. I wouldn’t say that I am very good as a son, but at least my father was convinced that I remain the son he’s proud of, even though he doesn’t verbalise it. I started to see a transformation in my father as well. He was becoming a father that I’ve always wanted for me: to verbalise his love for me and to reaffirm me as a man. When I was about to begin the 2nd Semester of my university, my parents sent me all the way from KL to Penang. As I waved them goodbye, I heard something that I thought I will never heard from my father: I love you. At that moment I was stunned. It took me by surprise and for a moment, I lost words. “I love you, too!” was what I wanted to reply but did not. But those words were the words I thank God for until today. Besides my relationship with my father got better, God also reconciled my relationship with my sister, but that’s a story for another day.
The point is, Christ makes us better children. How many of us here have parents or siblings or loved one who have yet to believe? I would like to encourage you to continue to hold on to God’s Word and let Him transform you. Obey your parents, do what is right, honor them and thank God for them. Don’t forget to persistently pray for them and show them the tender love that our Heavenly Father has shown us. Our transformations into better sons and daughters will be a great testimony for our Heavenly Father.
2. Fathers, be reasonable.
As for fathers and future fathers, or in a broader context, parents, the Bible tells us to be reasonable parents. When Paul instructed us not to “provoke your children to anger” or “exasperate your children” in some translations, he was saying it in relation to his previous instruction for children. Even as he instructs the children to obey their parents, he commands fathers to reciprocate that obedience by being reasonable to their children. In Matthew Henry says in his commentary: “The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason.”
Parents must give space for children to exercise their obedience. Barnes’s Notes on the Bible says that “If children are required to "obey," it is but reasonable that the commands of the parent should be such that they can be obeyed, or such that the child shall not be discouraged in his attempt to obey.” And parents ought to encourage them in their attempt to obey.
I think many of us can understand how discouraging it can be when our intentions and efforts to do our best are met with harsh criticisms instead of encouragements. While constructively pointing out faults can be helpful in helping the young ones to grow, but very often, particularly among the older people in our culture mistakenly thinks that young people cannot be given praises lest pride leads to their downfall. I personally think that we may have taken that too far. When parents constantly pick on their children mistakes, irritating and discouraging them, children may lose their motivations to do their best. “Why do I try so hard, when all I make are mistakes?” So parents, be reasonable: Compliment them where their credits are due, gently offer constructive comments where it can be improved. Children grow best in encouragement, not criticism.
3. Fathers, be parents.
Personally, my parents worked together to educate both my sister and I. My mother was in charge of all our educations. She taught us how to read, write, speak and calculate. My father on the other hand was in charge of imparting values to us. He taught us honesty, honor, responsibility, filial piety, humility and etc. While they sent us to schools and tuitions, they would never give up their responsibilities as parents to discipline us. My mother knows all my teachers at school and was always willing to work with teachers. If we get punished at school for being naughty, we would get an extra round of lectures and caning.
Paul reminded the fathers to do their part as parents. As parents, we are given the role to educate our children, to bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord. As Christian fathers, we are responsible for teaching our children in the Christian values and behavior. Paul did not delegate this role to the teachers in our schools, nor did he instruct the Youth Pastor to discipline them, nor the Sunday School teachers. We are responsible to see that our children come to know the Lord and taught in His Words.
Today’s children lacks fundamental elements that makes up a healthy childhood. They are often deprived of emotionally available parents, clearly set limits and boundaries, entrusted responsibilities and etc. Today we are often preoccupied by electronic devices and social media, and we often relinquish our responsibilities to discipline children in the name of “giving children freedom to rule the world”. This can create serious problems in a child’s development in character, and personality.
As we become parents in the future, let us not neglect our part as parents. Let us spend more time and more attention to the upbringing of our children. Let us equip ourselves in the knowledge of God’s Word that we may teach His Words to our children. Let us prepare ourselves in characters and manners worthy of the Lord so that we may have a moral authority to discipline our children in the future. Let us practise the godly Christian values in our family and among our friends that we may raise our children to be sons and daughters after God’s heart.
This Father’s Day, we want to celebrate fathers. At the same time we want to celebrate godly parents as well. We thank God for them and we appreciate their sacrifices for their children. As potential fathers and mothers, the Lord calls us to play our respective roles well in the future. As children, we ought to obey our parents and honor them. There is wisdom in their old age. As future fathers, we are reminded not to abuse our role, not to provoke or irritate them to anger, but to be reasonable and encouraging. We are also called to take up our responsibilities to nurture and discipline our children in the Christian values for it is our duty no one else can do better for our children.
Love • Christ • Unity