Dads Fathers Dads
Dads come in allsorts of shapes and sizes. Just look around you today! While they vary physically in a host of ways, they share something in common: they are made of clay. And like all clay articles they develop cracks. Yes, they are crackpots. Or as Paul wrote: "earthen vessels." Men are fragile, vulnerable, human, earthy creatures.
As a child I perceived my dad as being the epitome of sainthood. In my eyes he could do nothing wrong. He was a Christian, an elder in my home church, a conscientious provider, extremely hard worker, great organiser, a doer, better than average farmer, outstanding husbandman, dedicated to putting God first in all aspects of his life. But that idealized picture of my dad was shattered the day I discovered he had deliberately lied to me. I was infuriated to think he could knowingly lie. Like Rahab, he'd told a half-truth in order to protect me.
I witnessed my father's quiet trust in God when he discovered one day that someone had deliberately cut the wires in a series of fences on his farm and driven off several hundred head of sheep. I saw him ask "Why?" when he found a sheep butchered, the hindquarters removed by a person wanting some free meat. I observed his commitment to "love his enemies" when he was falsely accused of sheep rustling. [It was discovered that a sheep transport company was bribed to unload someone else's sheep they bought at a sale onto his farm.] Why this silent persecution? Perhaps because he actively shared his faith with all his neighbours?
But what I was not privy to was the content of his prayers. A lot is written about the need for us men to live a "transparent" life. To be open with our wife. To share our struggles, our feelings, our longings, as well as our aspirations and dreams. But what does this actually mean?
Paul opens up himself to the Thessalonians and models what being 'transparent' entails in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20.
My friends, you know that our time with you wasn’t wasted. As you remember, we had been mistreated and insulted at Philippi. But God gave us the courage to tell you the good news about him, even though many people caused us trouble. We didn’t have any hidden motives when we won you over, and we didn’t try to fool or trick anyone. God was pleased to trust us with his message. We didn’t speak to please people, but to please God who knows our motives.
You also know that we didn’t try to flatter anyone. God himself knows that what we did wasn’t a cover-up for greed. We were not trying to get you or anyone else to praise us. But as apostles, we could have demanded help from you. After all, Christ is the one who sent us. We chose to be like children or like a mothera nursing her baby. We cared so much for you, and you became so dear to us, that we were willing to give our lives for you when we gave you God’s message.
My dear friends, you surely haven’t forgotten our hard work and hardships. You remember how night and day we struggled to make a living, so that we could tell you God’s message without being a burden to anyone. Both you and God are witnesses that we were pure and honest and innocent in our dealings with you followers of the Lord. You also know we did everything for you that fathers would do for their own children. We begged, encouraged, and urged each of you to live in a way that would honor God. He is the one who chose you to share in his own kingdom and glory.
We always thank God that you believed the message we preached. It came from him, and it isn’t something made up by humans. You accepted it as God’s message, and now he is working in you. My friends, you did just like God’s churches in Judea and like the other followers of Christ Jesus there. And so, you were mistreated by your own people, in the same way they were mistreated by their people.
Those Jews killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and they even chased us away. God doesn’t like what they do and neither does anyone else. They keep us from speaking his message to the Gentiles and from leading them to be saved. The Jews have always gone too far with their sins. Now God has finally become angry and will punish them.
My friends, we were kept from coming to you for a while, but we never stopped thinking about you. We were eager to see you and tried our best to visit you in person. We really wanted to come. I myself tried several times, but Satan always stopped us. After all, when the Lord Jesus appears, who else but you will give us hope and joy and be like a glorious crown for us? You alone are our glory and joy!
Notice what the Thessalonians know about Paul: he had suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi; despite strong opposition he was not intimidated; his motive was to please God not men; he never used flattery, or put on a mask to cover up greed; he wasn't looking for praise from men; they witnessed how holy, righteous and blameless he was and his gentleness like that of a mother; he verbalized his love for them and his intense longing to see them again; he dealt with each of them as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God; he was sensitive to their suffering for their faith.
That to me is what it means to be a transparent Christian Dad. Paul and Jesus give us the blue print. They demonstrate what it means to be a 21st century man, husband, father, dad.
Dr Keith Graham