First, the Church Fathers were always sons themselves. Many were fathered in the Faith by the apostles and those we read about on the very pages of scripture. Throughout their lives they never stopped growing in knowledge and pursuit of a life in Christ Jesus as they remained students of scripture, grew in the Faith delivered to them (Jude 3), and continued to seek others to challenge them.
Dads and spiritual fathers, we are called to do the same. We must first be sons, before leading as fathers. We cannot give away what we do not have. Be students of God’s Word, be mentored by other men who will spur you on in the Faith, continue to seek, hunger, and thirst for righteousness in your life. If you have never engaged the Church Fathers before, this weekend may be a perfect time to do so. There are a host of resources available, even some daily devotionals that are quite useful (click here for one I’d recommend) and you may find a free online library of them all by clicking here (try starting with Augustine’s Confessions).
Secondly, the Church Fathers gave what they received. What they passed on to generations to come was what they had been instructed, believed, and lived out in their own lives. They didn’t add to or take away from it, but faithfully upheld, contended for, and applied it in ways that would assist others.
Dads, we are called to be faithful in this way as well in our own lives. Give away what has been given to you. Don’t add to it, embellish upon it, but faithfully disciple, raise up and invest in the faith of others. It starts in the home, but even if you aren’t a biological father, it starts with those around you and with whom you have influence. Find ways to humbly bring them into what you are walking out in studying God’s Word, engaging God in prayer and your pursuit of holiness.
Finally, the Church Fathers contended for the Faith. Many of the writings of the Church Fathers clarified and at times rebuked errant teachings in their day. Like a good father they instructed and corrected others, but never drew back from the Truth even when it meant they were the only ones who stood for it (as was the case of Athanasius who was even banished for doing so, read more about him here).
Dads, standing for the Truth isn’t easy. But we don’t teach our kids or those we invest in to back down from the hard choices, and we shouldn’t when it comes to our Faith either. Rather, we must be willing to engage the tough issues, speaking the Truth in love and point our families and society back to the One in whom we place our faith, God Himself.
So this Father’s Day as we celebrate our dads in our lives, and ask for God’s grace as fathers to press into such a high calling, leaning into the wisdom and walking in the footsteps of those who faithfully have gone before us.