Click here to read The Perfect Father – Part 1
In the context of ministering God’s grace, our goal is to follow Christ’s example of ministering to the whole person. As introduced in Part 1, this includes family relationships ‒ especially the vital issue of fathering. God’s model of fathering is expressed in Matthew 3:17 and reiterated in Matthew 17:5. Contrary to current western culture, the Bible actually recognizes that cultures can have characteristic deficiencies (Titus 1:12). Many cultures seem especially lacking in the area of healthy fathering, evidenced by deep emotional pain of their people.
The Bible is not silent on this enormously important topic, especially upon careful consideration of the Perfect Father God’s recorded words to His Son in the two passages in Matthew mentioned above. Having examined the first three words of those verses, let’s now be enriched by their final three thoughts.
“This is My Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased.”
Adolescence is a tough time of transition for many, floundering between childhood and adulthood. Its essence has been defined as determining one’s IDENTITY. Who am I? In that sense it was relatively easy for me ‒ I already had my clear sense of self: I was a Christian, who was relatively smart, who played basketball ‒ in that order. It sufficed, at least until my aging knees deprived me of the third component!
Your identity is very, very specific. That’s the difference between being a child and a “son” or “daughter.” Or between a parent and a “mother” or “father.” The more specific, the clearer identity. Which is more encouraging to hear: “You are good-looking,” or “You have beautiful eyes”?
Specificity adds impact; it focuses identity. Identity can be fluid: I’ve transitioned to a Christian, who is a Christian worker, who is a cross-cultural Christian worker, who is a cross-cultural Christian worker for two specific countries, who is a cross-cultural Christian worker for those two countries who specializes in networking. That clear identity provides a strong sense of value and stability to my life. It’s a yoke that is custom-fitted to my particular shoulders; I know it’s what my perfect Father created me to be and do. It can modify through successive seasons of life, but it must not disappear; it needs to be something if I am to be healthy. Here at the conception of Jesus’ calling, His core identity was established for Him and announced to the general public: Jesus of Nazareth is God’s Son! That’s who He is.
ATTENTION + ACCEPTANCE + BELONGING + IDENTITY
So, who are you?
“WHOM I LOVE”
This next point is escalated from a single word to a phrase, in the original language as well as in English. Also, the meaning is not veiled this time, it’s right out there: LOVE. Why these two distinctives? I suggest it’s all about emphasis. Our need for love is so foundational, if we blow it as a parent, it’s vitally important that we NOT blow it on this point. The Perfect Father knew that perfectly well, so He strongly expressed His love for His Son. He didn’t leave His Son to deduce it from actions that perhaps inferred love, He said it verbally – loud and clear and emphatically! Again, both to Him individually and in public. WOW.
Did your father ever specifically tell you “I love you”? In your presence? How often? In front of others with you? I’ll bet you know the answers to those questions, and that those memories have deep feelings attached to them ‒ of one kind or another.
A dear lifetime friend grew up feeling painfully unloved, as do so many. After maturing to the point where she calmly discussed this painful issue with her dad, he sincerely asked “How could I demonstrate love?” Her answer, “Well, you could start by saying it!”
The Perfect Father didn’t leave it to guesswork; He said it.
Sometimes we refrain from saying “I love you” because we honestly can’t define exactly what the term “love” means. I’ve struggled with this myself in fact, and so have others who’ve confided the same confusion. Can we define love?
Indeed, some things defy definition. Try to define God, for example. Or light. Or love. (God is love; God is light.) Some things just transcend our human comprehension. Even 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest treatise on love, does not define it ‒ it describes it! Similarly, scientists struggle to define light (waves or particles?), but we can all describe it. You can describe it, therefore you can recognize it, therefore you can genuinely say it! Mimic the Perfect Father. “Open rebuke is better than hidden love.”
ATTENTION + ACCEPTANCE + IDENTITY + LOVE
“WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED”
Perhaps, like me, you would expect that last point, love, to be the grand finale. Here at least, it is not. One more vital ingredient is added, like the cherry on the top: AFFIRMATION. Once again, an entire phrase is dedicated to this point, plus an intensifier: well pleased! Affirmation is another biggie not to be missed.
Did your father ever tell you “I’m proud of you,” or even “I’m so proud of you!”? Again, note that at this point Jesus has accomplished virtually nothing; His earthly ministry has not yet begun. No miracles, no healings, no dramatic exorcisms, no astounding sermons. The Perfect Father affirmed His Son, primarily for His heart not for His accomplishments. Again, verbally; again, directly in His presence as well as in front of others. Unmistakable.
ATTENTION + ACCEPTANCE + IDENTITY + LOVE + AFFIRMATION
Two closing observations:
First, there are two words that do not occur: BUT and IF. Not diluted, not partial nor conditional. When expressing such positives to your child, do you feel constrained to qualify them with “but …” or “if …”? Why?
Second, towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, when He had achieved many great accomplishments, His Father’s pronouncement upon Him did not change one iota! Precisely identical words as before all that. Yes, one phrase was added, but it was directed to Jesus’ closest associates, not to Jesus Himself: “Listen to Him.” His grand achievements did earn something: now He had demonstrated that He merited the respect of His friends and co-workers!
Indeed, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it reveals the thoughts and attitudes of the heart!”