One complaint that is shared by many fathers is that they are not respected by their families. Some of us, as fathers, tend to think that family life would be much better if our wife and children just showed a little more respect. But respect does not happen in a vacuum, or on demand. On the one hand, God’s people are commanded to respect the people that God has placed in authority over us. Fathers meet that qualification—see Ephesians 6:1-3. But there is also another component of giving respect. Respect can be won by action. Hear what Hebrews says about respecting fathers:
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Hebrews 12:7b-10
Hebrews tells us that fathers were respected because they were faithful to discipline their children; so respect can be earned by holding a particular office, or it can be won by faithfully administering that office. Notice, however, that there is no bases for one to demand respect for himself.
As I said, lack of respect is a common complaint among fathers. What should a father do when he feels disrespected? He should to look carefully at these two biblical basis for respect. Consider the following factors:
1. The first basis for respect is the command of God to respect the office or position of being a father. In humility, fathers need to understand that the reason for this respect is not something that has been earned. You, as a father, did nothing commendable to earn the respect due to your position as father. God is the one who made you a father and placed you in this position. Respect, like the authority you have as a father, is derived from God’s authority. It is not something you have earned by anything you have done. This should be humbling to you. You are not in a position to demand respect on the basis of your own efforts. This means that when you are disrespected, you should not complain or be bitter because of personal offense. It means that you should look to God in humility and examine yourself to see if you are wanting to be respected for who you are. If there is a lack of respect toward you, God is the one you must rely on.
2. This leads to the second point about gaining respect. Respect can be won, but it can’t be demanded. The writer of the Hebrews notes that earthly fathers disciplined their children and they were respected for doing so. So again, respect comes from following and doing what God has commanded. In this sense, respect is not a personal entitlement. Serving God faithfully as a father (including following his instruction not to exasperate you children), will lead to your children’s respect. If you perceive a lack of respect, it would be a good thing to think carefully about whether you are serving yourself or God in your role as a father. Raising children in the fear and discipline of the Lord requires total humility before God. Fathers need to teach children to follow God’s ways, not their own personal preferences for how a home should run.
Father’s Day is coming. If you find yourself despairing about a lack of respect and honor shown to you, look first to see how you can serve your heavenly father more faithfully, rather than being concerned about how others are not honoring you.