I was just at the Father of the Year announcement, for Father's Day 2019, and one of the things that struck me is that families across our great nation are in disarray, and for most people the word Father carries with it not peace, acceptance and care, but harshness, fear and disconnectedness.
Now I had a great dad. And I hope you did too, but the fact is many of us have not had stellar fathers. Probably the biggest complaint is not that they were bad or evil, but just that they were distant, disinterested or disconnected and that they never seemed to convey unconditional love.
And these are all characterisations that our society feeds into, because dads are mostly absent, working hard for the family, and generally not as directly involved as mums. No wonder so many people feel remember their father as absent, a harsh disciplinarian or a disinterested bystander to their lives.
I’m sure on Father's Day 2019 many have mixed emotions, perhaps a little like Luke Skywalker, who after so many movies fighting Darth Vader, he suddenly hears Vader say, “Luke, I am your father.”
You don't get to choose your father, good or bad, you just get him when he begets you. You had no influence over what he did for a living, how he treated people, the hang ups he had, the upbringing he had, the things he did to you, the influences he tried to bring into your life.
Yet with the inadequacies of human fatherhood, God still chooses to reveal His heart as that of a father, the perfect loving, perfectly accepting father most of us never had! And the Bible says that there is a blessing in honouring both your mum and your dad, regardless of how good, bad or ugly they may have seemed.
“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),
If you feel like there is a barrier between you and your father on Father's Day 2019, be he alive or dead, then this Father’s Day is the day to remove that barrier and deepen your love for him again.
LOVING AN IMPERFECT FATHER
When my girls were young, they each told me they would like to marry me. I took that as a huge compliment because in their childlike innocence it told me they trusted and loved me. Yet I assure you I am far from perfect as a father.
The reality is that you may not feel overwhelming love towards your father, and your confidence in him may have taken a battering at times, so I want to share steps as to how you can fall in love with your father this Father’s Day all over again. For some of you, this might make you mad, but please hear me out, because there is a blessing in loving your father, no matter how imperfect he is. So what does loving your dad involve?
1. LOVING YOUR DAD MEANS ACCEPTANCE
Your dad loves you, despite what he may have said or done in the past. But or course, he is not perfect, probably far from it. Things is, last I looked, neither are you!
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
You cannot be perfect and neither can your dad, but because God loves and accepts us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place, we need to be accepting of others, warts and all…
Romans 15:7 (NIV-WS)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Loving your dad on Father's Day 2019 means accepting him, as good, bad or ugly as he may have been, and this brings praise to God.
2. LOVING YOUR DAD MEANS FORGIVENESS
Loving someone means forgiving them, even if they have hurt you, even if they have rejected you. So many people I meet hold onto the pain and mistreatment they feel that have received at the hand of their father, but holding on to us forgiveness is like drinking poison hoping the other guy dies! Jesus said,
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins
If you don’t forgive someone, then like it or not they have power over you, and you are hurting yourself. That’s why Jesus implores is to forgive, especially those who should be closest to us, who should have loved us, who should have known better. Loving someone means forgiving them, and this could be the greatest gift this Father's Day 2019.
3. LOVING YOUR DAD DOES NOT MEAN AGREEMENT
Some people feel that if they forgive another person they are actually agreeing with the wrong that has been done towards them. That’s simply not true.
Forgiveness does not mean you agree with what’s been done to you, it means you’re released from the power of what’s been done to you.
Romans 6:14 (ESV Strong's)
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Listen, whatever you feel towards your dad for Father's Day 2019, don’t give any sin he has committed power over your life by not forgiving him.
4. LOVING YOUR DAD MEANS GIVING UP GETTING EVEN
When you forgive someone, you have to give up the right to get even!
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Listen to how the message puts it...
Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
If you have been wronged by your father in the past, it’s time to act like Elsa and let it go! Do you want to feel justified in your anger at what he had done to you, or do you want to feel free? Give up the right to get even, don’t try and punish him, just forgive him. And if you’re a dad, give up the right to control your children, and just forgive them, whether you agree with them or not.
Loving your earthly father means forgiving him, just and Christ forgave you…
1 Peter 4:8 (ESV Strong's)
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
5. LOVING YOUR DAD STARTS WITH A DECISION
You may be saying, well I don’t hate my dad, I kind of love him, but I’m not going to show him or tell him, because he never showed me.
You can make this Father’s Day the best one ever by simply making a decision. You can decide today to love your father, no matter what he’s said or done in the past. You can decide today to forgive him, and he may keep hurting you again and again, but you can keep making the decision to love him.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
I know it’s hard continuing to forgive, especially when someone has let you down over and over, but you need to decide to forgive, 7x70 times of necessary. You can make a decision today the be the one who reaches out to your dad.
DADS, HOW CAN YOU LOVE YOUR KIDS ON FATHER'S DAY 2019?
And you fathers, how can you love your kids on this Father’s Day? Well, it all starts with a decision to show your children the same love God has shown you in accepting you, and forgiving you of your sin.
In our society, and possibly in your family, most people’s love is conditional. I love you because you’re so pretty, so successful, so talented. I love you if you do well in school, or if you win, if you’re well behaved. Dads, you need to recognise that this kind of love tells your children that your love for them depends on their performance. If they make you happy, you love them. If they don’t, you distance yourself and they feel rejected.
This is normal love in our society, but it’s not God’ love. I believe as fathers we have a higher calling when it comes to loving our kids.
Dads, the way to truly love your children is to love them unconditionally, what the Greeks call agape love, the highest form of love. If your love is guaranteed and without conditions, it becomes a constant in the life of your child, life, whether they win, lose or draw in life, whether you agree with them or not.
My father, who passed away a few years ago, was a good example to me of such love. But the ultimate example of unconditional is God’s love for us.
I know if I let God down, if I hurt Him, if I’m selfish, His love for me is a constant. This gives me tremendous security in my relationship with Him, and dads, your children will experience the same level of security and peace in your love if you love them unconditionally, no matter what.
God’s unconditional love as a father is here for you today, no matter how inadequate your earthy father’s love was. God’s forgiving heart, His total acceptance and forgiveness is beautifully illustrated in perhaps my favourite parable.
A selfish son defies his father, takes his inheritance and squanders it in sinful living. When he finally blows the lot and comes to his senses, he is employed to feed pigs, and wishes he could eat their slop. He decides to return home, tail between his legs, hoping the aggrieved father would just take him on as a hired hand. Let’s pick up the story…
Luke 15:20-24 (ESV Strong's)
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
The father, despite the son’s sinful, selfish actions, never stopped loving his son. This father waited day after day for his son to turn back to him. He kept no record of the loss, he bore no grudge, he didn’t rehearse a suitable punishment, he waited, and was ready to rush out and accept his wayward child home. This is the heart of the father, because your Heavenly Father is perfect and He is ready to forgive you and accept you home this very day.
However strained your relationship with your earthly father, recognise that there is a perfect father in heaven with arms outstretched to you right now.
YOUR DADDY WANTS YOU HOME THIS FATHER'S DAY 2019!
There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.
On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
And some of you are there right now. You have been hurt by your father, let down or feel pushed away. You might feel he’s been unavailable to you. You might feel him too harsh. You might feel like no matter what you do, you could never gain his approval. You’re looking like all those Pacos for love and forgiveness.
But your earthly father, whether good or not so good, can never be perfect like your Heavenly Father. Right now this Heavenly Father is searching the horizon, waiting, looking, longing for you to turn to Him. His arms are outstretched to you. He’s saying, “Your Daddy wants you home.”
You dads, maybe the Lord is telling you to reach out to that child you don’t feel connected to this Father's Day 2019 and show them unconditional love. For some of you, maybe it’s time you reached out to your dad, forgave him and showed him unconditional love. The Bible says this…
1 John 4:11 (NIV-WS)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
You see, the true source of love is God, because
1 John 4:8 (ESV Strong's)
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
You probably feel it unlikely you could change your father’s opinions, or his ways, or if he’s dead, his legacy, but today don’t focus on what cannot change, here’s something you can change… I want you to focus on your Heavenly Father.
Romans 8:15 (ESV Strong's)
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Today. Cry out abba Father with me! This Father’s Day, I want to ask you to give the best gift ever to your Father… give your Father in Heaven your whole life.