a time to remind fathers to bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) by “encouraging, comforting and urging them to live lives worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:11-12)
a time to remind fathers to work at leaving a positive impression on their children, not to provoke or exasperate them (Eph. 6:4)
Father’s Day is a Time to Remind Children
a time to remind children that to honor and obey their fathers isn’t just for the benefit of the parent but also for their own good “so that it may go well with” (Prov. 19:26; 20:20; 23:22; Eph. 6:1-3)
a time to remind children of the joy they can bring to their father by living wisely, not merely by what they say on this one special day (Prov. 15:20; 23:24-25; 29:3)
Father’s Day is a Time to Remember the Greatest Father
a time to remember God as “a father to the fatherless” (Ps. 27:10; 68:5) who comforts those who did not grow up with a father or who perhaps had an ungodly father who wasn’t there for them as he should have been
a time to remember God as the Greatest Father who can serve as a role model for earthly fathers (Matt. 7:9-11; Heb. 12:7-10; 1 Jn. 3:1)
Sometimes the people who are supposed to love and care for us the most are the ones who abandon, neglect, or abuse us. The question is asked, “How do I get to the point of being able to forgive them?”
I am going to make three suggestions that I trust will not sound too trite because they are anything but that. Getting to the point where you are able to do these suggestions is monumental when you have suffered at the hand of a parent.
1) Gain a biblical perspective.
God’s command to “honor” our parents comes without qualification. And, His Word specifically warns against scorning them (Prov. 20:20; 28:24; 30:11,17), letting us know that it is destructive for us to do so. Yet, the Bible nowhere tells us to accept abandonment, neglect, or abuse as normal or acceptable. We can “honor” them as our parents without agreeing with them or condoning what they do. Likewise, forgiving someone does not mean we agree with, condone, or even forget what they’ve done. Rather, we are not holding it against them. We are unlikely to honor them if we do not forgive them and vice versa.
2) Transfer your dependence onto the Lord.
Part of the anger and resentment we hold over these kinds of parents comes because we feel betrayed by them, the ones who were supposed to love, care for, and protect us. Accept that your parent may never be what you want or need him/her to be. Rely on the Lord to be there for you, to be the One who will meet your innermost needs. — “Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” (Ps. 27:10) We will not forgive until we let go of our anger. We will not let go of our anger until we let go of our expectations.
3) Relinquish control to the Lord.
When a parent or other significant adult in our lives has harmed us in some way (physical or emotional), we tend to become self-protective. We are going to do whatever is within our power to shield ourselves. To forgive may seem like you are letting that person win, like you are relinquishing control or power to them. However, by forgiving, you are actually helping yourself become whole. You will not truly heal until you forgive. To be able to choose to forgive, you will need to turn over that control to the Lord who has promised to be there for you. That does not mean you will never need to put boundaries in place to protect yourself from the dysfunction. But, you will be doing it for healing purposes, not simply to protect yourself.
Scripture makes no exceptions on whom we are to forgive (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). When we don’t forgive, it not only keeps a wedge between us and the other person but also hinders fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 6:12-15). Maybe your parent doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Neither do any of us merit God’s forgiveness yet He went so far as to send Jesus to die for us so we could be forgiven. For the sake of the Lord and your relationship with Him, as well as your own inner healing, ask God to help you let go of your anger, bitterness, and resentment and forgive as He has forgiven you.
Before getting into what Mother’s Day is, we should look at what this holiday is not.
Mother’s Day is not in the Bible.
We can find verses where mothers are recognized. Proverbs 31 states that the children of a godly woman will “arise and call her blessed.” The Apostle Paul called attention to the contribution of Timothy’s mother & grandmother in his life (2 Tim. 1:5). And, we can find verses in the Bible about honoring our parents which goes beyond verbal recognition and certainly extends beyond what is done on one special day (Ex. 20:12; Matt. 15:4-6; Eph. 6:1-3). But, Scripture does not command us, or even suggest, that we set aside a special day to do so. Consequently, this is a holiday about which we must develop personal convictions for celebrating it and we must also respect others for their opinions about it. Let’s apply Romans 14:5-8 to Mother’s Day.
Now let’s consider what Mother’s Day is . . .
Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate motherhood.
God created women as the ones to bear children. But, there is more that goes into being a parent than biology such as nurturing and teaching them. Consequently, on mother’s day we also celebrate those who have adopted, caring for and loving the child as one’s own. In celebrating motherhood we thereby honor God’s design. Let’s be sure to direct praise to Him, not just to the mothers among us.
Mother’s day is a time to make moms feel special.
Motherhood is an awesome responsibility that isn’t easy. Sometimes moms can use a reminder of how worthwhile it is to be a mom. Let’s get beyond the casual greetings to sharing how they have made a positive impact in our lives so “she who gave you birth be joyful!” (Prov. 23:25).
Mother’s Day is merely one day to honor our mothers.
The Ten Commandments include that we are to honor our mothers and fathers (Ex. 20:12), a command which Jesus reinforced (Matt. 15:4-6). Ephesians 6:1-3 instructs us to both honor and obey them. All of these commands fail to provide any time reference, meaning that we should honor them all of our days, not just on Mother’s Day. Let’s use Mother’s Day as a reminder for how we should treat them throughout the year.
Mother’s Day is hard for those whose mothers have not followed God’s design.
Not all mothers provide their children with the caring nurture and love God intends. Some mothers abandon, neglect, or abuse their children. Mother’s Day serves as a negative reminder for those who have suffered because of the mother they had. They are not able to “arise and call her blessed” (Prov. 31:28). As followers of Christ, we need to work through our past to get to the point where we can extend forgiveness, just as Jesus forgave those who put Him on the cross, but Mother’s Day will undoubtedly still be difficult. Remember that Proverbs 31 refers to the mothers of “noble character” (Prov. 31:10). Let’s not judge people who struggle on this day but instead be compassionate and understanding.
Mother’s Day is a day to remember mothers who are no longer with us.
Many will only have memories on this holiday. Especially for those with a recent loss, but even for those whose mother died years ago, this holiday can stir up grief all over again. Some might even feel guilty, regretting that they didn’t take the time to express their love and appreciation while their mother still lived. Let’s be aware of those around us who need some comfort.
Mother’s Day is a time to be sensitive.
As already noted, not everyone’s mother is still living. Not everyone has a good mother. Some want to be mothers and can’t. While we might want to use this holiday to celebrate motherhood in the church, let’s do it in a way that is respectful and encouraging to all.
The scene repeats itself at churches across the land. It’s Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and the service revolves around this parent. Certainly we do well to honor or celebrate mothers and fathers but let’s be sensitive.
Sitting among your congregation will be men and women who:
never had children
can’t have children and ache because of it
lost a child to death
hope to yet have children
Sitting among your congregation will be people, young and old, who grieve or struggle because they:
lost their mother or father to death, some even recently
never knew their mother or father
were abused or neglected by a mother or father
are estranged from a mother or father
I know of many people who stay home on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day because of the way the church handles this holiday. It’s too painful. It isn’t relevant. — How sad that they don’t feel like they’ll get anything out of gathering with the Body that day. How sad that they don’t trust us to be sensitive enough to their situations. How sad that they don’t seek comfort on this hurtful day among the Body of Christ but rather feel the need to retreat.
Let’s be sensitive on Mother’s and Father’s day by thinking through:
how much emphasis is placed on it
how things are worded
how you single out people … careful not to make one look superior to the other
how gifts are distributed
how obvious you make it that some in your midst are not mothers or fathers
We need to be careful at the same time that we are not being fake in our representation or obvious in our inclusion of people in these different situations.
The way to avoid that is to have a year-round environment …
where people in all statuses and situations of life feel accepted and like they belong.
where individuals’ life stages are acknowledged and needs are met but yet they are not segregated from the whole.
It’s called body life … unity … true fellowship … where we can meet with all of our differences and be better because of it.
In this kind of environment you will have more of a tendency to simply be sensitive and not have to guard yourself on holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day. You will come across genuine because you are. If this kind of environment isn’t built throughout the year, special emphasis on certain segments can make others feel like they aren’t important or that their pain will be ignored.
A Father’s Day bulletin and bookmark with the same message quotes Oswald Chambers:
“The destiny of every human being depends on his relationship to Jesus Christ. It is not on his relationship to life, or to his service or his usefulness, but simply and solely on his relationship to Jesus Christ.”
So often men tend to find their worth in achievements and how well they fulfill their roles or positions in life … like fatherhood. This quote emphasizes that what matters most is that you know Christ. That leads me to the next message I came across on another bulletin and bookmark which only makes sense if the father has that relationship with Jesus.
“The greatest gift a father can give his children is to walk in the footsteps of God.”
The father’s example will leave a much greater impact on his children than words alone could ever do. A Pass It On Card provides an acronym for what it will take:
D.A.D. – Dedicated And Devoted
When fathers are first and foremost dedicated and devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ they will be to their children what they should be. What greater gift could a father give?
God places responsibility on both children and parents:
Children – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother” (Eph. 6:1-3).
Parents – “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Deuteronomy 6:4-9 provides a good pattern for the consistency with which a parent is to nurture children in the ways of the Lord. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp looks at parenting as more of a discipleship process than merely a caretaking role. (The book link will take you to our affiliate bookstore.)
The church should not be usurping the responsibility of parents for instructing their children in the ways of the Lord. Rather, the church should be holding them accountable and training them to do their God-given part.
What are we doing in the church to encourage healthy parent-child relationships?