Healthy Relationships – Welcome to the community of the Trinity - Ch.12, “Speak like a good father."
James 1:19, 20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires.” Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up in the likeness of him who is the head, that is Christ.”
I don’t speak about my father often because I didn’t know him well. He died when I was just 19 years old. That was more years than he had with his father. His dad left him, his older brother, and his mom when he was two. So, he grew up without a dad in the home. He grew up in east Alabama during the Great Depression. So, when he graduated from HS there weren’t many opportunities. Dad joined the Navy and served for 4 years. The GI bill college program enabled him to attend Auburn University. He graduated with honors and caught on with General Electric. He was placed in a leadership training program and they shipped him up to Schenectady, New York. That’s where I was born. I was the only ‘Yankee’ in the family! That explains a lot about me, doesn’t it? GE eventually moved dad and our family to Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s where I grew up. When I was about 11, my dad’s father (my grandfather who I never met) called him wanting to reconnect. I was curious. I wanted to meet my paternal granddad. But my father refused to meet with him and reconcile. I was disappointed, but I think I get it today. Anyway, dad got a great opportunity with GE in Ontario, California. That led to my parents getting a divorce when I was 15. Four years later, when I was a rising sophomore at Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary, dad passed of a heart attack in his sleep. There is much about him I never got to know. There are so many conversations we never had that I still long for. But the few talks I can remember, tell me a lot about how to use the gift of speech properly. And since communication is such an important aspect of building healthy and satisfying relationships, I want to focus in this chapter on how those conversations can bring the truth of God’s Word alive in our relationships and communication today.
First, a good father speaks with integrity. In the sermon on the mount Jesus told his listeners, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath either by heaven, for it is God’s throne, or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’, ‘no’. Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” By that I think Jesus simply meant for us to speak clearly. As we often say, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” But that kind of integrity takes courage.
My dad knew that. I will never forget a conversation my father had with an angry neighbor. I wasn’t present for the conversation, but my best friend (who’s dad chewed my dad out) told me all about it. Our family was moving to California for dad’s new job. We had sold our house. The problem in our neighbor’s view, was that we had sold it to a black family. He lambasted my father for ‘selling out the neighborhood.’ My dad had grown up in the deep south and been exposed to segregation and hateful prejudice. He wanted no part of it. He told my best friend’s father that the buyers were good people who wanted to buy a nice house and they had the funds to do so. End of discussion! To this day, I am so proud of my father’s integrity and courage. And that’s the way I try to speak in my relationships and encounters. I imitate my father and speak with integrity.
A good father, also, speaks wisely. Proverbs 4:10, 11 reads, “Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” Proverbs 1:7 reminds us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” That’s a strong word for Christian fathers in every age! I did my best to teach our daughter and son the truth of the Bible. We read the Bible together. We read books that applied Biblical truths in real life. I made up learning games and memory exercises to enable them to understand the truth of God. Joni and I made sure they were active in church where they were exposed to Biblical teaching. And I continue to pray that they will walk in those truths and share them with the next generation.
My father didn’t teach me Bible truths, but he did teach me wisdom. He taught me the wisdom of hard work. He taught me the wisdom of choosing my words well. He taught me the wisdom of accepting responsibility the outcome of my choices and decisions. He wasn’t what I would call a ‘godly’ man, but he was a wise man. And he taught me how to speak that wisdom. I am eternally grateful for that gift!
A good father, also, speaks the truth in love. One of my favorite verses of Scripture is Ephesians 4:15, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him, who is the head of the body, Jesus Christ.” Warren Wiersbe said, “Truth without love is brutality and love without truth is hypocrisy.” It can be added that truth with love is the gospel of Jesus Christ….and it is powerful.
My dad spoke the truth in love to me at a crucial point in my life. Growing up as a teen, it was my desire to become a lawyer. I had my plans laid out. But as a senior in high school, I sensed God’s call on my life to teach His Word as a minister. My mom and I had a huge disagreement about that new direction. It felt like our ‘close’ mother/son relationship was disintegrating. My dad came to town for my high school graduation and I shared my frustrations and anger with him. Now, mom had left him. He could have thrown her under the bus and joined me trashing her. But he didn’t. He spoke the truth in love. He told me not to be angry with her. She loved me and thought she knew what was best. She might be right. But, if I was sensing God’s leading, I should check it out. He told me to go to Cincinnati Bible College and seek God’s will. If that was what God wanted for me great! If not, I could go to law school later! Because of his loving, truthful spirit, my relationship with my mom was restored and I have spent over 35 years teaching God’s truth in obedience to His call! What an amazing difference ‘speaking the truth in love’ makes in our lives and relationships.
I will never forget when my mom came to CBC&S to tell me that my dad had died of a heart attack in his sleep and was gone! I cried my eyes out all the way home. I thanked God for giving me a loving and wise father, and I thanked him for the fact that he would always be there for me as my Father in heaven. Some of you know how that feels and you live in that reality. Let’s never forget that speaking like a good father (speaking with integrity/speaking wisely/speaking the truth in love) is instrumental in building the healthy and satisfying relationships we all crave! Blessings as we strive to speak like men and women of God!