Fathers, Failures, And Forgiveness

Genesis 35:22-26, “Now there were twelve sons of Jacob – the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher.

Fathers. Before we get too far here you need to know that you will not need your torch and pitchfork. We are not about to embark on a mission to “kill the beast.” No monsters to hunt down and destroy. No crazy crusade. No witch hunt or inquisition. See, I should probably warn you here at the beginning. I don’t ride on that bandwagon. Fathers are not the ones to blame for every familial dysfunction and societal wrong. I do not deny that fathers have a tremendous influence and impact in the lives of their children. I understand. I had a father. I am a father. I spent almost 2 decades working in some of the most desperate ghettos in America. I have seen firsthand the damage and devastation that has been created by absentee fathers.

Our fallen flesh loves to find fault and cast blame. Why be accountable if I can place the responsibility at someone else’s feet? As a result, fathers have become an easy target. Now, I am not minimizing real situations of abuse and abandonment. (But even then the time comes when we have to recognize that God’s plans are not limited by our past. In Christ I can overcome any and all past hurts and obstacles.) What I am speaking about is our current penchant for refusing to accept responsibility for our own personal character and choices. At some point we need to “grow up.” Many of us are in a mess of our own making. Dad is no more to blame for the current state of affairs in our life than the person who bags our groceries at the local supermarket. Dad may have been a mitigating factor but stop allowing him to be your excuse.

Ok. Take a breath. Sorry. Had to vent for a minute. Just wanted to make certain we were on the same page here…

Jacob certainly made his share of mistakes as a father. Where do we start? 2 wives? 2 concubines?!!? This family had issues long before the children entered the picture. But even then, there were little signs all along the way. Jacob kept his silence when his eldest son, Reuben, slept with his father’s concubine. Jacob lavished overt favoritism on one child at the expense of the others. Jacob failed to intervene when it became clear that hostility was brewing amongst his children. Yeah. As a father, Jacob was pretty human. Just like any of us. He made mistakes. He fell short. He failed. Those of us who are parents need to learn from his shortcomings. Discipline your children. Don’t play favorites. Love your children equally. Intervene and teach your children how to settle their differences peacefully.

No father is perfect. And we are wrong to demand it from them. Sure, Jacob made his share of mistakes. But, in the end, his sons made their own choices. They chose to kill Joseph that day. Jacob did not force them. And no matter what Jacob did as a father, his failings did not justify or excuse their behavior. The issue for today is this. Have you forgiven your father? Or are you still holding tightly to your anger and bitterness? The truth is that all of us have fathers who failed us at some point. How do I know? Because the last time I checked there was only one perfect Father (and even He has problem children.) Today, you and I need to make a choice. Will we forgive and move forward? Or will we allow the bitterness to imprison us? The truth? Jospeh’s brothers had fallen into a pit long before Joseph ever hit the bottom of his. If you are living in the pit of unforgiveness today, let me encourage you. Climb out. Forgive your father. Discover the life that awaits you.