Today I was at my son’s school. I try to avoid schools because they bring back memories of me being awkward (that still happens and “owning it”by the way), being obnoxious (I was the crowd “hype guy” while my buddies played ball since this kid ain’t got skills but has mad lung capacity to shout down a dude causing him to miss critical points in a game) and being in detention (I wasn’t a bad kid I just forged get out of school passes for my friends and got busted but I did become the “Ferris Bueller” of my school in the 80’s but I digress…). My son was getting a character award for school and I showed up at the assembly. When he got the award, he stood up and the one thing I made sure of was this: I’m here son, I’m present, I see you and I’m proud of you. I want him to have the memory that I am here. I am present and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I did what I could do be there. I wouldn’t have missed it. But some dad’s weren’t there. I’m not saying some of them didn’t have good reasons but some of these kids lacked their dad’s presence that day.
There is a lack of father’s presence in the world. Maybe it’s because of the high amount of divorce (Christian and non-Christian) that has caused a lack of father’s in the home today. Maybe it’s because many fathers were asked to leave, had issues and were highly dysfunctional. Maybe it’s because father’s have simply given up on their families. Maybe some are good fathers who are in a bad marriage and they had no other choice but to leave. However the home became barren of fathers, isn’t the point. The point is there is a lack of fathers and this has left many sons and daughters fatherless. It has left a gap, a wound and a longing for a true father. For the first time in history, we have the largest fatherless generation in history resulting in a global orphanage with sons and daughters crying out for fathers to love them.
This post isn’t a post “to dads” but a post about “spiritual covering.” So if you are woman, please read “fatherhood” as also “motherhood.” When you read “sons” also read “daughters” as well. It’s about spiritual covering in general. This generation doesn’t know that they need a spiritual covering, because all they know is fatherlessness. So what we see around us is a generation that is lacking. struggling and longing to be seen and heard. The lack of fathers results in a lack of sons. A lack of sons means they grow up to be fathers who have sons but these fathers will parent their sons with dysfunction resulting in more broken children. And it continues. That’s not God’s intention. His heart for you is for you to have a father that you can submit to, trust, have affirmation from and to believe in you.
God speaks about having guides and teachers in your life when you are young. They are an encouragement for young people on their journey as they pursue Christ. Not only are these teachers critical but they are many. However...God says that although you have had a lot of great teachers on your journey, you don’ t have many fathers:
“14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Corinthians 4:14-17
Teachers are valuable but fathers are more valuable to find. But they are also necessary to pass on faith to others. Paul is writing to Romans in Corinth. These people wouldn’t understand “discipleship” because they weren’t Jewish. The word “disciple” is referenced 269 times in John thru Acts…it doesn’t appear once in the rest of the New Testament. The reason for this may be because when God sent Peter to reach the Gentiles and Paul to reach the world, they were heading into cities and writing letters to those who didn’t understand Jewish culture. Disciple is a Jewish word Rabbi’s would understand because of how they learn. A rabbi had a relationship with his “learner” or disciple (or we would say in our modern context, “apprentice”) and you become like the Rabbi imitating his life and actions as he imitates the spiritual life of someone who is following Jehovah and the Torah.
The Romans and the gentiles were different. From their youth, the Romans sons and daughters had many teachers who would teach them reading, writing, logic, etc. Once they turned 12 they would then be considered adults and would learn the trades of their fathers and mothers (woman typically learned home management, nurture for children, cooking etc). These sons would stand shoulder to shoulder and learn the trades of their fathers and mothers. It would come through watching and learning through impartation of the skills of the father and mother. They would learn through imitating their parents, behavior and actions and eventually they would put them into practice. The Romans would understand what it meant to “make sons” more than “make disciples” and Paul knew that.
That is what Paul is saying to them and to us: to be spiritual parents as we make disciples. He is saying children look to their parents to model and imitate their parents and the same is true with spiritual formation. You have many teachers but your father and mothers are unique, critical examples of what you will become.
Paul says a few chapters later in the letter, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
“Sonship” is an attribute that The New Young Christian is not only wanting but needing. You have teachers, good ones. They are a gift and necessary. Listening to podcasts of great teachers is solid instruction. Reading books(and blogs!) from great teachers are amazing for spiritual growth. But don’t settle for a life of“just teachers.” That’s just information. You need impartation. You need an example to show you how to live. You need a “father in the faith” so you can be a “son in the faith.”
If spiritual fatherhood was essential for Timothy for authentic spiritual growth and becoming who he needed to be...then we need it as well.