Imitating the Greatest Father of Them All (an article from 2010)

April 25th, 2011 by BEBlogger

Years ago guitar great Chet Atkins wrote a song wherein he looked back with fondness on his father’s love and care.  In the song he relates how as a boy he put on his father’s hat, fixed the brim, and pretended to be him.  In adulthood the desire to be like his father remained.

I walked by the Salvation Army store.
Saw a hat like my daddy wore.
Put it on, and fixed the brim,
Still trying to be, like him.

With Fathers Day upon us, such nostalgic, sentimental thoughts are appropriate.  Yet not all have such fond memories of their fathers.

When in seminary in the early nineties, I served as part time pastor to a small country church.  One of my female parishioners – Sharon – related to me her bitterness toward her father who in her childhood had been an abusive alcoholic.  His character shaped her view of God so that as an adult she was loathe to call Him “Father.”

I’m certain Sharon is not alone, and no one should lightly dismiss her bitterness.  However, those who transfer this bitterness to God are misguided on several counts.

First, Jesus told His people to pray to “our Father in Heaven” and give Him the highest respect (Matthew 6:9).  To do otherwise is disobedience.

Second, Sharon and those like her have things backwards.  We are not to judge our Father in Heaven by the standard set by sinful earthly fathers, but are to judge our flawed fathers against the heavenly Father’s perfection.

Furthermore the perfect Father in Heaven supplies a refuge for those whose earthly fathers were abusive and unloving.  As a friend once told me, she had come from an abusive home, but God supplied the love, kindness, and support her earthly father failed to give.

Fourth, Jesus commands His people to not only pray to our “Father in Heaven,” but to imitate Him.  As He said in the Sermon on the Mount, “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Such perfection includes being gracious, kind, forbearing, forgiving, loving, patient, and generous, among other virtues.  No one denies that having an abusive father is a painful and traumatic burden to bear.  But what better way to show the flawed human father what he should be like, than by showing them by our words and deeds what our Father in Heaven is like.

And for those of us who know someone scarred by the abuse of a careless father, perhaps by our behavior we can offer them comfort, peace, and hope by showing them God the Father in us.

Chet Atkins put on his father’s hat, trying to be like him.  This Fathers Day, let those who claim the name of Jesus Christ put on their Father’s hat, and show the world what He is like.  Sharon – and many more like her – need to see Him.