“And Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
One of the ways Christianity has influenced society for the better is the impact it has had on the family. In ancient Roman society, the society into which Christianity first came, the father was supreme. The oldest male in the family had great power. This included power, not only over his sons and daughters, but their children as well. This was power over their property and legal affairs. A father even had the power to put a member of his family to death, though this was rarely exercised. Herod the Great did exercise this power and had three of his own sons executed. While this power of the father engendered respect, it also created fear.
Christian Europe continued this emphasis on the power and rights of the father, but things changed when immigrants came to the America. They broke from many traditions in order to more fully integrate Christianity into the life of society.When 19thcentury French political scientist Alex De Tocqueville, came to America to study its democratic experiment, he noted the difference in the relations between fathers and sons. He said (as quoted by Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi, in “The Book that Made Your World”), “When children are very young, the father does, without opposition, exercise the domestic dictatorship which his son’s weakness makes necessary and which is justified by both his weakness and his unquestionable superiority. But as soon as the young American begins to approach a man’s estate, the reins of filial obedience are daily slackened. Master of his thought, he soon becomes responsible for his own behavior. In America there is in truth no adolescence. At the close of boyhood he is a man and begins to trace out his own path…”
De Tocqueville continued – “In European and Asian aristocracies, society is, in truth, only concerned with the father. It only controls the sons through the father; it rules him and he rules them. Hence the father has not only his natural right. He is given a political right to command…He is heard with deference, he is addressed always with respect, and the affection felt for him is ever mingled with fear…The father-son relationship is always correct, ceremonious, rigid, and cold, so that natural warmth of heart can hardly be felt through the words…But among democratic nations, every word a son addresses to his father has a tang of freedom, familiarity, and tenderness all at once.”
Christianity has been a great boon to the family. It reminds fathers that their role is not to dominate by the exercise of their power, but to lead by their example, exercise kindness and goodwill, and to raise their children in the “training and instruction of the Lord.”
It is a great privilege to be a parent. On Father’s Day, we recognize and thank our fathers. We also give thanks to the One whose example leads us, our Father in heaven. He is the perfect example of both strength and compassion. May we all follow his example!
With Warm Regards,