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What does it mean to be a good father?

Father’s Day is a chance to remember and honour our dads and the other men who have played a positive role in our lives. I can give thanks for a father who, although not perfect, was always there for me and who taught me a huge amount about integrity and gentleness. Many of you will also be able to celebrate and give thanks for your dad on this day. But for others, recollections will not be so positive and, for some of us, they will be dominated by memories of absence, pain and loss.

Today, I want to turn Fathers’ Day around and, in addition to honouring our dads, to focus on our own role as fathers and to ask: What does it mean to be a good father?

Firstly, to be a father is to have a stake in the next generation.

Many of us are biological dads. I am immensely proud to be the dad of Lucy and Matthew. I love them and I care immeasurably about what happens to them. I want to be there for them and to share the ups and downs they will experience as their own lives unfold.

But there are so many other ways of being a father in terms of having a stake in the next generation:

  • Is there a person younger than you whom you are seeking to love, to disciple, to support, encourage or influence? Then you are modelling fatherhood.
  • Are you a godfather, a mentor, a teacher, a youth leader, a Sunday School teacher, a friend to a younger person? Then you are a modelling fatherhood too.

As we grow older a huge part of what God wants us to do is to invest in helping the younger generation by sharing our time, our wisdom and our experiences of life, both good and bad.

So all of us men are, or can be, dads. But what kind of dads are we? This is where the second part comes in. I believe that to be a good father is to imitate the father heart of God in how we relate to younger people.

When the Bible talk about God as Father it gives us a framework for how to be the best dads we can.

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Men like lists. Here are my top 10 characteristics of God as father that we can imitate. Can you think of Bible verses that back them up?

A good father, who imitates God, is one who in relation to his children or to other young people:

  1. Is there for them
  2. Listens to them
  3. Knows them
  4. Loves them
  5. Encourages them
  6. Teaches them
  7. Disciplines them
  8. Forgives them
  9. Protects them
  10. Provides for them

There is, however, one characteristic that we as human dads share which does not reflect God’s experience. To be a dad is to have regrets because we are not perfect. We look back and think of things we could have done differently.

That applies to us as individuals, but also to us as a generation as a whole. We are the ones who are in charge and we are bequeathing to our children a world of broken relationships, where our greed has left a legacy of climate change, debt and increasing financial and political instability

The good news for us as dads and for our generation is that there is grace and forgiveness for us too. It is never too late to be different and to start bringing about positive change. We need to repent of our mistakes, but they mustn’t stop us trying to make a difference.

Wouldn’t it be great if the church was known as a place of healing between generations? Modelling diversity of ages as well as races; a model for the world of what things could be like.

So what can we do this Father’s Day to be a good dad? Let me suggest 3 things:

  1. Let’s be there for the next generation. Let us give our time to spend with our children and to be friends, mentors and teachers for young people.
  2. Let’s never give up on our young people, especially the prodigals who have gone off track. Let us love them and pray for them to be restored.
  3. Let us speak out against the greed of our own generation that is enjoying life at the expense of our children. Let’s put the interest of younger people above our own in the church and in our national life.

If today we all choose to do these things and to imitate the Father heart of God, then this will be a Father’s Day to remember.

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