Imperfect Fathers Point to the Perfect Father


by John Ellis

Our daughter was just a week old when my wife and I ventured to the Super Wal-Mart with our new baby in tow. Her car seat fit snugly in the shopping cart, but I was still tense and wary as I pushed my precious cargo down the wide aisles. If anyone got too close, I squinted my eyes in disproval and stared them down. Items put in the cart had to be placed with the utmost tenderness and care so as not to disturb my sleeping, infant daughter. I was determined to protect my new daughter from all dangers; real, perceived, or plain made-up danger, it didn’t matter. In my new-daddy brain, my one and only job during that shopping trip was to make sure that nothing, and I mean nothing, bothered the new love of my life.

Though over-realized in a possibly comical way, my impulse during that shopping trip was good and correct. Fathers are supposed to protect their families, especially when their family members are highly vulnerable babies. In an important sense, I don’t think that that impulse should ever be allowed to divorce itself from the minds of dads. As silly as this sounds, there are times when I watch my children sleep, think about their futures, and then bemoan the fact that I won’t be around to help them through the toils and pains of their old age.

I was reminded of the fatherly impulse to protect this past week. I’ve already written one angle about the ceiling in my daughter’s room collapsing, but there’s another, more personal angle to the whole thing. I wasn’t prepared for how powerless the event has made me feel.

After everyone calmed down, and our two kids were snuggled in bed with mommy, I brewed a pot of coffee and sat on the couch. By then, it was almost time for me to wake up. No reason to go back to bed, I thought, besides, my bed was overcrowded.

Sitting on the couch, I couldn’t focus on the book I was trying to read. My children’s screams and terrified faces kept playing in my mind. Thinking back over it, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not being with them during their moment of terror. Things are always scarier in the dark and when you’re alone. I wished that I had been there to hold them during that moment and to shield them from the type of fear that comes from being alone. I felt guilty that I wasn’t there to protect my children and take some of their fear upon myself.

Of course, parents, myself included, realize that we can’t always be with our kids. Nor do we want to be, on one level. Part of growing up is learning how to make productive contact with life’s nasty curve balls. However, there are moments when we do want to be with our kids to help them walk through the hard circumstance, if not completely shield them from it. But we can’t, because we’re finite and imperfect.

Thankfully, imperfect fathers point to a Father who is perfect.

Those who are repenting of their sins and placing their faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ have a Father who will never “leave [them] nor forsake [them] (Hebrews 13:5).” Therefore, the writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 118:6 in the next verse and provides the encouraging declaration, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:6).”

Although I wasn’t with my children during that frightening moment when the ceiling came down, the event has provided me the opportunity to talk to my kids about the Father who will always be with them; who will never abandon them during whatever trials and sufferings come their way. I’ve been able to talk to my kids about what it means to be adopted into a family by a Father who is sovereign over all, is omnipresent, and who is working all things out for the good of His children.

Of course, for all of us, that should raise the question of whether God is indeed our Father or not. Have you been adopted into the family of God?

All humans are born in sin; our natural state is rebellion against God. In his letter to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Since God is holy[1] and just, He has to punish sin. To leave sin unpunished would mean that God would cease to be God, and that would have the further consequence of God abandoning His children. If God didn’t punish sin, imperfect fathers would not point to a perfect Father.

Even though humans have willfully rebelled against Him, God has provided a solution. Because of that solution, God has made a way to adopt sinful humans into His family.

Sending His son and the second Person of the Trinity to take on the frailty of human flesh, live the life of perfect obedience that none of us are capable of living but a life of perfect obedience that God demands, and then being punished through his death on the cross for the sins of His people and being vindicated as the just and justifier by his resurrection from the dead, God offers salvation from sin and death to those who turn from their sins and place their faith in Jesus.

That previous sentence is really long and violates several rules of grammar, but it’s included among the most important and true sentences that I have ever written. That sentence explains how God remains holy and satisfies His righteous justness all while providing a way of salvation for His people who are sinners. Because of God’s mercy and love, those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus are adopted into the family of the Creator of the Universe who will never forsake His children.

If, however, you haven’t repented of your sins and placed your faith in Jesus, imperfect fathers point to something truly terrible.

There is coming a day when King Jesus is going to return to complete the salvation he won for His people by his life, death, and resurrection. On that day, those who are repenting of their sins and placing their faith in him will be ushered into the new earth to live for all eternity in perfect fellowship with God their Father. That eternal life will be filled with feasting, unending joy, and the perfect worship of the Creator of the Universe. Those who have been adopted into God’s family will enjoy all the blessings that God promised throughout the Bible.

On the day of King Jesus’ return, those who are still rebelling against God will be formally sentenced to their eternal and just punishment. In the words of Jesus, those who are not included in the Kingdom of God through faith “will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).”

One day, those who have not repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus will find themselves all alone as they experience terror and suffering for all eternity. My inability to be with my children during their time of fear is only a small taste of what’s to come for those who continue to rebel against God. Imperfect fathers remind us that the world is broken, and apart from being adopted into the family of God, the terrors of this life are but a meager foreshadowing of the terrors and suffering to come. Repent and believe in the One who will never forsake nor abandon His own.

Soli Deo Gloria

[1] Holiness includes both separation from sin as well as the glory of God. In other words, God’s glory is utterly divorced from all sin.


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