Being a father is a blessed vocation (calling) -a gift from God. Yet, it is not an easy vocation. We are responsible for the welfare of our families – both in terms of material goods and spiritual health. Those responsibilities are enough to keep us occupied for our entire life. As much effort that we place into those responsibilities, there is always something more that could be done; always something that could be done better. That is why we need to hear the Gospel – the good news of the forgiveness of our sins on account of Christ – over and over again. We need to hear it for our own sake and for the sake of our families. The heart of being a faithful father is forgiveness from the Faithful Father.
Forgiveness for Our Failures
There are some days as a father where everything goes smoothly. Get up feeling refreshed; make it to work on time; feel productive at work; come home to a warm family greeting; the kids behave well; you made your wife smile; you finish the day thanking God for all the blessings you have received. There are some days like that – but those days are rare and far between.
Instead, most of our days have some disruption. You go to work and fail to fulfill the obligations of the day. Your anger and frustration at the lack of productivity follow you home. That “bad mood” leads to harmful thoughts if not words. You snap at your children’s unruly behavior. You isolate yourself from your wife -not wanting to discuss even minor concerns with her. You go to bed disgruntled at what has happened.
Those days seem to be more frequent than not -even if those consequences are not as drastic. The reality is, the old sinful nature has gotten the best of us. In those moments of weakness and uncertainty, we fail to love God and fail to love those neighbors (co-workers, wife, children) God has given to us. We have sinned against God; we have sinned against our neighbors. In those moments of recognizing our sin, we need to repent and confess that sin to God. The wonderful thing is, He is the Faithful Father who is ready to forgive.
1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; but, if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God forgives our failures because of Christ. There is no sin so great that Christ’s blood does not pay for it. There is no failure too big that Christ has not atoned for it. That forgiveness Christ won on the cross is not simply a one-time gift – it is a gift that is given without limit. It is a gift that we as fathers who have failed need.
Forgiveness forms our Faith
Christ’s forgiveness is the foundation of our faith – the foundation of our callings as fathers. Because of what Jesus has done, God no longer holds our sin against us. That promise is something we need to hear over and over again because over and over again we give in to our selfish, sinful wants. Yet, from that forgiveness, Christ sets us aright and guides us with His Spirit to be his faithful followers. That forgiveness means you are cleansed, you are renewed, and you are restored. That restoration means getting back out there and being the father the Father has called you to be.
And if you fail again, confess it. Find a fellow Christian (your wife perhaps) who will proclaim to you that Good News of Christ’s death for your forgiveness. Find a pastor who will give you God’s Word of forgiveness. Then, call upon God for strength to do better – and God will lead you. Consider Paul’s words from Romans regarding God’s gifts (especially in light of forgiveness): “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, ESV). Our Father held back nothing to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil. How will He not graciously provide for you to be the father He has called you to be? God will.
Forgiveness forms faithful Fathers
King David reminds us in Psalm 32:
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (ESV)
To be forgiven is to be blessed. To trust that God has put away your sins because of Christ is to be blessed. To believe that God no longer holds your sin against you because of Jesus frees you to be His beloved child – to carry out what He has called you as a father, a husband, and most importantly, a Christian, to do. That blessing compels you also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with others.
If you have sinned against your wife or your children – be reconciled to them. Ask for their forgiveness. If they have sinned against you and confessed it, forgive them. Speak those words out loud to them. Modeling this for your wife and for your children is not weakness or affront to your authority as father. No, in fact, it is the ultimate expression of the Christian life. The Lord Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12, KJV). The Lord Jesus exhorts us to forgive innumerable times (Matthew 18:21-35). If the Lord commands it, He intends it for our benefit.
For us, particularly as spiritual heads of the household, forgiveness must be at the heart of our daily practice of faith. That is after all how our God is toward us – that is His primary quality: “The Lord (YHWH) passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord (YHWH), the Lord (YHWH), a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 33:6-7, ESV).
Forgiveness forms faithful fathers because forgiveness is from the Faithful Father. Faithful fathers form faithful families – just as the Faithful Father designed it to be.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed you to be a father, strengthen you by His Spirit to remain faithful unto life everlasting. Amen.