Dedicated to All Those Without Fathers
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
I came across some Bible quotes today that cover the often-painful subject of the loss of a parent, or of both parents, or of never knowing one’s parents at all. This can happen in any given person’s life at any time for a variety of reasons. I’m not writing about watching our moms and dads growing old and dying of natural causes. I’m writing about, mainly, people without dads. The most common reason for the loss of a parent is due to divorce, as we know – some of us all too well. The second most common reason is, most unfortunately, due to the unexpected and untimely death of a parent. This is always a difficult thing, but particularly for the children left behind when a parent dies prematurely. My dad died of a heart attack when I was twelve, and I can still clearly remember how totally shocked everybody was about his passing. The abrupt loss of a parent by a child is always a traumatic experience, no matter how strong that kid is (I’m speaking from experience). But I think the most tragic instance of all are those people who simply grew up without a dad. Single parent homes are ubiquitous these days. I have observed that there seems to be a mind-set among some women that says or thinks, “What do I need a man for?” To those women I would respond, “Just ask your school age son or daughter if they like growing up without a dad, and see what they tell you. A large majority of them would tell you ‘no’.” There is another small but growing category of kids without dads – namely children, teens and adults whose dads are incarcerated. The monstrous US prison industrial complex swallows up more people daily, and a large majority of them are people of color and other minorities. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a social injustice!
I had some serious family issues of my own when I was a kid. My dad who died was actually my foster-dad. Since I started out in life as an orphan, I was told as a child that I had been adopted. That later turned out to be untrue, although I didn’t find out until I was in my twenties – a long time ago if you get my drift. As you can imagine, I carried some of this emotional baggage into my adult life, and I didn’t begin dealing successfully with this until I got my hands on a Bible for the first time at age 26. Even after that, being able to mentally absorb these truths was a process that took quite a few years for me. It is my most sincere hope that, by writing and posting this week’s message, what I have to impart will make as big or an even bigger impact on someone who urgently needs to read these words than it had on me.
The first of three quotes I will be using will be from Romans chapter 8, verses 14 through 17, which reads as follows: “… because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” If you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are one of the sons and daughters of God. By the same token, anyone not being led by the Spirit of God is simply not one of God’s kids. I realize I am putting this rather bluntly, but I believe this subject is serious enough for serious talk. You’re either one of His or you’re not. You either believe Jesus saved you or you don’t. But if you are with Him, God will adopt you into his family, making us heirs to the Kingdom to come. When the apostle Paul wrote that we receive the “Spirit of son-ship”, as it says in my New International, he was alluding to family adoption. I believe the Amplified Bible reads that we ‘received a Spirit of adoption’, or very close to that. When Paul wrote that, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children”, he evidently meant the Holy Spirit testifies on our behalf to God that we belong to Him.
The second verse that has to do with fathers and children comes from Galatians chapter 4, verses 4 through 7, which has similarities to the previous quote I used: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that calls out, ‘abba, Father’. So you are no longer a slave but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” The word ‘abba’ is a little child’s word for ‘daddy’ in Hebrew, and there are similar sounding names in other Middle Eastern languages as well. The picture Paul is painting here becomes more evident. Remember what Jesus said when he rebuked the apostles for preventing a group of children from approaching him? “Be patient with little children, and let them come unto me, for I tell you the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as these” (Matt. 19: 13-15) So, those believers who become like little children crying out, ‘abba, Father’ for their heavenly Dad are the ones who will make up the kingdom of heaven – that is, the new earth prophesied about in Revelation chapter 21. We are no longer a slave, says the Word. Slaves to what? Why, slaves to sin, of course! What else could Paul be writing about here? Now we have full legal rights as sons and daughters of the Most High God to make our requests and petitions known to God, who is more than willing to provide generously to those who obey His commandments. We are heirs to a kingdom that will last for an eternity! And if we are heirs, then why would we continue in our sins any longer? Why live for anything or anyone else other than Jesus Christ?
The third and final example of our adoption as sons and daughters through our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God will come from Ephesians chapter one, verse 5 which reads, “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasures and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” God knew in advance which one of his creations would become his sons and daughters. That’s why it pleased him to freely give, and it is through grace that we are receiving it. Grace is defined as being the unmerited and unwarranted favor of Almighty God – in other words, grace and favor that we don’t deserve, but God gives it to us anyway because that’s how gracious He really is. When Paul wrote, “to the praise of his glorious grace”, he meant grace that accompanies our adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High God, and as joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
This, in turn, brings us back to where we started – to men, women, boys and girls who are going through life without their fathers, or without their mothers, or even both. Those who lost their dads, or who never knew their dads, have always had a Father in heaven. This is something I had to learn not long after I first gave my heart to Christ over 20 years ago. But more importantly, I had to learn to let go of the anger and the bitterness about the loss of my own father combined with having never known my biological parents. Having the feeling of being left high and dry twice in life – that’s how it seemed to me sometimes – was something I had a hard time with, even after becoming a Christian. Occasionally I still catch myself going back to that time in my own mind, and I have to correct myself to break out of that pattern of thought. I sincerely hope that my own success in dealing with this issue encourages everyone who has ever lost a dad, or who has never known their real dad. You can and should take heart! Not only do all without fathers have a heavenly Father, but we’re adopted into the Family of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This means we can all have as many moms, dads, sisters and brothers as we want!! There are no limits in God’s family, so let’s take advantage of this free gift from God. One way we can do that is to stop looking at the opposite sex as someone to sleep with, and to treat them as brothers and sisters instead. It’s not that I see anything wrong with sexual attraction – it’s just that brotherhood and sisterhood are more important. That’s also why fatherhood is so important in all cultures. All this has a common denominator – fractured families. When we treat others as we would our own brothers and sisters – or as we would treat ourselves – it is a reflection of how we regard ourselves. If everybody did this, there would be fewer fractured families, and fewer traumatized individuals.