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Father as Shepherd

The word father has so many different meanings. At its basest level, a father is the male genetic progenitor of a child or family. Certainly, this is biologically correct, but it is unfortunate that our focus on that particular attribute has also stripped the word of both its glory and its true significance. You can hear the daytime trash-TV talk host dramatically speaking to his male guest as a female guest sits smugly across the stage, “Bill, the results of the DNA test reveal that you are the father!” The scene leaves some with a feeling of elation, and others a feeling of relief, and still others with a feeling of disappointment. The audience almost always cheers. And while the transfer of male genetic material into the egg of a willing female recipient may spawn the label of father, it does not establish fatherhood. It only establishes responsibility that is either scorned and rejected, or celebrated and accepted.

It is the man who picks up and diligently shoulders that responsibility who is the actual father. This is why many step-dads are genuine fathers, and why many absentee biological fathers are simply donors of genetic material. But what exactly is the responsibility that must be shouldered by those who truthfully carry the name of father? It is to shepherd the children they have biologically fathered. It is to guide them, to protect them, to provide for them, but mostly to make sure that they are in an environment where they can grow and flourish into the kind of human being that God intended for the care of his creation. Earthly fathers are to emulate their heavenly father in his role as shepherd (Psalm 23:1-6).

Such a father will be a shepherd who strives to give his children a good environment in which to grow at their own pace (Psalm 23:1-2). He will lead them toward peace, while also working to rejuvenate, mend, build or lift their spirit (Psalm 23:3). He will guide them toward righteous choices and righteous worldviews (Psalm 23:3). He will do this primarily through living a righteous life, and giving his children an example to mirror. His children will not be riddled with fear, because they know that their father will always be there for them, even in their mistakes (Psalm 23:4). In fact, he will intentionally work to correct his children in such a way that his discipline becomes a source of comfort in a dark world, and his earnestness to protect them will foster faith and assurance (Psalm 23:4).

Such a father will be the progenitor of a line of confident people who feel secure in his house (Psalm 23:6). But most of all, they will emulate the shepherd that he was, and will in turn, raise Godly children and families who glorify the greatest shepherd of all (Psalm 23:1).

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