Any challenging task is difficult to achieve if we do not have anything on which to base our efforts; fatherhood is no exception. It seems like our culture often finds itself floundering, searching for models of exceptional fatherhood. If we look to culture to find this model, we might search forever. However, God did not give men the task of fatherhood without offering us a paragon of parenthood. God is Himself the original Father and He is the perfect pattern for fatherhood.
In the most beloved of the parables, Jesus reveals seven foundational characteristics of true fatherhood. The parable is commonly known as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” In reading the story we often focus on the lost son but today let’s focus on the Father. Doctor Luke masterfully pens a word portrait of our Heavenly Father in the fifteenth chapter of his Gospel, verses eleven to thirty-two. Let’s examine the seven characteristics of a great father.
1. A great Father is accessible.
And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. (Luke 15:12, NKJV)
The story begins with a son who fees like he can approach his father. A simple but powerful truth for successful parenting is being present and approachable. Have an aura of openness, be positive, cultivate a “yes face” — the kind of facial expression that makes people believe you will be receptive to what they have to say. You cannot always be present but when you are there be there.
2. A great Father is generous.
Also in verse 12 we see a picture of a father who is willing to give. Principally we all have at least three resources to share: our time, our talents, and our finances. As our Heavenly Father has been so exceedingly generous to us, we in like manner must be generous to our children. The principle is biblical:
Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8, NKJV)
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11, NKJV)
3. A great Father is respectful to his children.
The best source of learning respect for others is the consistent example of a respectful father. We have but a few years to prepare our children for their individual and independent lives. The younger son in the parable certainly was taught right but still made the wrong decision. However in time, love and truth prevailed and he returned to his father’s house. Respect for an individual to have a different opinion or action or lifestyle does not infer approval. A father may love and respect his child but strongly reject their actions and decisions without rejecting the person. Such was the case in this parable.
4. A great Father is compassionate.
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. (Luke 15:20, NKJV)
We never cease to marvel at the poignant portrait here portrayed as the weary, wary and humbled young son trudges toward home, the ever watchful Father sees him while yet afar and runs to embrace and welcome him home. I know of no greater example of compassion. Peter goes on to describe this same kind of compassion in his Gospel:
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
5. A great Father restores broken relationships and broken children.
The Father did not stop with compassion — he took the next steps and started the process of restoration:
But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:20-24, NKJV)
The Father accepted, forgave, embraced and restored the repentant son. He gave him regal robes, shoes for his feet, a familial ring, a fatted calf and welcome home fiesta. The Father saw the son’s repentant spirit not with groveling nor even in his speech but rather in his direction, the son was headed toward home. Repentance is required before relationships can be restored.
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:6, 10, NKJV)
6. A great Father is enjoyable.
For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. (Luke 15:24, NKJV)
Joy is infectious and contagious, it restores strength and vitality to the weary:
Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10, NKJV)
Joy is a chief characteristic of repentance and a principle fruit of the Spirit.
There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10, NKJV)
Our world is a dark and dreary place and our present culture is a culture that fosters fear. Our homes, however, can and should ring with laughter and rejoicing. Every child and every home deserve a Father who knows how to laugh and rejoice — a Father who is enjoyable. Such joy creates an atmosphere that children are drawn to and one in which they thrive.
7. A great Father is impartial.
Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’ But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:25-32, NKJV)
So much attention is given to the younger son that we often overlook the elder son. The elder son is at least pitiful and resentful if not bitter and morose. The great Father leaves the joyous festivities of the younger son’s homecoming and goes out into the field to face the angry and bitter elder son’s accusations and complaints. What a contrast in situations! Verse 28 says that he was angry and would not go in so his father went to him and intreated him.
The great Father loved both sons equally and impartially, both the repentant one and the resentful one. Each of us has our good days and our bad days, our ups and our downs, and our children are no different; they deserve a loving and impartial father.
Our time and space may be limited but the scope of fatherhood is vast. It is my sincere hope that these seven principals drawn from the autobiography of the Original Father will encourage and assist you in your greatest, most challenging, and rewarding role as a father.
May God bless each of you bountifully. We wish you a Happy Father’s Day !