In honor of Father’s Day, I’ll be posting each day this week on the subject of fatherhood. In particular, I’ll be posting on dad as the shepherd of his home. In this post, I simply want to give three presuppositions. These are the assumptions that will underlie all else I have to say.
1. Every husband and father is called to be a shepherd. For husbands, we see this in Ephesians 5:25-33, where husbands are told to love their wives the way Christ loves His Church. All marriage is to point to the greatest marriage of all, the marriage of Christ and His people. All of human history is centered on this love story of Christ coming and rescuing His bride and taking her to Himself. Just as He is a good shepherd to His bride, and shows His love through shepherding, so should husbands.
The same is true of fathers. Remember, God is our ultimate example of what a Father is to be. He is the Father of which all other fathers are but a shadow. In Psalm 23, when we read “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…”, the word “LORD” there is the name of God, Yahweh, Jehovah. Yes, it is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, but first and foremost it is a reference to God the Father. It is God the Father who is the shepherd who leads His people into green pastures and beside still waters. If our heavenly Father shows His love through shepherding, then certainly we earthly fathers ought to do the same.
I wonder, are there any men reading this who are seeking to escape this in their lives? Could it be that you are shirking your responsibilities, refusing to own up to the calling God has placed on you?
Sometimes we hear a radical example of a man refusing to shepherd his wife. There are husbands who live in separate houses, even separate cities or countries from their wives. There are husbands who are married to their wives, but they have separated themselves and gone in different directions. There are fathers who have little or no involvement in their children’s lives. This is obviously unhealthy. This is not the picture of what a husband and father is to be. Men are called to lead, and you cannot lead if you are not there.
Yet sometimes a husband or father is there, and yet he still refuses to shepherd. In fact, I think all husbands/fathers are guilty of this at some point or another. When there is a hard decision to be made, or a difficult situation to be dealt with, it is easy to try and avoid being the shepherd.Many men throw the burden of leadership on their wives, refusing to man up and handle it themselves. Many families are in chaos because of the man’s unwillingness to fulfill his God-given role. Matthew tells us that Jesus looked upon the crowds and had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep with out a shepherd. Is that your family? Sheep without a shepherd? Have you left your wife or children unprotected, uncared-for, vulnerable to any and every spiritual danger? Men, let us be freshly reminded that every husband and father is called by God to be a shepherd to his family.
2. Husbands and fathers are to be shepherds for God. That is, we must understand that we are not the Husband of our wives. We are not the Father of our children. Christ is the truest Husband; God is the truest Father. All of our husbanding and fathering is meant to point to God and His love. All of our husbanding and fathering is to bring our family to know the husbanding and fathering love of the Triune God. In fact, we want to be instruments in the hands of Christ whereby He is shepherding our wives and children through us. At the end of the day, wouldn’t every Christian husband love to hear his wife pray: “Dear Jesus, thank you for caring for me and leading me through my husband. What a gift he is to me, and what an expression of Your love.” Wouldn’t every Christian father love to hear his children pray, “Dear God, thank you for dad. Thank You for how you are teaching me and providing for me and protecting me through him. Thank You for loving me so much through him.”
Men, let us remember that our wives and children are gifts entrusted to us, and we will be held accountable for how we steward the responsibility to care for them. They do not ultimately belong to us; they belong to their Creator and Sustainer, the One before whom they and we will one day give an account. We are under-shepherds, serving under the Chief Shepherd. Are we faithful servants, or are we reckless and negligent? Are we tending well to our wife and children, fulfilling all our duties to them, causing them to flourish spiritually? On the last day, will we be able to present our wives and children to Christ as mature believers in Him, prepared for Him, ready to be with Him in glory forever? If, in God’s providence, though it breaks our hearts to think about it, our wife or one of our children should never believe on Christ and follow Him, will we be able to stand before Christ and say with tears, “I did everything I could. I prayed. I loved. I taught. I led.” Will we hear the words of our Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master?” Husbands and fathers are to shepherd for God.
3. Christ is our ultimate example of faithful shepherding. Twice in John 10 our Savior identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd. Hebrews 13:20 refers to Christ as “the great shepherd of the sheep”. In 1st Peter 5 He is called the Chief Shepherd, and in 1st Peter 2 He is called the Shepherd of our souls. God has appointed His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to care for His people, to love them and lead them, to feed them and protect them, to see them safely to heaven. Jesus is not a mediocre shepherd – he isn’t okay at what he does, adequate for the job. Rather, Christ excels at this. He is a perfect Shepherd in every way. We who know Him and have Him as our Shepherd find our peace and rest in this – we need not doubt our Shepherd’s ability or willingness to care for us for even one moment. When Christ is our Shepherd, our souls are safe, and the path we need to take will be shown to us, and our needs will be met. Every shepherd who has ever existed was an arrow pointing to Christ, and we who are husbands and fathers should look to Christ to know what real shepherding looks like.
When you start a new job, often you will be assigned to work with someone who has been doing that job for a long time, understands it thoroughly, and knows how to do it right. That person can then train you and teach you. So it is with Shepherding. Christ is the Master at this, and we are glad that He is, for He is our Shepherd. We learn from watching Him.
So here are our three starting presuppositions:
1. Every husband and father is called to be a shepherd.
2. Husbands and fathers are to be shepherds for God.
3. Christ is our ultimate example of faithful shepherding.