Last Sunday was the day our nation set aside to honor fathers. The role of being a father, like that of being a mother, is certainly one of the most rewarding, yet most difficult jobs in the world. So those of us who are known as "Dad" would do well to look at some examples of other fathers, that we might learn a thing or two from them.
There's no end to examples of bad fathers. Sadly, we read about abusive and deadbeat fathers in the news on a daily basis. But there are many examples of good fathers out there. Among them is the man Jesus called "Dad." Joseph wasn't Jesus' biological father, of course. Jesus' mother Mary became pregnant miraculously through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet Mary's husband, Joseph, served as a father figure to our Savior as he grew up.
We know relatively little about this man. The last mention of him being alive in the Bible occurs when Jesus was 12 years old, so it is assumed that he died when Jesus was a teenager or young adult. Yet the man God the Father chose to help raise his Son most certainly had an influence on him. Joseph was a carpenter by trade. Since Jesus was also referred to as a carpenter, he obviously taught his foster son the family business. But Joseph taught Jesus far more than just carpentry skills. The Bible calls Joseph "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:19). The Biblical definition of a righteous man isn't someone who is perfect, and therefore who meets God's standards of righteousness on his own. Rather, being righteous in God's sight means trusting in God for forgiveness. In other words, being a righteous man meant that Joseph was a man of faith.
But Joseph wasn't someone who kept his faith to himself. He walked the walk and talked the talk of faith. Perhaps the most telling statement the Bible makes about Joseph occurs in Luke chapter 2: "Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover." Traveling from Nazareth to Jerusalem was not an easy trip. That 70-mile journey had to be made on foot. It would require weeks of planning, loss of income, nights spent in the cold, open countryside. Joseph could have made the case for observing the Passover at home. For that matter, he could have skipped it altogether. But he didn't. Instead, Joseph led by example and made that difficult, costly journey every single year. He wanted to make sure they worshiped regularly, faithfully and in keeping with what God's Word commanded.
When it came to matters of faith, Joseph led by example. Sadly, too often we see a distinct lack of spiritual leadership among Christian fathers today. Too often, the example we dads give to our children is one that says, "God, his will, and his Word, are not all that important." We can be thankful the man Jesus called "dad" didn't leave that kind of legacy. And we dads would do well to ask ourselves, "What legacy am I leaving my family when it comes to their faith in God?"
Joseph wasn't a perfect father. There are no perfect fathers, not this side of heaven. But we imperfect, forgiven fathers can, and indeed, must strive daily to be good examples and faithful leaders when it comes to the faith-life of our families.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.