3 “Dos” of Fatherhood

January 12, 2018

by Kent Hughes

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:4

1. Tenderness

The words “bring them up” mean “to nourish or feed,” as in 5:29 which has the same Greek words describing how a man “feeds and cares” for his own body. Calvin translates “bring them up” as “let them be kindly cherished,” and goes on to emphasize that the overall idea is to speak to one’s children with gentleness and friendliness.

When I was a teenager, my best friend’s father was a man’s man. He had spent thirty-two years in the Coast Guard as a noncommissioned officer, a chief bosun’s mate. He was a big man, and in his prime he had put on the gloves with Joe Louis. Officers greeted him first when he walked down the street. He could be rough and tumble. But do you know what he called his 265-pound son? “David dear.” I was “Kent dear,” and I did not mind at all. In fact, it made me feel great. He was not hung up on “Real men do not show affection.” In fact, he still kisses his grown son—a man’s man himself.

We are to be tender. Men are never manlier than when they are tender with their children—whether holding a baby in their arms, loving their grade-schooler, or hugging their teenager or adult children.

Here, a statement from the wise Christian philosopher Elton Trueblood is to the point, extending the principle further. A child, he says,

. . . needs also to know that his father and his mother are lovers, quite and apart from their relationship to him. It is the father’s responsibility to make the child know that he is deeply in love with the child’s mother. There is no good reason why all evidence of affection should be hidden or carried on in secret. A child who grows up with the realization that his parents are lovers has a wonderful basis of stability.

Tenderness—verbal and physical—comes naturally to a father living under God’s Word. Men, how do we measure up?

2. Discipline

Next, there is “training.” This is a strong word which means “discipline, even by punishment.” Pilate used the same word when he said of Jesus, “I will punish him and then release him” (Luke 23:16). Discipline certainly includes corporal discipline as needed. But it encompasses everything necessary to help “Train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). . . .

. . . continue reading at Crossway.

Kent Hughes

Dr. Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of practical theology at WTS.

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