God created three institutions this side of heaven—family, church and government. Family was the first institution He created in Genesis 1-2, and it has been under assault since Genesis 3. Family is the basic unit of society. If you weaken the family, you weaken society; if you destroy the family, you destroy society. Edward Gibbon, in his book entitled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, lists five reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire. His top ranked cause was the undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home as the basis of human society. That is, the Roman family unit was destroyed, and Rome consequently fell.
Pew Research Center recently published an article entitled “7 facts about American dads.” Although much can be said about each of the facts presented, I want to focus on the article’s opening paragraph:
Fatherhood in America is changing … more and more children are growing up without a father in the home.
To be sure, God’s design for the family unit is under rapid decay in our present society. America is following the trajectory of the fall of Rome. One of the symptoms of the decay is the increase in fatherlessness.
Fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America according to 72.2 percent of the U.S. population. The increase in fatherlessness over a short time period is staggering, as these statistics demonstrate:
- The percentage of U.S. children living with an unmarried parent has more than doubled since 1968, jumping from 13 percent to 32 percent in 2017.
- About one in five children (21 percent) are living with a solo mother, up from 12 percent in 1968.
- Some 7 percent of children are living with cohabiting parents, about double the share that were doing so in 1997.
According to the National Center for Fathering,
More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.
The consequences of fatherlessness are a clear and present danger to God’s design for family. The removal of fathers from the family unit is ripping apart the fabric of society—not a small teasing of the fabric, but a deep, ragged rip. For a sobering review of the social consequences of fatherlessness, view here and here.
Yes, suicide, crime, drug abuse, sexual perversion, poverty, etc. are heart-breaking consequences. However, the penultimate consequence of fatherlessness is the distortion of one’s view of God the Father.
God intended the family unit to be a visible word picture of the Trinity. There is no more critical aspect as a believer than to learn who God the Father is. One cannot truly understand the depth of His love in giving us His Son and the gift of His Spirit without first understanding Him as Father. How can a boy or girl or man or woman begin to understand God the Father if they have no earthly father? When I witness to folks who have experienced fatherlessness, I cannot begin the conversation with “God the Father loves you.” They have no context and typically have a negative reaction to any earthly father figures. Vance Fry, an editor for Focus on the Family, wrote:
Some people may have a difficult time relating to God as a father. Fatherhood is an idea that we’re all very familiar with, and we may project our expectations or experiences of what a father should be, or has been, onto our heavenly Father. A boy who longs for a dad has a hard time seeing God as capable of filling that role. A girl who feels she has to succeed in sports and school to earn her father’s approval may see her relationship with God in a similar way. For others, the word father may bring up memories of abuse or neglect. How tragic that such a beautiful facet of God’s character—that He is not a distant, impersonal ruler, but a warm and welcoming papa—is often tainted by the weaknesses of human fathers!
I am the first demonstration of father my four children see as they begin to conceive who God the Father is. This is a wonderful responsibility, but also a weighty responsibility, and one in which I fall short many times. I consistently pray that I demonstrate God the Father’s wisdom, lovingkindness, righteousness, provision and protection to my children and to the watching world.
Men, on this upcoming Father’s Day, consider the following:
- Assess how you are doing in reflecting the word picture of God the Father to your children and to others. Pray that you first of all can relate to God as Abba Father. Then pray that God works in you so that you demonstrate His fatherly characteristics and not that of the world’s.
- If you have experienced fatherlessness, know that God can heal all wounds. He is a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). In addition, your past experience does not have to be repeated. We are made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and we are to put off our old selves and don our new selves (Ephesians 4:22-24).
- Mentor younger dads. The body of Christ has a responsibility to train and equip the next generation. Help younger dads learn from your mistakes and help them grow closer to God the Father. In doing this, you will be having a lasting impact on the dads, their children and their grandchildren.
- Help teach in the preschool and children’s ministry at your church. Children need to see godly father figures in their lives. Children need to see men in the classroom. Far too many of our children and preschoolers have no adult male role model at home.
- Ensure that your family and church have mechanisms to help solo mothers.