No matter where you are in the world — whatever your background, age, belief system, or ethnicity — we all have at least one thing in common: we all had or currently have a dad. Your dad may have been estranged from you, or he may no longer be alive. Your dad may be close to you, or you may be mad at him.
But all of our fathers — whether we want to accept it or not — have impacted our relationship with our Heavenly Father. If your dad blessed you and encouraged you, then you may have no problem praying and trusting God to bless you according to His wisdom and discretion.
On the other hand, if your father was a workaholic or demanded that you earn his love — if he didn’t give you an “Atta boy!” or look in your direction unless you scored five touchdowns — then you may feel like you have to earn God’s love, as well. You may believe that you have to earn back His forgiveness or be “good enough” to be in relationship with Him.
Whether we fully understand it or not, our fathers impact the way we see God. And God intended for our fathers to demonstrate His love, as Matthew 7:9-11 indicates.
“What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
So as we approach Father’s Day this year, I want to take some time to consider the ways that earthly fathers can set the tone for the way people view the Heavenly Father. The following examples are the same things that God did to love His Son, Jesus.
Fathers should give their children affirmation
In Matthew 3:17, we read of God affirming Jesus after His baptism: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God affirmed Jesus’ identity in front of the crowds, making it clear that He was pleased with Him. In the same way, fathers need to affirm their children. We need to tell our kids that we are pleased with them and that we delight in them. We need to do it both privately and publicly, and we need to do it often! In Genesis 6:8, it says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” He didn’t find judgment or criticism. Fathers: what do your kids find when they look into your eyes?
Fathers should bless their children
Blessing someone can also be described as “pronouncing the favor of God” over someone’s life. We see an example of God doing this in Philippians 2:9-10. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”
God pronounced favor over Jesus by exalting/blessing Jesus’ name. And through Jesus, we also receive spiritual blessings from God. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” This is past tense. We have already been blessed! That means that we don’t have to earn this blessing, and we don’t have to worry about losing it, either. We can simply receive the grace that God has given us.
Accordingly, earthly fathers should extend the grace and blessings they have received from their Heavenly Father in order to bless their children. They should declare favor over their children through their prayers, their words, and their lives.
Fathers should provide a protective covering
In Matthew 26, we read of Jesus being arrested. He says something interesting in verse 53: “... Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus knew that His Father could protect him, but He also trusted His father. In the same way, we can trust that our Heavenly Father is our covering and protection. He won’t prevent everything bad from happening, but He will protect us from our ultimate destruction and will use every harmful thing that comes our way to make us stronger, more like Him, and victorious in the end.
Some of your fathers did not provide the protective covering that you needed. They may have even violated or abused you. If that is the case, please know that this was not what God intended. You have a Heavenly Father who wants you to be protected and safe in His arms. And while your earthly father may have completely failed you, your Heavenly Father will take the harmful things you have faced and turn them around for your good.
An invitation to forgive
Fathers and children alike, the Gospel has an important invitation for you today. Children, forgive the fathers who didn’t reflect the Heavenly Father well. Forgive them for the harm they have caused. Forgiveness doesn't excuse their actions, but it will allow you to live a life free of bitterness or resentment. Through your forgiveness, you will be saying with your life “what Jesus did on the cross was enough.”
And Fathers, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the ways that you have not lived up to the responsibility of reflecting the Heavenly Father. And begin to model this to your children. You have time to show your kids the love of the Father, and as you do, you will be a signpost to the grace and love that God is consistently, over and over again extending to us.
We will be talking more about Father’s Day at our church services on June 19th. I hope you will join us!
Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.