Fathers really matter in their children's lives

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Fathers and mothers are part of our lives. Each one of us comes from a father and a mother, and the biblical command is to honor both father and mother. Christians need to live in harmony with this commandment, and are reminded to do so in Ephesians 6:2-3, for to give honor to one’s parents is to enhance life.

The command doesn’t say one’s parents have to be likeable or honorable, nor does it say you have to agree with them or approve of what they do. Your only job, and mine, is to treat them with respect.

On this Father’s Day, we can reflect on our own fathers, and men who are fathers can reflect on their role.

I think my life would have been empty and colorless without my dad. I’m grateful I had him for as long as I did. I realize now he didn’t always have an easy time taking care of his family. He worked very hard when I was young and was driven by a deep love for his own.

Many years ago I learned how important fathers are in a negative way. I was working as a chaplain at a New Jersey prison for teenage boys. Getting to know boys who were black, white, and Puerto Rican was eye-opening. But as different as they really were, they had one thing in common: they had no father in their lives. Many could not even remember having ever seen their dad.

Single mothers ask what they can do for their children. If you have gone through a divorce, never belittle or speak negatively about your children’s father. That always hurts them more than you can know, and the same goes when a man puts down his children’s mother. Never tear down the one they need to look up to.

Make sure he has easy access to the children. Don’t move to another town or schedule other events when it is his visiting time. You may think you’re getting even, but you’re endangering his connection with your children, which they need.

If your husband is dead or incapacitated, work into your life some time for your child to have access to good men, positive role models. Maybe an older neighbor will take your son fishing once a month. Maybe someone with kids will include your child on an outing. These moments, with the right men, can pay dividends.

Look for a man who has a positive appreciation for his own family. And you Christian men who have raised your kids, don’t be afraid to “adopt” another child and include him in one or two activities. You may bring more healing to his soul than you realize.

For Christian fathers still raising their own children, the one thing that will have the most impact in their spiritual lives is worship. Your children need to go with you and see you involved in a Christian community, a people who gather together and worship God. This has the biggest impact on whether a son or daughter will respect God and seek to know and love God.

For single moms, this is your role, too. You also have a tremendous impact simply by worshipping with your children in a community of believers.

A lot of Americans think they can be Christians on their own, in isolation, avoiding any community of Christians. All I can say is that this is not God’s will. The New Testament says Christ Jesus is gathering together a people, a massive family, and wants you to take your place in it. Together you can encourage one another.

But the New Testament knows nothing of a so-called Christian who sits at home alone. That is not part of God’s plan.

What if you are a Christian mom and your husband won’t participate? Go without him and take your kids. God calls you to be faithful, even if he is not.

On the other hand, every congregation will have problems. All is not well with the churches, and we who attend them need constantly to repent of self-centeredness or pride, and pray for God’s help.

Studies of people in their 20s and 30s who participate in a congregation at worship and service are illuminating. Why are you still involved in a church? Was it because you had a good youth group? The number one factor in the lives of most respondents was this: one or both parents worshipped with me on a regular basis.

Even if only one did, it made a huge impact.

Christian dads, you don’t have to be perfect. Being there and engaged makes all the difference in the world. Your presence at home is a gift more than you can know. Your presence in communal worship can have a far-reaching spiritual impact.

The Rev. Mark Koonz is pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Walla Walla. You may e-mail him at EmmanuelOffice@wwelc.org or call him at 509-525-6872. To write a column, contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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