Defining the Relationship (Part 4): Father
Three months ago I wrote to you that I thought it would be of some benefit for us to define our relationship and that I thought I Thessalonians 2 would guide us well in this. Two months ago I suggested it would be good to see ourselves as “brothers and sisters” in Christ. I am your brother. Brother picks up the idea that we will do a lot together, share many things, from stories and songs to sickness and suffering. We are to pray for each other, encourage each other. Brother also reminds us that we have an elder brother, Jesus, and that we ought to live with our eyes admiring Him. At the same time, brother isn’t the whole picture. Last month, we added the picture of “mother”. The relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians was one of gentleness, of affection, of desiring the good of the congregation, of sharing his life with them, of being willing to sacrifice time and energy and resources for their benefit. Like a nursing mother caring for her own children.
Still, there is more to this relationship than brother and mother.
As a child, my dad taught me many things. Mathematics was his specialty and so I was trained to think analytically … and to work problems quickly. I still remember breakfast as a kindergartner where we got pop tarts or cereal, a glass of milk and a written math quiz / speed drill. As I got older, he pushed me to take higher levels of math and for a while after college, I did some tutoring and even contemplated teaching math. Of course the Lord had different plans for me. But the experience of his loving push, high expectations (both in effort and character), and encouragement when things were difficult, these things stuck with me, even if occupationally I moved away from mathematics.
The apostle Paul describes his relationship with Thessalonians in this kind of way. He says,
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (I Thessalonians 2:11)
My work as your pastor is to be father-like in this way … exhorting you, encouraging you and charging or calling you to a high calling, to live your life in a Christ-like way, in a manner worthy of the One who called you in the first place! I try to do this in my preaching and teaching, and in my conversations with you. I try to live consistent with the message I preach. When I fail to do this well, I am glad that our heavenly Father is always patient, always working, always calling us to a better way, never neglecting those who belong to Him … and so I can cry out to Him for forgiveness, and ask Him to help me to be the pastor-father I ought to be.
As I strive to be a pastor-father, my hope is that the encouragement, exhortation and charges that I give in Christ’s Name will be received with open hearts and that you will hear the words I speak as words from someone who cares for you in Christ, like a father with his children.