In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul connects leadership with parenting. In doing so he gives a primer on both what it means to be a leader and what it means to be father.
Paul begins the discussion of a father’s role in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 by reminding them of his toil and hardship for them:
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
This is a window into Godly manhood. True manliness is marked by deep sacrifice and hardship to provide for those under his care and never be a burden to them. Dads work out their leadership by toil and hardship in order to serve, not by demanding that they be served.
Instead of being a burden to them, he had been like a father, both by example and instruction:
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
The Apostle gives us three words to describe what leadership looks like.
Holy refers to relationship to God. He was a devout, pious, a man pleasing to God. Your children must see your integrity in walking with God. There should never be a wide gulf between the things you encourage in others and your own walk. I am not suggesting that your family will never see you sin; if anyone says he has no sin, he is a liar (1 John 1). They must see a Dad who walks with integrity in deals with sin before God and before them.
Righteous refers to him in relationship to others. In dealings with others he was circumspect, ethical, principled and high-minded. You simply cannot be negatively critical of others. There are times you feel disappointed with others. Be a father who is gracious and kind.
Blameless refers to his public reputation. He was exemplary, virtuous and unimpeachable.
One of the take-aways for us is that Paul saw setting an example as part of being a father. He was intentional about his example, self-consciously reflecting these father-like qualities.
He works that out even more fully in the next verses:
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
Paul describes himself in these verses. He is there for each of his children.
For you know we dealt with each of you…
Encouraging you means coming alongside of you to admonish and inspire and motivate and stimulate, especially to follow some mode of conduct.
Comforting you means providing sympathy, solace, reassurance, encouragement, support and cheer.
Urging you — sometimes this is translated charging you. It carries the connotation of coaxing, prodding, exhorting, goading and even exciting you.
Notice that He encourages, comforts and urges to the character of God. The goal was to live worthily of God. Paul doesn’t mean that we can ever be worthy of God. We are always unworthy servants, but he encourages them to be like God, to reflect the character and disposition of God.
This is a high calling. It is out of our reach as dads. Our hope is 2 Peter 1:3-4: God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.