If you didn’t flip to your calendar app to check, or glance up at the one hanging on the wall, let me tell you: June 18th is Father’s Day.
While a large part of me is writing this for pastors and teachers, as they prepare sermons and lessons for the upcoming holiday, I can’t help but think that this message needs to be heard by more than just the spiritual leaders. Everyone needs to be kind on Father’s Day.
It may should like a silly idea, “be kind”. It sounds like I am assuming that most people, pastors and leaders in particular, are just nasty to fathers on the one day a year we corporately recognize them. That might sound like what I am saying, but that neither what I am saying or the point I am about to make.
Think back to Mother’s Day. It was May 14 this year, a little over a month ago. Remember what the sermons and teachings were about? Can you think back to what blogs were being posted? What topics of discussion were there on the podcasts you listen to?
Mothers. Great women in the bible and throughout history that are worthy of remembering. And more than just remembering, there are great women that need to be honoured and imitated.
Throughout the years, I’ve heard so many Mother’s Day sermons, extolling the virtues of Mary, the mother of Jesus. I remember talks about Rahab, the prostitute that helped the Israelite spies in Jericho. Or the ones about Ruth and Naomi, Esther; I heard one on the daughter-in-law of Judah from Genesis 38.
All of them praised these women, encouraged the mothers, in whatever shape that motherhood took, to be like these woman. They were reminded that they were beautiful, wonderfully created beings, made in the image of God.
That is what a Mother’s Day sermon usually sounds like. And it should. The problem is, Father’s Day sermons are nothing like that.
I’ve only been a father for a few years (3 years on the 30th of June) but I have heard the same message preached since I was old enough to sit still and listen in church. Whoever was preaching, whatever city, however big the congregation, regardless of the demographic or diversity of the church, the Father’s Day message was always this:
“MEN, SHAPE UP!”
“FATHERS! DO BETTER!”
“DADS! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING HARDER. YOUR CHILDREN’S SPIRITUAL SALAVATION OR DAMNATION IS UP TO YOU! GET WITH THE PROGRAM!”
“YOU ARE CALLED TO BE LIKE GOD. GOD IS OUR FATHER. BE MORE LIKE HIM, OR YOU ARE NO FATHER.”
You might think that I am exaggerating, but think back. I know the fathers that are reading this will be able to corroborate my story. And unless your pastor was preaching a series or out of a lectionary, chances are good that this is exactly what came from the pulpit. But to be fair it isn’t without reason.
Being a father is hard, and a lot men have left and rendered many children as “fatherless.” With that label come so many troubling realities. The Fatherless Generation has the stats, and just these few are troubling enough.
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
Being a father is hard. It comes with a great deal of responsibilities, and in a complex world, there are more responsibilities and issues that suddenly need to be addressed and advised on. One of my brothers is now a stepfather, something that he never thought he would be, and he has little to no idea how to be that kind of a dad.
What he and so many other fathers in the world DO NOT need is a pastor or teacher getting up the podium on Father’s Day and brow beating them for not measuring up to holy standard. They DO NOT need to be reminded that they are fallen sinners that have missed that mark. They DO NOT need to be told to “Pull themselves by the bootstraps” or “Get with the program” or something like that.
What fathers need on Father’s Day is not what they have been receiving for, well, as long as I can remember.
This Father’s Day, whether you are a pastor or teacher, whether you are a mother or child, whoever you are, do not do anything that discourage, degrade, or cause a sense of defeat in the fathers of your life.
Being a dad is hard. Just like being a mother is hard. The encouragement, the uplifting messages and reminders that women get on Mother’s Day should be the same kind that men receive on Father’s Day.
I am not trying to devalue or diminish women. I am asking that we give that same value and respect that we give mothers to our fathers.
Fathers need to be told that they are handsome, powerful, wonderfully created beings, made in the image of God. They need to be praised as fathers, regardless of the form that takes.
Dads need to be told the stories of Joseph, the father of Christ, how he humbled himself and gave his all to a son that wasn’t his. Dads need to be reminded of the greatness that they can achieve as Abraham, being men of faith, and fathers to faithful children.
Are there fathers that need to hear the harsh truth, that they need to actually put in the hard work of fathering their children? Yes, I know that there are. And maybe next year, you can tell them.
This year, I’m asking that you take this Proverb to heart.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:24
On June 18th, be kind to the fathers.