A Man Worth Emulating

My friend Ned posted a link to this blog post, where someone has written a short meditation on a piece of artwork from a book Ned edited and published. The book and the link are worth a perusal. (I can’t speak for the rest of the blog. It’s new to me.)

The blogger writes: “It was about 17 years ago that I sat down and tried to find a father/husband in the Bible who was worth emulating. After looking at all of the men I could find, I ultimately landed on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, and the father in [the story of the prodigal son].” It is, as the Italians say, strano ma vero, strange but true that there are a heck of a lot of Bible dads who drop the ball, parentally speaking. Adam, first man, raised Cain, first murderer. Abraham, the father of nations and spiritual father for us all, begat Isaac, the only one of the patriarchs who ages into an old fool. And don’t get me started on the book of Samuel. The only man in that story who raises a good son is Saul. Samuel’s take bribes. David’s rebel.

Still, what’s hidden in that phrase “worth emulating?” Are there no husbands and fathers in the Bible who are righteous, courageous, and self-sacrificing? Noah obeyed the voice of God and preserved his family in the flood. Abraham protected his wife from the wolf Pharaoh and the lion Abimelech. Jacob blessed his sons with great blessings. Caleb found a noble husband for his daughter Achsah. Boaz spread his redeeming wings over Ruth. Job sacrificed for his sons and daughters on a daily basis. Solomon wrote an entire book of wisdom for his son (who seems to have not paid attention to it). And what about Christ himself, the bridegroom who gave His life for His bride?

It’s not that the men in this list didn’t have faults (other than the last one, of course). But are perfect role models the only ones worth emulating? The author of Hebrews ought to have included discretionary asides about the sins of Isaac, Barak, Samson, and David in the “catalogue of the saints” so that we wouldn’t get the wrong idea and – oh, mercy! – imitate them. The men and women we read about in the Bible were sinners, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the examples of righteousness they set for us.

A Man is Fit to Burst

Rachel Jankovic’s second book on raising kids, Fit to Burst, had some really good sections that I, as a part-time stay-at-home dad, want to remember. And, as the wise man said, blogging something is the best way to remember it.

In Christian circles there is constant talk about free salvation. It is free, thank God. But it is only free to us. God paid a great price for it. Jesus paid with His blood. It is free to us because someone else paid a great deal. And this is why we do not work out our salvation by never doing anything that might be hard or difficult to us. We imitate Christ, and we make sacrifices for others. We do things that are hard, that cost us much, because we want our gifts to be free to others.

It can be tricky to walk the line between “by grace you have been saved” and “work out your own salvation.” Why try to do good works when salvation is given freely? Rachel gets right at the heart of it here. Salvation is given freely, but that’s only possibly because Jesus paid for it dearly. Rachel ties this to parenting by making the point that the gifts your children receive may be free to them, but they most likely came at a heavy cost to you (straining the budget, staying up late, long days at work). Like God, we joyfully pay the price so that others can receive freely.

Lord willing, your kids pay it forward.

You would like to see your kids taking what they were freely given and turning it into still more free giving. This is because God’s story is never little. He works in generations, in lifetimes, and He wants us to do the same.

I love how Rachel emphasizes the generational scope of God’s promises. Good stuff.

Another:

Good leadership is engaged and involved the whole time. It is clear about expectations and consistent about consequences. But good leadership always starts with the leader. It always starts with what you expect of yourself. If you are engaged in disciplining yourself, your children will know.

One way children learn self-discipline is by seeing their parents act it out. Someone (I forget who) used the analogy of the new recruits who think the drill sergeant is being harsh when he drags them out of bed at five in the morning. The recruits forget that the sergeant had to drag himself out of bed at 4:30 in order to give them their unwelcome wake-up call. Leaders are held to a higher standard. That’s as it should be.

One more:

In our house, we make a point to discipline only when we have a biblical name for the offense, because we want our children to know that what we are doing is enforcing God’s law. So they would know they are being disciplined for disobeying their parents, not splashing in the sink.

Just a good rule of thumb: if you can’t name the sin, don’t discipline for it. You can make a rule against splashing in the sink if you want to, but then the kids will be disciplined for breaking the rule, not for their overexuberance.