“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians 6:4 NLT
Provoking children. Now what does that look like? It implies behaviour that ridicules, teases, and demeans. Perhaps physical or sexual abuse. Neglect, ignoring them, making them look small in front of their friends. The list is endless. And notice what this verse says. It is the fathers who are told what not to do, not the mothers. The fathers have the responsibility to lead in the family, and particularly in the way their children should be treated. I can remember being in a house where one of my friends was getting a good telling off from his mother. And her rant ended with, “Wait until your father gets home – you’ll know all about it then!”. This was a family that knew where the buck stopped. And no doubt his bottom was rather warmer, after the encounter with his father, than it was before. It is so sad today that so many children grow up without a father figure in their home. A hole in their lives that their mothers do their best to fill, but a hole nevertheless.
Many adults fail to have a positive and loving relationship with their Heavenly Father because of a bad experience of their own father. They can develop a picture of God that is based on someone who is never there for them, who is a strict and unloving disciplinarian, a misogynist who may be ineffective and laughable, pathetic and to be ignored most of the time. When older, they have to go through a re-learning process of what being a true father is really all about.
So how should a father treat his children? With love and respect. Always helping them. Teaching them life-skills. Affirming them. Being fair with them. Lovingly disciplining them. Supporting them in their difficulties. Standing up for them when they are being treated unfairly. Spending time with them. Pouring out his love for them. And above all, teaching them God’s ways – how to pray, how to read His Word. Exampling God’s love for them. It is not to say that children will never go on to do wrong, but it will mean that their relationship with their father will prevail in the end.
To be a father is far more than a brief sexual encounter. It involves a life-time commitment, and God’s input to lead him in the right paths.