“Fatherhood Fear Factor” (Matt. 10:21-33)
The Third Sunday after Pentecost (Father’s Day) June 21, 2020
What a time in our lives to observe another Fathers’ Day! Pandemic, isolation, riots and looting, families in grave crisis, civil unrest, and political polarization! It’s a total and seemingly impossible mess! Observing Father’s Day in this caustic environment to some might seem superfluous. On the other hand, a renewed focus on the essence of what fatherhood is and the need for faithful fathers just could be what the doctor ordered.
A political pundit the other day made what I believe to be a rather astute observation concerning all the civil unrest going on with the looting and rioting, the wanton destruction of other people’s property and the defacing of statues of our founding fathers. Paraphrasing him, he said, “What we are seeing is a result of a crisis of fatherhood in our country.” He then offered evidence of his position by pointing to the sad statistics regarding the absence of fathers in the majority of homes in America today, especially in some minority households. Men are siring children but either are abdicating any responsibility for the care and discipline of their children or are fleeing the scene altogether. The result, as he noted, is that children, especially the boys, are growing up without a faithful role model of what it means to be a respectful, mature and caring man, let alone benefiting from the care, protection and guidance of a loving father. As a consequence, these children themselves are often exhibiting total disrespect for any kind of authority and seem to have little to no concern for anyone besides themselves.
Our country, inclusive of all races and ethnicities, desperately needs faithful fathers more than ever. And, I might add, that faithfulness can stem from only one place, the proper fear of God the Father.
Fear and true fatherhood are totally intertwined. You see, there is a distinct difference in the roles of father and mother. I call it the “fear factor.” Quite unlike the intimate and comforting bond that is natural to motherhood, the bond between child and father is of necessity grounded in fear.
Many in our culture are insisting children don’t need fathers. They consider fathers non-essential. But this it totally absurd! There is no life without the father. This is by the Creator’s very design. We all ought to be quite fearful of this fact! Mothers have been created to be nurturers. A mother does not give life. Only the father does. The mother nurtures and sustains life. A certain sense of compassion and intimate care is needed to be a nurturer. Of course, love is also essential for a father. It’s a sad state of affairs when the father does not love; first love the mother of his children and, second, love the children he has given life to in this world. We see over and over again the pain, suffering, and total chaos that ensues in a family when the father does not love.
But fatherhood demands also something else. If the family is to be stable, safe, unified, and sound there needs to be both a fear on the father’s part and a genuine fear of him among his children. Love and fear must go hand in hand. By the way, the love I am talking about doesn’t mean just playing with your kids and indulging them with gifts. It means caring enough for your children that you make it your priority that they learn, respect, and follow the truth. This involves teaching, disciplining, protecting, and providing for the children not just trying to be their friends.
This fear factor of fatherhood has to begin with the father’s own fear of God the Father. In our Gospel text today, we hear Jesus exhort all His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). God is the giver of all life. That makes Him alone the Judge, Jury, and Executioner. Where this truth is not held in true fear, there is only unbridled wickedness.
The Psalmist, echoed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, says of the sinfulness of the wicked: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ps. 36:1; Ro. 3:18). Furthermore, he notes, the one who does not fear God “flatters himself too much to detect and hate his sin… the words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. Even on his bed he plots evil, he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject wrong” (Ps. 36:2-4).
One does not seek to obey or to honor that which he does not fear. We live in land where people have no fear of God, the very one who gave them life. If they did fear God do you really think they would destroy other people’s property, seize other people’s possessions, treat with disrespect authorities God has placed over them and live in such wanton promiscuity as they do? Do you think they would love their sin the way they do?
But who is to blame for this? God? Children? Or earthly Fathers? Yes, all children are sinful, like us they are conceived and born in sin. Everyone left to his own devices will live in wickedness. All children need the one who gives them life to teach them the value of that life and the value of the lives of others. They need their fathers to discipline their wanton flesh. They need their father’s to teach them the proper fear of God, their Creator; the One they and all beings are ultimately accountable to!
This is why it is to fathers that God directly gives the admonition: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21). By the very order that God created humanity, Adam, the husband and father, was designated teacher and assigned the awesome responsibility to teach the family the fear of the LORD. Where the father seeks to carry this out in his family, he and his family will enjoy the blessing of God (6:2,3). When you think about it then, the father’s role is to be God’s bold and fearless teacher and confessor of God and His truth in his family.
Being a confessor of Christ Jesus is really the substance of the whole context of our Gospel text. When Jesus said, “fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell,” He was admonishing His apostles before sending them out to confess Him before the world. In like fashion the father is to fear God to the extent that he does not dare to dishonor God by not boldly confessing Him. Yet, at the same time, as confessor he is to be fearless in the face of all opposition to such confession of God and His truth in Jesus Christ.
And, there is and will continue to be in this world opposition to God and His Word. As our Old Testament reading illustrates, the prophet Jeremiah exhibited that fearlessness in the face of dreadful opposition. As he indicates, most of what he was given by God to prophesy brought him “reproach and derision all day long.” Yet, Jeremiah said God’s Word within him was like a burning fire shut up in his bones. It totally wearied him to hold it in. It was relief to confess it.
Jesus’ opposers maligned Him as the devil himself and eventually put Him to death. As Jesus says, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher.” Jesus, therefore, warned the apostles, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”
Yes, every confessor of truth will be opposed. And notice, that opposition will come even in one’s own family… from a spouse … from the children!
God never said being the faithful father would be easy! In fact, like faithful motherhood, it is one of the most difficult vocations in all the world. It can seem like a constant, uphill, battle. If you try to teach your children to believe in and to live by the truth of their eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ their Savior, you will not only be opposed by your children’s sinful flesh, you will often find that you will be opposed at every turn by the culture, by what their peers and friends say, by what their teachers teach them, and even be ridiculed and belittled by other parents. There will be times you will feel as though you are a lone voice in this world.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many dads, fathers, give up. They cave in to the culture. Fearful their children will hate them, despise them, or even now-a-days “turn them into” the “thought police” of our culture, all too many dads wimp out and go along with the propaganda of political correctness, the false theologies of heretical Christianity, and the outright lies promulgated by social media and today’s scientism. They fear losing face or losing their life in this world more than losing their children to hell.
But fathers, Grandfathers, as well as any others of you who truly fear God, Jesus is assuring you once again today that you have nothing to fear in being bold teachers and confessors of God’s Word of truth, His will and His way in Jesus Christ. Jesus says to you, “Have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
The day will come when all truth will come out in full view of all. Those who oppose God’s truth will be the ones brought to shame and for many an eternal shame. The LORD God, will be with you as a dread warrior as He was with Jeremiah of old. It will be your detractors and persecutors who will fall and be greatly ashamed. As proclaimers of God’s truth you will find honor in the sight of God and all the world. Jesus promises you, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledges before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is heaven.”
No doubt, even more assuring to you, fearless fathers and other confessors of Christ, that your Heavenly Father has your back is just how valuable you are to Him. Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered.” Sparrows are a dime a dozen. Who can even know how many hairs have fallen from your head already this day. Yet, each hair… each sparrow… enjoys the Father’s providential care. How much more do you have your Father’s protection and care, you, whom He has purchased to be His own not with silver or gold but with the holy, precious, blood of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! As that old Gospel hymn reminds you, you can sing, “His eye is on the sparrow, I know He watches me.”
Yes, these are stressful and fear filled days. But, dads, you were made and equipped by Your Heavenly Father precisely for times like this. If there was no sin or wickedness in the world, your children would follow the paths of righteousness all on their own. If there were no pandemics or dangers in our world, your children would not need your protection. If our families could supply all their needs from the tree of life in their back yard, they would not need you to provide for them. If the deceiver was not in this world, your children would know and follow the truth of the LORD all on their own.
But, alas, we live in a fallen, wicked, world and the days are full of evil and falsehood. Be assured of this, fathers, God has blessed your family with you that you might lead them back to their Heavenly Father and keep them safe in His truth and love. God bless you to be fearless and faithful in your fatherhood that you fear God alone and be faithful confessors of the Truth with your words and with your lives. Amen.