It has become commonplace for most children in the world to live in a home without both parents. For some reason or other their mommy and daddy just don’t love each other anymore. If both parents are still somewhat committed to the parenting task, they will typically split up the responsibilities. The way this usually plays out is that the child stays with the mother most of the time and only sees the father on weekends. As far as support is concerned, the father sends a check to the mother to help with expenses. Unfortunately, most children are left with a distorted view of what it means to be and to have a father in their lives.
These days, if you ask children what it means to be a father, you may get something like, “Fathers are supposed to come and get us on Fridays to play games and stuff…and, they are supposed to send us money, too, so we can pay bills.”
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how we have allowed this distorted view of fatherhood to influence how we represent and embody Christ’s church in the world. If the marriage union is one of the most significant ways that we are to see and experience Christ’s relationship to His church, it should not surprise us that the utter breakdown of marriages in our culture is deeply affecting our perceptions of how we Christians ought to represent Christ in and to the world around us. It has been my observation that we have allowed the fatherly role in our culture to cloud our understanding of our Father’s role in heaven. Consequently (and tragically) the fallen world sees a heavenly Father who is merely a weekend playmate and a guy who is supposed to send us a check every month.
If we are honest, we would have to say that most churches do the same things. Church is a place where we go on the weekends to have fun, and, if we get in a bind, it writes checks too. I am not downplaying the importance of weekend worship services and events. Nor am I undermining efforts that churches make to provide financial help to individuals in need. However, when the church is only these things, it has failed to be the embodiment of Christ on earth, and has become the embodiment of the all-too-common absentee father. At this juncture, it would be appropriate to point out a few ways in which Christ is distinctly different from our common distorted perceptions.
First, in Christ, God the Son incarnated himself. He didn’t just come on the weekends and then disappear back to heaven. He lived among us, taking on human flesh, in a caring, loving, bearing, dying and forgiving way. Simply put, Christ sacrificially and selflessly lived among us, providing all that we need for a completely satisfied life in eternity. Even after His resurrection and ascension, He continues to live with us and even in us by His Holy Spirit. He is not an absentee Father, but an ever-present God. This doctrine alone should seriously correct and effect the way we “do” church. I will let you draw the biblical/ecclesiological conclusions.
Second, in Christ, the Son of God sacrificially and selflessly died for us. He poured out His life for His children. He didn’t just write a check and send it to us via some Holy Angelic Express. No, He spent His life in relentless commitment for sinners who desperately need Him for survival. The church in our day needs to hear this time and time again. We have made money our god and have promoted this god to others by saying, “Here, will a hundred dollars fix you?” Or, “Oh, that orphan is cute. I think I will give fifty bucks a month.”
Finally, in Christ, the Son of God lived and died for ugly, burdensome, inconvenient, needy, stupid, sinners like you and me. Orphans are not cute (contra. the pics we hang on our refrigerators). Have you ever spent time with a child who has not been parented? Fathering children takes work, time, presence, strength, and sacrifice. Ironically, however, our culture glorifies the strength of men who are committed more to the weight room than they are their own kids! I would hesitate to say that Jesus could out bench-press an NFL athlete. But I would never hesitate to say that he could bear more burdens than any human being in history. Being a godly father requires infinitely more strength than being a good athlete (but that’s for another article altogether!).
In summary, it should not surprise us that the children of yesterday are meeting the church of today with the same response they gave their own “father” who just wasn’t there. We must repent of not representing the incarnate Christ well – desiring our weekend activities and philanthropic charities more than the incarnate, sacrificial, and satisfying life of the gospel. In order for the church to impact culture for the Kingdom of God in a significant way, we must represent and emulate our Heavenly Father who is ever-present with us, and who provides all that we need according to His riches in glory.
You can learn more about Scott Moore here.