The God-appointed roles of a father are to be the Pastor, Provider, and Protector of the home. Any father that fails in one or more of these vial roles inflicts some degree of a fatherhood abandonment wound on his children.
In our sinful and corrupt world, most men have experienced some type of wound from their father through his failing in one or more of these critical and God-ordained roles.
Biblical Fatherhood Transcends Biology
Practically and biblically speaking, being a father is not simply impregnating a woman. When a father spiritually or physically abandons the family or significantly fails in his vital, God-set roles, he harms his wife and children and creates a vacuum that his wife cannot fill.
Despite what our culture preaches today, no matter how hard a woman tries, or how gifted, intelligent, and well-intended she is, she simply cannot effectively lead a boy into manhood.
If we are to live out our God-ordained roles as fathers, it’s important that we understand what these roles are. So let’s take a look at each of these roles: Pastor, Provider, and Protector.
Some men incorrectly think of pastors only as those who shepherd a church. In fact, every Christian father who serves as the spiritual leader and moral compass of the family is the pastor of a small church, i.e. a group of followers – his family. As a Christian man grows spiritually himself, his life begins to conform more and more to Christ’s living example, loving what God loves and serving others as Christ does. As an active and present model of Christ before his family, a father needs to teach his children how to read the Scripture, how to pray, and how to follow Jesus in every aspect of life.
As renowned Christian family and marriage counselor, Dr. James C. Dobson, guides: Fathers are to tell, show, and do – every day and in every way!
Through Moses, God commanded Israel to:
“…love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:5–7 ESV)
Being the spiritual leader is not just about taking your children to church on Sunday morning. It’s not just about praying before meals. It’s not just about witnessing through the cross worn on a necklace around one’s neck. It IS about how we profoundly love and follow God in every part of every day. In this, a father is not just leading spiritually through his own walk, but setting the moral compass of the family to reflect everything that honors God. If your father is/was not a Christian, then this component was either lacking or he was modeling completely in the wrong direction.
Sadly, even pastors and the most devout Christian men can fail in this area, leaving a hole in the lives of their children.
A father is to teach his children directly from the Bible and apply it to his life and theirs. We’re instructed to help children memorize it or bind scripture to their hearts and minds (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). It’s the father’s job to know the Lord and disciple his children. This means passing along all that Jesus taught and commanded, so that they too can repent of their sins and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
As the father teaches children the ways of God, he will know their spiritual strengths and weak- nesses and can help them in their spiritual journey. He will also develop a spiritual kinship and connection with his children that will continue even as they are launched from the home and into adulthood.
A father provides an earthly example of the love of God for his children. This is demonstrated in three key manners. The first is how a husband loves his wife. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25–28 ESV)
God loved His children so much that He gave His own Son that they might have life and be adopted into His family. Men are then commanded to show this same sacrificial love and provision for their wives. When a man gives of himself for his wife, his children cannot help but take notice and work to imitate his example.
While having a marriage covenant does not ensure a man will give of himself this way, and he may choose to rebel against the Lord’s commands, the lack of a marriage commitment demonstrates his refusal to be committed and self-sacrificing.
This commitment before one another and the Lord is becoming extremely counter-cultural today where simple “partnership” and co-habitation out of convenience – a lack of commitment – is trending among couples under 30 in the United States and all over the world.
The second is how a father provides love for his children. Again, the Apostle Paul tells fathers:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)
A father shows love to his children by not pushing them to the breaking point where they feel their only outlet is uncontrolled anger.
Additionally, fathers lovingly come alongside his children and teaches them about Christ. Often this teaching involves correcting sinful behavior and helping them learn to replace bad behavior with actions that reflect Christ and honor God. The entire charge is for fathers to temper their instruction and not provoke anger through harsh discipline, poor communication, perfectionism, or their own sin. Instead, fathers are to seek to produce Godly character in his children.
A father also shows love to his children through proper physical affection. The power of physical contact is deeply affirming of emotional connection. Knowing that your father loves you as evidenced by his hugs or kisses is an essential part of becoming a man. When a father is distant physically or is abusive rather than loving it affects us deeply as human beings. We so naturally crave affirmation and attention that, especially as children, we can even interpret negativity and violent attention as coming from “love.” But this is a lie. Our Heavenly Father makes clear the association between love and discipline.
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Revelation 3:19 NIV)
Love often brings discipline but should never damage a person or convince them that hatred is love or vice versa. Without positive physical acts of love, children will look to others to fulfill this need. This nearly always ends in our developing unhealthy relationships that revolve around our own needs rather than in a mutually loving relationship. A father’s love for his children is vital to their growing up healthy and in the direction God intended.
Finally, a father provides for the physical needs of his children. The Apostle Paul says,
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)
It is the duty of a father to provide food, shelter, and physical instruction for his family, but especially for his children as they are dependent on him in their weakness and vulnerability. If a man is unable to perform this because of a physical limitation that prevents him from working, he is still responsible for ensuring that his children are provided for. This means caring for and managing the needs of his wife and children as well as providing financially. Not being able to work does not remove this responsibility from the man; it merely impacts the ways he can seek to provide.
A father will stand in ready defense of any who wish to harm his children or his family, all the while modeling for his son what it means to defend those in need and the innocent. When a father acts as a Protector he is first and foremost modeling his Heavenly Father who is,
“…our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1–3 ESV).
God is the defender of all who call on His name, and especially of the weak and oppressed. In the family this protection responsibility must be accepted by the father, and the more he knows the heart of God the more he imitates His ways.
The father is the natural defender of the home, providing a secure living environment. A father also provides protection by teaching his children to protect themselves in his absence and to defend those weaker than themselves. As children grow, they become an extension of physical protection for themselves, their current family, and their future family because of their father’s instruction and example.
Without the physical protection of a father in the home, children are exposed to evil – and can be easily lured into horrific lives of destruction that including crime, sexual abuse, and even slavery and other unthinkable acts of sinful behavior.
If the man’s example is one of frequent violence, then his son may grow up believing that abusing women and others is acceptable, which is in direct contrast to the nature of our Lord’s instruction and example.
Children naturally and emotionally depend on the protection of their father. That protection reinforces that they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27–31) and are the most valuable part of creation. Self-worth is first built in children by the lessons and affirmation of mom and dad – period. This foundation, or lack of foundation, of their identity in Christ and self-worth can last a lifetime.
It’s important to note that children who grow up with low self-worth and poor self-image also struggle with seeing and believing the truth about the value God has placed on them. They are priceless to their Heavenly Father and it is the critical role of their earthly father to express and defend that truth.
It is simple, clear, and true: Fathers were designed by God to fill each of these vital roles and for his children to develop and thrive, he MUST be an effective Pastor, Provider, and Protector. When we fail to fulfill our divine purpose, these failures scar our children in profound and lasting ways.
To learn more about the three roles of biblical fathers, and to explore some of the most common types of fatherless wounds, order your copy of Man Enough to Forgive today.