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Whenever Fathers Day rolls around, people do their best to say something positive and sentimental about fathers. But behind the sentiment lies the sad truth that a high percentage of us have negative feelings about our fathers. Many have been estranged from them for years, and more than a few will express bitter hatred if given a sympathetic audience.

What is most surprising about this is that half of those people who are so upset with their fathers are likely to become fathers themselves one day. Unless they are able to locate the deeper causes of such a widespread reaction against fathers, chances are that their own children will end up feeling the same way toward them.

People who feel their fathers were too harsh often react by being too soft, little realising that fathers get rubbished for being too soft as well as getting rubbished for being too harsh. People whose fathers drank or didn't go to church become tea-totallers and start attending church, little realising that churchy fathers upset their kids every bit as much as non-churchy fathers.

So what is it about fathers that so upsets everyone?

Jesus seemed to see a significant relationship between fathers and God. His favorite (and almost only) name for God was "the Father". He said that God wants to give good things to his children in the same way that earthly fathers want to give good things to their children. (Luke 11:11-13)

But do earthly fathers really want to give good things to their children? Ask a few of their children and you may get quite a different answer to what the fathers themselves would say. It may well be that fathers today are a lot worse than fathers in Jesus' day. Or it may be that kids are worse. Or maybe both.

Let's look closer at what Jesus said. He said, " then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children..." In other words, despite their natural weaknesses (their evil-ness), fathers (and probably mothers too) generally want to do what is best for their children, and to be regarded by them as being loving parents. Fathers, being evil, at least want to give good gifts to their children. And if Jesus is right, they also know how to give good gifts to their children... even if their children don't like what they get.

But if we leave God out of the picture, something goes wrong... and it has. The same fathers who were genuinely seeking what was best for their children end up giving in to fits of rage, or spoiling them in order to buy their love. We need help from God to avoid both extremes.

And children who are genuinely submitted to God will be able, in faith, to recognise and appreciate the love that exists even behind clumsy, selfish attempts by parents to express their love.

In another place, Jesus said that we must be willing to reject our parents (and our kids), even to the point of appearing to hate them at times, if we are to establish the proper parent-child relationship which we should have with our heavenly Father. He says that we should call no one "father" on earth, but only God. And all of this must be done in accord with his greater commandment to love others as we love ourselves. He even includes a warning about children using the teaching that God must be first, as an excuse to be disrespectful to parents. (Mark 7:11)

It may well be that the world's rebellion against fathers in general is evidence of a deeper rebellion against our heavenly Father.

We can put it all together by showing all the love and respect that we possibly can muster to our parents, without letting them hold us back from growing into adulthood and full-on commitment to all that Jesus taught.

As we seek to grasp the truths and obey the precepts that Jesus has given to us, we will discover that any good father disciplines his children at times. (Hebrews 12:6-7) We will develop respect for God's authority, and we will develop the ability to overcome the selfish, rebellious nature in ourselves that so often puts the blame on our fathers for our own spiritual faults.

In conclusion, we would agree that much of the problem between the generations comes because parents have lost touch with God and abused their role; but we also believe that more could and should be done by their offspring to rectify the situation through establishing contact with God ourselves, rather than just putting the blame on our parents. Unless we do establish this intimate relationship with God, it is almost certain that what we have come to hate in our parents will eventually be manifested in ourselves (although possibly in a slightly different form).

(See also In the Name of the Father.)

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