A few years ago, I was teaching a Sunday School class through the book of 1 Corinthians. In it we learn of both Paul's love for this motley crew and his passion for their pursuit of Christ.
In chapter four he encourages them to think about the various marks of a spiritual father. At this point in time I think it would be good for us to consider these. Keep in mind that the list that Paul uses is defiantly not exhaustive, nor is it just for "spiritual" fathers. Us "regular" dads would be good to take to Paul's words of encouragement here.
Paul writes in verse 14, "I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as a my beloved children." He is urging them to move beyond the sin that they have become so comfortable with. How often do you seek a father who would be willing to speak truth into your life? Telling you to leave the sin behind? How often as a father do you do the same to the ones that you love?
As stated above, Paul calls this group of people his "beloved children." There is a genuine care here. There are times in my past where I would find it much easier to shun someone that has disappointed me. Paul's approach to discipline is to love them greatly. I am reminded that because we have been loved greatly, so we are called to love greatly.
Paul continues in verse 15, "though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers." Paul knows that there are a lot of people that are more than willing to give advise. Good advise doesn't do much for us, does it. We need a good teacher. A father can certainly be that for us.
Lives by Example
"I urge you, then, be imitators of me." What a verse. How bold of Paul to state something like this verse. At first glance it may look intimidating for us. We think that we would never be able to say something like that to someone else. Listen here to what Paul is saying; he is not saying that he is perfect and that we need to be perfect like him. That is the furthest thing from the truth. What Paul is saying is that he is a sinner, but regardless of his sin, he continues to find his life hidden with Christ. That statement is true for you and I, dear friend. When we know that, we can boldly say, "be imitators of me." Because we know that our lives are hidden in Christ - and that is where we have all the confidence we need.
In verse 21, Paul writes, "What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in spirit of gentleness?" Proverbs 13:24 says, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." Paul was not afraid of using a "rod" to bring discipline to his children in the church of Corinth. They needed it. To some extent, if Paul did not use it, he would showing them that he hates them. Often times in our lives, as fathers, it may be easier to not bring the "rod" to our children, but in doing so we are communicating hate. God disciplines those He loves and as fathers (spiritual or regular) we need to bring discipline. In some cases, it's a matter of love or hate.