Not too long ago in the papers, we read about a father, who in keeping the “family honour” killed his daughter because she wanted to marry someone outside her clan. For the father, it was his responsibility to do so. This is a responsibility that was expected of him by his society, and if he did not do it then he was not being a good father.
In some Western countries that used to have a rich Christian background, parents would not encourage their children to believe in Christ. They feel that it is too imposing on their children. It is not the father’s responsibility to do so and they would leave the children to decide when they grow up.
A father’s responsibility seems different depending on the country or culture one comes from. It can be extreme for a father to kill his own child in the name of family honour. On the other hand, it can be the opposite where freedom of choice is given to children as though the father has no responsibility whatsoever.
However, as believers, what is a father’s responsibility? What does God want us to do? What is expected of fathers according to the Scriptures?
1 Samuel 3 11-14: Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family. I have warned him continually that judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and he has not disciplined them. So, I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.”
Ephesians 6.4: And now a word to you fathers. Don’t make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord.
As Christian fathers, I believe we would want to live according to God’s Word. Not only that, because we have a wonderful relationship with our Heavenly Father, we also hope to be moulded into His image as we relate with our children.
In the 5th Commandment from God, children ought to honour their parents which include both father and mother. Are fathers then worthy of this honour they receive? Do they live up to the expectations of God? This is heavy stuff, even for a father like me. There is no SOP (standard operation procedures) on how to be a father since every child is different. However, we have the Word of God that provides guiding principles and we may just have to learn along the way from the experiences of others.
The Word of God writes about fathers and what is expected of them as believers. God has also chosen fathers as the head of the family with roles and responsibility that rest on them.
In I Samuel 2: 22-36, we have an account of a father who is probably similar to us in that Eli was a believer too, a person who has given his whole life for the service of God. When I read this passage, it was like reading a report card. How true it is according to God’s word that every man, which includes every father, must give an account of himself before God when Christ comes in His Glory as the Judge of this world.
Romans 14:10b -12: “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…So, then every one of us shall give account of himself to God “. (KJV)
The fact that Eli was old must mean that he had heard for many, many years about his sons’ bad reputation, not just bad but totally despicable, dishonouring, and sinful. Probably his sons thought they had special privileges because “daddy” was the God’s appointed High Priest. When Eli spoke words of displeasure and regret at their behaviour as a father and priest, Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, totally ignored the rebuke and continued to act wickedly.
As a priest, as a father, did Eli teach his sons diligently to fear God? The role and responsibility of the father is to reveal to his children who God is. Yet God asked Eli, “Why your sons behaved as though I did not exist and they have no fear of me?”
Is God revealed in our homes so that our children come to understand that Christ is the unseen Guest in our homes? Do we fathers take time to watch over our children’s walk with God? Do we teach them that they are miracles of God’s creation and not just creatures of chance? (Jeremiah 1:5 & Psalms 76:6) Do we dedicate their lives to God as Samuel’s parents did to Samuel and according to our Presbyterian tradition, do we bring them forward for infant baptism? Do we reveal to them as they mature that God has a divine plan for their lives and that they will receive spiritual gifts for the growth and benefit of the body of Christ?
Let us continue to pray for our children, and to teach and remind them to honour God and to come into His House of Worship in reverence and awe, and with offerings of praise and thanksgiving. May they also honour their parents and other spiritual guardians who love and care deeply for them. We pray for ourselves that we will model the faith for them so that we can say to them: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”
Rev Eddie Chandra
January 8, 2017