The Sunday Mail
By Pastor Ken Clark
We live in a world where the idea of family has come under attack and left a lot of us with a very distorted view of what it actually is.
Because of this we can carry these distorted views into our relationship with God and with each other. When we think of God as a Father we think of him as the big boss who never dirties himself with us, but who expects us to live up to a standard that is impossible.
When we fail, we see him as standing there ready to dispense discipline and punish us gleefully. We take this to our view on how we relate to each other.
In Zimbabwe pastors often try and become “spiritual fathers” to people in their churches or other pastors they are working with. They see this as a means of controlling the people under them and making themselves seem more important.
So spiritual sons are expected to seek approval from their spiritual fathers before making any decisions, to pay their fathers a portion of whatever they earn and never to dream about connecting with someone else or betraying their fathers.
This is not how we see the Bible talking about fathers or of the relation between a father and a son. In fact the first time the term “father” is mentioned it tells us sons are to leave their fathers to cleave to a wife and be a separate unit; (Genesis 2:24). So we can see that God’s intent is for sons to leave their fathers and become independent while maintaining an attitude of respect and honour.
When Paul wrote of his relationship with the church in Thessalonica, he described it like this.
“You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (ESV)
Paul had only probably been in Thessalonica for about three weeks before he was forced to leave. Then they were left to carry on their own. He sent back Timothy to encourage them. In the letter we never see him trying to make demands on them for money or loyalty. In fact he was more concerned that he kept his conduct pure while he was there. He showed how fathers were to exhort and encourage people to help them walk in a manner worthy of God, not worthy of Paul. He saw that these people belonged to God and were a part of His kingdom, they did not belong to Paul in any way whatsoever.
In fact being a father means we do two things. We equip people and we release people to hopefully go further than we have.
The ideal fathers help their children become independent. They do not want the children to over rely on them in making all of their decisions. The fathers teach the children to cope in society so that they can go a step further than what their fathers did. When they excel, we, the fathers, rejoice with them.
◆ The writer is a pastor with The Base Church.