Are you still looking for a gift for Dad after Father’s Day? I have a great idea for you; how about a love-wrapped package of forgiveness?
You don’t even have to tell him that you forgave him. In fact, to do that might even open a whole new “can of worms.” He may be clueless about why you could possibly be angry with him and be insulted that you could not see what a great dad he thought he was.
Hopefully, you already found a nice gift for the old man and yes, the thought really is what matters most. Stuff is just stuff, but honor has eternal value. God says so.
He commands us to honor our parents and even presents a very attractive incentive to do so. (Deuteronomy 5:16) Things going well for us and living long in the land are certainly incentives well worth an effort to comply with God’s wishes, don’t you think?
Maybe you gave up on the old geezer years ago and just don’t even care about him anymore. Maybe you even hate his guts. It’s possible that you have good reasons for those feelings. It is amazing to me just how many people who are out there carrying a heavy burden of “father wounds” deep within their souls.
That is especially true in this present generation where fatherhood (patriarchy) has been besmirched as an unfortunate construct of society from which all the evils of Western Civilization have their origin. Do we even need fathers anymore in an age where gender is no longer a settled biological scientific fact of life? It’s a “brave new world” we live in, folks!
Okay, the Bible confirms the fact that the first patriarch, Adam, messed it up for all of us. I’ll give you that. He was deceived, along with his helpmate, Eve, and so their disobedience to God’s instruction resulted in a curse that infects all of us, some more than others so it seems. The firstborn child of an earthly father even murdered his own brother in a jealous rage. That was not an encouraging beginning for mankind, to say the least!
Bottom line, sin has always been the origin of our earthly troubles and that has not changed. It continues to be passed on from one generation to the next.
It is little wonder that the issue of fatherhood is a key factor in the current social dysfunction we face in the USA and possibly in all modern civilization. Original sin is real. Everybody is infected by it and the results are obvious. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
The question most vital to us today was asked way back on the Day of Pentecost after Saint Peter’s sermon, “What must we do”? (Acts 2:37ff). His answer was simply that we need to repent for our sins and be baptized. The result is that we are also promised that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth and empower us to live a holy life.
Wow! Is it really that simple? It would be if we didn’t complicate it with our doubts and fears. That’s where the wisdom of this age would take us if we let it.
What does repentance look like, anyway? Feeling sorrow for what we did wrong might be a good start but means nothing if we refuse to take stock of our misdeeds and resolve to change our heart and mind.
We are promised that if we confess our sins God will forgive us (1 John 1:9). That requires intention and purpose. It also requires a lot of help from the Holy Spirit. Taking ownership of our wrongdoing is not easy. We all tend to fall back on self-justification to avoid facing our own guilt. We blame others for the consequences of our own bad choices. That certainly is the case when it comes to our “father wounds.”
When we repent and receive God’s forgiveness, He expects us to forgive others in the same manner. As the Apostle Paul admonishes us in Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
That, my friends, is a very big deal. The Lord has forgiven us completely and unconditionally. How can we purposely hold it back from anyone else, especially our own flesh and blood? Resentment is ungodly and dangerous. Those who intentionally harbor it are godless. (Job 36:13)
It has been explained to me as being like drinking poison and then watching to see if the other person will die. It is not only ungodly, but also self-destructive. We could all do ourselves a favor and release everyone from our resentment completely and unconditionally. That should include our father.
My dad was a child of the Great Depression. Growing up on a failing farm in Iowa was especially tough. A lot was expected of him at a very early age. When the farm was finally lost to foreclosure his future grew dim and his father’s depression grew even dimmer. After graduating from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy. That was a living, as well as an escape. Not long afterwards he found himself in serious war and in harm’s way, spending several months at a time away from our family with a lot of uncertainty about his future
By the time I met him at three years old he was a crusty no-nonsense Navy chief. I didn’t like him and his strict discipline. He was slow to express any affirmation despite my constant efforts to prove him wrong concerning his negative opinions about me. Resentment took root in my heart and hid for years there.
Life goes on and so did I. After leaving home for university, I never really returned. I went on with my life. I got married and had my own three kids. I vowed that I would be a much better father than mine was and did all the stuff that good fathers do, so I thought.
My wife and I had become Spirit-filled Christians and I had been in full time Christian ministry for a few years when God suddenly interrupted my complacency with a wakeup call. It was a phone call from my mother informing me that Dad was in the emergency room at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth and not expected to survive an aneurysm that surgeons were having problems finding and repairing.
I made the long night’s drive up there from Georgia just to be a support to the family. It was on the way that I had a visitation from and conversation, maybe even some wrestling with the Holy Spirit about forgiveness. I needed to surrender all my hurt and hard feelings to the Lord if I were to expect the same mercy and forgiveness from my own kids. I am so grateful that I was able to do that.
I just prayed for forgiveness for my own rebellion, then I unconditionally forgave my father for everything I perceived to be an offense to me. What freedom that brought! I never told Dad about my encounter with the Lord, but he knew something was different between us.
When I got to the hospital, I was able to go in to see him. I held his hand, told him that I loved him, and asked if I could pray for him. He seemed a bit overwhelmed but nodded that it was okay. I prayed a prayer of hope with confidence, kissed him on his forehead, told him that I loved him and took my seat in the waiting room with my mother.
Within a half hour, the doctor came out and gave us the good news that Dad was going to make it. What joy that was. I stayed with Mama for a few days, then returned to Georgia feeling the freedom that forgiveness gives you when you give it to someone else whom you love. From that day on, I hugged Dad every time I saw him. He would briefly return them.
His stoic farm and Navy nature were always evident, but slowly he began to hold the hug longer. I liked that. The last time I saw him alive he held on longer than I did. Then, for the first time that I could ever remember, he said, “I love you” before I did. It felt great. God is good.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]