Am I a Good Christian Father?

Do you ever wonder if you’re a good Christian father, or if you’re ready to be? What does it even mean to be a good Christian father?

Most of the “rules” in the Bible regarding parent-child relationships are more to do with how to be a good child than how to be a good parent. There is no simple checklist, but we can still get a pretty good idea from scripture.

Dealing with Your Own Demons

One of the first things you might ask yourself is whether you can be a good Christian father if you have a checkered past yourself. This is a tough question. On one hand, in Exodus the Lord says,

“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”

Exodus 20:5

These are strong words, suggesting that a father does need to be a good man before he can be a good father. And we see this play out in society: children who run into trouble with the law, with substances, with other difficult life situations, often come from homes with troubled parents. 

On the other hand, Ezekiel says,

“The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”

Ezekiel 18:20

If you are afraid of things you’ve done affecting your children, try to put those activities behind you. Make a commitment not to do those things anymore and consider making a confession. This can be to a priest or minister, a person you’ve wronged, a therapist or mentor, or as part of a 12-step program.

If you can, use that life experience to steer your children away from your own demons. But don’t worry about God punishing your children for mistakes you may have made earlier in life.

Of course, this passage also means that you have to live your own life. Your children will make mistakes too, and all that you can do is your best

Finding Balance in Discipline

While we’re on the topic of steering children in the right direction, one of the hardest parts of being a parent is managing discipline.

There’s a whole section on this in the twelfth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews that goes so far as to say that anyone who is not disciplined is not a son or daughter but an “illegitimate child” (Hebrews 12:8).

“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it…No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Hebrews 12:9, 11

No good Christian father should enjoy disciplining their children, but no good Christian father should be afraid to discipline either. The role of discipline is to teach with love what the world would enforce with indifference.

“Discipline” actually comes from the Latin discipulus, which means “student”—like the “disciples” of Christ.

Remembering Pride and Praise

Of course, steering children doesn’t only mean disciplining them when they do wrong. It also means praising them and being proud of their good decisions and accomplishments. In fact, having pride in children is mentioned in the Bible far more often than discipline.

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”

Proverbs 23:24

Keep in mind, too, that the whole purpose of all of this discipline and pride is to see the children grow up and sometimes grow away. In fact, the very first time that fathers and fatherhood are mentioned in the Bible, it is in describing children growing up and moving out:

“A man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24

This Isn’t Pass/Fail

In the end, the Bible doesn’t give you boxes to check off or a grade to earn when it comes to being a good Christian father. But, if you try to be a good Christian for yourself and try to be a good father for your children, you’re probably on the right track.

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