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Fatherhood Is Theological

This Father's Day learn why fatherhood finds its meaning and model in the Father of us all.

Fathers celebrating Father's Day

Father’s Day is a holiday—sort of. It’s a date on the national calendar that we mark off every year, but dads nor their children get excited about Father’s Day like mom’s and their kids do about Mother’s Day. Let’s face it: fathers will never be as beloved as mothers, and rightly so. But fathers are like first responders: you don’t appreciate them until you need them.

The first event celebrating fathers was on July 5, 1908, at a church in West Virginia. Two years later, the state of Washington celebrated Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. Presidents Wilson and Coolidge both acknowledged the day, but it was not until 1972 that President Richard Nixon made in an official holiday.[1]

Dads Lives Matter

According to a 2014 US Census Bureau report on Men’s Fertility and Fatherhood, there are 74.7 million fathers in the US.[2] Despite the smattering of applause that is offered during the third Sunday in June, fathers are a critical and necessary presence in the nuclear family and our society. Dads matter—and the data show just how much they do. Dr. Edward Kruk indicates that children whose fathers are absent from their lives are at risk of several challenges, including low self-esteem, behavioral issues, academic underperformance, delinquency, promiscuity, and substance abuse.[3]

As we see from Dr. Kruk’s analysis, the impact of a fatherless home can be devastating, but having dad in the house can change the trajectory of a child’s life. In a day where we find the government seeking to undermine the role of parents, resulting in the further erosion of parental authority and oversight, the evidence could not be clearer that we need more than biological donors; we need dads!

There is no greater joy for a man than to be identified as someone’s “dad.” Dad, and father, carry within them a sense of pride and purpose. They are anthropological and theological. Anthropologically, they speak to the father’s role as progenitor, protector, and provider. Theologically, they speak to his delegated responsibility to imitate the Father—who is the Progenitor, Protector, and Provider of us all.

Four Attributes of God the Father

David, in his psalm of praise, relishes in the fatherhood of God, declaring, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Ps. 103:8 NASB).

There are four attributes of God the Father that we discover in this verse. In fact, these attributes of God are repeated multiple times together in the Old Testament, serving as an unbreakable chain that affirms the unchangeable character of God (cf. Exod. 34:6; Ps. 86:15; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 145:8; Joel 2:13; and Jon. 4:2)

1. The Father is compassionate. Contrary to popular opinion, God is a warm and loving father. Embedded in the nuances of His compassion is the imagery of the womb of a mother, signifying His care for us in our most vulnerable state.[4] He is not some capricious deity that seeks to punish and injure His children. Rather, He demonstrates an overabundance of care and pity toward us, allowing us space to recognize His affection for us and the offense of our sinfulness against Him.

Like the Father, dads must be more than disciplinarians; they must also be delicate. There are times when the rod is necessary, but that should only be as a last resort. What children need more than corporeal punishment is care and compassion that loves them into living within the righteous framework provided in Scripture and reinforced by dad in the home.

2. The Father is gracious. Grace is a favorable disposition toward another for the benefit of the person and the relationship.[5] God’s grace, sometimes translated mercy, is His favorable actions toward us in response to our need and to improve our relationship with Him. His graciousness is not a bribe to get us to act right but a demonstration of His compassionate desire to draw us closer to Him. It is God’s grace that reminds us how good He is despite how bad we are. And it is out of this reminder that our hearts are compelled to live more faithfully with Him.

Fathers maintain a positive posture toward their children because they value them and their relationship above all else. Children may incubate in their mother’s womb, but they come from their father’s loins. Life comes from dad; and whatever one creates, he is responsible for nurturing. This requires that fathers always have an open heart that views their children favorably so that both their children and their relationship flourishes.

3. The Father is slow to anger. When we sin against God—through the deeds we do, the words say, or the thoughts we think—His nose burns.[6] It depicts the imagery of God’s nostrils flaring in anger. But because of His slowness to anger (or longsuffering), His nose lengthens so that it doesn’t burn up, resulting in us not suffering the fury of His wrath. He remains self-controlled when we are out of control by extending His compassion and grace to us instead of His rod. Thus, He affords us more than adequate time to repent of our sins and return to Him with a faithful heart that seeks to walk in the path of righteousness.

A merciful dad is a meek dad. That is, he judiciously exercises his power because he keeps his wrath under control. Children do not have the cognitive awareness or life experiences to make adult decisions—and even adult children are dependent on their father’s wisdom. Thus, fathers patiently recognize the limitations of their children while looking for ways to strengthen their relationship with their children so they can influence their lives positively.

4. The Father abounds in lovingkindness. Having experienced the compassion, grace, and slow anger of God, we can only come to one conclusion: the Father abounds in lovingkindness. The lovingkindness of God speaks to His loving loyalty to His children. God is loyal in His love. He is not a part-time dad, absentee dad, or abusive dad. His love is dependable because there is so much of it that it can never be exhausted. Even when He chastises us, it is out of His love for us and loyalty to us. Yet, even in His chastisement, it is only for a season. This was the reason for David’s praise and should be the impetus for ours.

Absentee fatherhood is the result of a lack of loving loyalty. A father who loyally loves his children will never abandon them. Lovingkindness compels a father to pay child support when it doesn’t work with the mother, to remain in their child’s life when she says, “I hate you”, and to refuse to surrender their child to the devil when he is ensnared by the vices of this world. If dad walks out, the entire ecosystem of life degenerates because the source is disconnected from the system it created. But when dad shows up, he is able to bring order to chaos by the sure force of his presence—a presence driven by love for and loyalty to his children.

Fatherhood Is a Calling

Contrary to today’s zeitgeist, God has made father’s the head of the family. Society erroneously confuses this with some type of political hierarchy that subjugates women and children to the tyrannically rule of a despotic dictator. But the reality is that God places the burden on fathers to emulate and imitate His character in the home. Thus, dads live under the pressure of attempting to live up to the standards of the Father of us all.

As we celebrate dads this year, let’s remember that fatherhood is a calling to be more than anthropological; it is a responsibility to be theological. At the root of that theology is a Father who is loyal to us because of His unwavering love for us—out of which flows His compassion, grace, and longsuffering.

Rev. Isaac Hayes is the founder of Healing of the Soul Ministries and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] History, 2023, “Father’s Day 2023,” History, May 15, 2023, [2] US Census Bureau, 2019, “Census Bureau Releases First Ever Report on Men’s Fertility,” US Census Bureau, June 13, 2019, [3] Edward Kruk, 2012, “Father Absence, Father Deficit, Father Hunger: The vital importance of paternal presence in children’s lives,” Psychology Today, May 23, 2012, [4] Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1093. [5] Ibid., 205. [6] Victor P. Hamilton, “162 אָרַך,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 72.

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