My column in this week’s Baptist Courier.  A gauntlet thrown down for fathers.

https://www.baptistcourier.com/4306.article

Here’s the text:

The lovely emotions of Father’s Day are past. While we may enjoy looking back on life with our fathers, and while we fathers revel in touching cards and childhood hugs, those delights must yield to the the rest of the year, when we must continue the essential work of fatherhood; a thing so important that God describes himself as our Father.

While there are many remarkable, amazing fathers in the world, our struggling culture and our lost children need more than tender remembrances. We need a challenge, a gauntlet thrown down. I know this because in my practice of medicine, I see enough human dysfunction to know that while the root-causes are many, one of the most epidemic is the absence of involved, loving, passionate, sacrificial fathers.

In book of Malachi, a prophecy is made that refers to John the Baptist: ‘And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’

While scholars have differing views on this passage, one is that Malachi is simply prophecying about John restoring family unity. That may not be the most accurate way to view those ancient words, but in that passage I read a concrete message for our times.

Because our modern fathers, so often distracted, need to focus on their proper duties just as children need to listen to those fathers who love them. Malachi, it seems, may have been looking into our century from 2500 years ago. Sadly, it seems the curse is already upon us.

We live in a world of sorrow and depression, where young and old alike struggle. People wander through life, looking for validation; trying to find proof that they are worth something to someone. Boys and girls are frantic for connection, for relationship and romance, for embraces and safety. Young adults lack wisdom and warning, guidance and encouragement. It is the job of the father to provide these necessities. But the fathers’ hearts are turned away.

Drug abuse and alcohol abuse, sexual addiction and every other form of misery result from the human search for anesthesia and distraction from their inner turmoil. The protection of fathers would ease the pain; but their hearts are distracted.

Right and wrong are lost on generations, who have never been taken in hand and taught them, unless right is taken to mean ‘what I want,’ and wrong ‘what I can’t have.’ No one can bear correction, for it is dismissed as judgment. And the very idea of truth is ridiculed. The fathers must teach truth; but the fathers have rejected it.

Where are the hearts of the fathers, which should be surrounding their young? They are scattered. The hearts of the fathers are drinking, drugging and committing crimes, leaving the mothers of their children abandoned. The hearts of the fathers are absorbed in their work to the distraction and sorrow of children who desire them above all else. The hearts of the fathers are lost in recreation, so that they are in love with sports or hobbies which displace their children. The hearts of the fathers are stuck in perpetual adolescence, looking for some vague sense of their own meaning and fulfillment, and discovering that no matter how many lovers or wives, no matter how many cars, how many drugs, how many adventures, they are as lost as their children.

The hearts of the fathers are occupied with pornography or other acts of immorality which control them, and which their children sometimes learn to accept as normal. The hearts of the fathers are looking for ways out of work and out of responsibility for the bearers of their genetics.

The hearts of the father are indifferent to the fact that their children can’t read, don’t learn, don’t reason and have no dreams, goals or guiding principals. The fathers expect the children to have lives as chaotic as their own and scoff at their childrens’ failures.

Of course, the Malachi also calls ‘the heart of the children to their fathers.’ Where are their hearts now? Absorbed in a consumer culture that tells them what they need, what they should believe, what is right and what is wrong. Entertained by media figures and athletes whose lives are shocking examples of bad choices and of their own star-powered brokenness. They learn to reject knowledge, reject wisdom, reject morality and reject God; and that the only thing of valueon the earth, is the earth.

I wish every child and every father could celebrate a Happy Father’s Day. But it won’t happen until the hearts of fathers and children alike are facing in the right direction; towards one another and towards the Heavenly Father of all.

Edwin

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