Shared Mission, Eternal Purpose: Lessons from the Perfect Father-Son Relationship

Last week on The Salt Shaker, we featured a four-part series on four young men whose prominent dads have started highly successful organizations, and the sons are now working with their dads to carry on those efforts.  Each of these guys shared unique insights on the challenges and rewards of working with their dads, and also included some fun anecdotes from growing up:

Life With Father: A Conversation With Nathan Zacharias

From Resistance to Respect: A Conversation With Jonathan Youssef

Dynamic Duo: A Conversation With Jordan Sekulow

Growing Up Junior: A Conversation With George Hiller, Jr.

The response to these interviews was tremendous.  People enjoyed hearing about the fun and casual side of these high profile individuals (for instance, what it’s like to play ping-pong with Ravi Zacharias or to go scuba diving with Jay Sekulow).  They also appreciated the authenticity with which with each person shared some of the challenges they have experienced along the way (Jonathan Youssef’s confession of how he dishonored his dad growing up, and George Hiller, Jr.’s admittance of the pressure that comes from sharing his father’s name as well as his profession).  Each of these men also highlighted lessons they have learned along the way as well as valuable advice for both fathers and sons that was rooted in scriptural principles.

So what is the Biblical blueprint for father-son relationships?  Is there an example that demonstrates the ideal bond between a dad and his children?

There is only one relationship that reflects absolute perfection – the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Father.  Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer said, “That sublime and eternal relationship which existed between these two persons is best expressed to human understanding in the terms of Father and Son.”  Their relationship demonstrates certain key characteristics:

1)      The idea of origin and identity

Jesus and His Heavenly Father were one in essence, co-equal, co-existent – affirming unity, affinity, resemblance, and conformity in character.

“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

2)      Paternal acceptance and appreciation

Imparting a sense of belonging – affirmation of character and competence.

“This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

3)      Oneness of purpose

Establishing unity in vision and mission – unwavering commitment focused on eternal, global purposes.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

4)      The balance of authority and intimacy

Recognizing the authority of the Father – and balancing it with an intimate relationship.

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19-20)

5)      The assurance of shared possessions

Experiencing confidence and security – understanding ownership and stewardship, and dependence and assurance of provision.

“All that belongs to the Father is mine.” (John 16:15)

6)      Communicating mutual honor

Public expressions of honor – Son honoring the Father and Father honoring the Son.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” (John 8:54)

7)      Expressing delight in the relationship

The Father takes pleasure in presenting His Son to the world –

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)

8)      Extravagant, unconditional, eternal love

A love that is divine in nature –

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24)

These core qualities – expressed in the divine Father-Son relationship – provide the Biblical model for relationships, and these fundamental principles, when applied at the human level, will empower a father’s relationship with his children.  The expressions of love and honor provide a sense of significance, belonging, competence, security, unconditional acceptance, and genuine appreciation.  Plus, we see that sonship involves both privileges and responsibilities. Reflecting on the relationship between Jesus and His Heavenly Father enables us to enjoy the privileges of sonship, and to understand the corresponding responsibilities as children of God made in His image.

On Father’s Day this year, Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church was mindful of the frequently broken nature of today’s relationships between fathers and their children, and it was a recurring theme in his message from John 17.  “There are no orphans in the house of the Lord today,” he emphasized to the congregation.  “We call the Creator and Savior of the universe ‘Father!’”  He then led the gathering in wishing “Happy Father’s Day” to God, our Heavenly Father – an unexpected expression that was as sweet as it was powerful.

“There is a phrase in the Old Testament that I learned in seminary which has stuck with me, and essentially it means, ‘If this is great, how much greater is the Lord’s?’” said Jonathan Youssef.  “This is my picture of the father.  I think I have an awesome earthly father, and how much greater is my Father in Heaven!”  In a fallen world of fractured relationships and relational failures, we as believers can look to our Heavenly Father for our identity, acceptance and significance, all made possible by coming into a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.  As first 1 John 3:1 proclaims, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  When it comes to family, what better gift could we ask for?

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