A father’s mission

By Richard D. Phillipssenior minister, Second Presbyterian Church Greenville, S.C. Father’s Day is a time when men enjoy receiving manly … Continued

By Richard D. Phillips
senior minister, Second Presbyterian Church
Greenville, S.C.

Father’s Day is a time when men enjoy receiving manly gifts, especially movies about manly men. My favorite movie features John Wayne portraying Capt. Nathan Briddles of the U. S. Cavalry in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” A grizzled Civil War veteran facing the end of his career, Briddles is a walking cornucopia of manliness. His approach to life is summed up in two words: Never apologize!

When I was a younger man, I am afraid I took John Wayne’s counsel too much to heart, becoming a bit more obnoxious than I needed to be. As I grew older and entered into fatherhood, I found another two-word guideline in the Bible that produces better results. Right after the Bible tells of how God created man, these two words serve as God’s marching orders to help men fulfill their calling in life: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). This is the Bible’s masculine mandate: men are to work and keep in the relationships where God has placed them.

John Wayne knew that men like simple instructions and God knows this too, so He gave men only two main tasks to perform in life. Adam’s first calling was to work the Garden. In the context of the Garden in Genesis 2, this word means to cultivate. In short, God calls men to serve in order to make good things grow and abound. Adam’s second task was to keep the Garden. This idea involves protection: the word for to keep is used elsewhere of guardians who keep watch and make safe. So in addition to cultivating and growing, God calls men to protect and keep safe those under their care.

These two words – work and keep – have the potential for the most radical impact in a man’s life. According to the Bible, masculinity is seen when men serve to produce growth in others and watch to keep them safe. Men are to work and keep – build and protect – in every aspect of life. In marriage, husbands are called to nurture their wives emotionally and keep them safe from harm. In the workplace, men labor to build and grow useful things – products, services, people, and organizations – and then protect them from assault. The masculine mandate is especially helpful for fathers. What is a man to do with a son or daughter bouncing on his knee? According to the Bible’s masculine mandate, a father is to cultivate the heart of his children and always keep them safe.

The keeping aspect of fatherhood is probably more widely acknowledged among men today. Keeping means protecting the child from all kinds of threats and harms, including dangerous influences that arise from media, in schools, and in relationships. A loving father exercises his God-given authority to discipline his children, protecting them from the harmful effects of their own sins and errors. Fewer men are aware of the equally important calling to work in the lives of their children. The Bible envisions a discipleship bond of mutual devotion between fathers and children. Just as Adam was to work the Garden to make plants grow, fathers are to cultivate the hearts of their children to grow in confidence and character. I use this formula to help focus my own involvement with my children: Read – Pray – Work – Play. A father disciples his children by reading with them, especially the Bible, praying with and for them, helping children succeed in their work and working alongside them in chores and home projects, and finally by enjoying the fun and laughter of playing games with his boys and girls.

Fatherhood is a lifetime calling to which men need to give their best efforts. Thankfully, the Bible gives fathers a clear and simple mandate: work and keep. In fact, the Bible’s mandate for men is exactly what we admired in all those great John Wayne movies. Take away the dumb saying, “Never apologize,” from “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” and practically everything Captain Briddles did for his men (and women) falls into the categories of working and keeping – building up and keeping safe. According to the Bible, not only will the masculine mandate enable men to fulfill their calling as fathers, but it will result in Dads getting the respect and admiration from our children that heroes like John Wayne got in the movies.

Richard D. Phillips is Senior Minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C. and the author of several books including “Jesus the Evangelist,” “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?” and “The Masculine Mandate.”

More on:
  • shaheed-yahudi

    | `-._.,-’

  • shaheed-yahudi

    oopps

  • shaheed-yahudi

  • Secular

    Must a secular tradition be sullied by this nonsensical religious stuff. Why do these theists feel compelled to find something or the other in their vile books of fables and spout those inanities on the blog. Pray tell me. Then they scream about angry secularists. They cannot leave anything alone, without giving it a religious twist.

  • areyousaying

    “In the workplace, men labor to build and grow useful things – products, services, people, and organizations – and then protect them from assault.”And women don’t? Ah, that old time religion with a dash of good old Southern misogyny.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186566975
Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186090179
How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

pews
Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

2337221655_c1671d2e5e_b
Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

bible
Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

csl_wall_paper
What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.