Of all the exhortations directed to dads this Father’s Day, I pray that imitability is impressed upon hearts and sealed with the fear of God. By ‘imitability’ I mean a life and character that is worthy of being imitated. It is nearly virtuous in our day for a dad to say that he does not want his children to be like him; he wants them to be better than he is. Such is commonplace and commendable in our culture. It may come across as a kind of (false) humility. It may be translated as love, serving as an expression of high desire for your children. But in the end, it is not much different than saying “do as I say and not as I do.” It conditions the heart and mind of men to inadvertently evade their responsibility to influence their children for the glory of God. Fathers who endorse the idea that they are not worthy of imitation fail to realize that being an example is not a retractable feature of fatherhood. Fathers are examples to their children regardless of their quality of character. Unworthiness is never a license for irresponsibility. While we may pray for our children to receive even greater blessings than we ourselves, we are responsible to provide our children with a portrait of godly character—as fathers whose character should be imitated.
But God’s Word teaches us to be imitable fathers. Our supreme example is the fatherhood of God. Just as we are called to imitate our Father in heaven, so fathers are called to be imitable. As God’s children, we are told to “be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). “Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph 5:1) is built on the maxim that children will imitate their fathers. Our heavenly Father says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16). In various ways, He calls us to be like Him (Mt 5:44-45; 1 Jn 3:1-2). Imitation is a key principle of the fatherhood of God. We can look to our Father in heaven as our example and grow in our imitation of Him. This is a model for earthly fathers. What is more important than the debate over quality versus quantity time, than material gifts, than providing them opportunities for financial success, etc.? What is more important is to live every day before the face of God in an imitable way.
Let us consider how God fathers us in an imitable way. He sends for us (1 Jn 4:14). He draws us to Himself (Jn 6:44). He saves us (Ps 89:26). He calls us to obey Him (1 Jn 5:1-3). He disciplines us (Pr 3:11-12). He works for us according to His plan (Gal 1:4). He has compassion on us (Ps 103:13). He forgives us (Mt 6:14-15). He guides us (Dt 1:31). He rewards us (Mt 6:17-18). He values us (Mt 6:26). He knows our needs (Mt 6:32). He provides for us (Mt 6:26). He is our model of stability (James 1:17). He gives us what is good (Mt 7:11). He promises us an inheritance (Rom 8:15-17). He grants us peace (1 Cor 1:3). He is merciful to us (2 Cor 1:3). He comforts us (2 Cor 1:3-4). He gives us hope (2 Thess 2:16). He loves us (2 Thess 2:16). Our relation to God as our heavenly Father is not merely one of origination. It is not merely one of authority. It is not merely one of lordship. It is not merely one of ethics and obedience. It is a rich metaphor that illustrates an all-encompassing relationship of likeness, loyalty, learning, life, and love.
In as much as a father imitates the fatherliness of God, he is a true father. Wherever a father fails to imitate God, he falls short of true fatherhood. May dads be renewed in the thought that any absence of God in our fathering corresponds to the absence of God in our living. May we live lives that are imitable for the glory of God and good of our children.