By Eric Burd
A dear friend recently forwarded to me a bucketful of quotes that flow into a seamless stream of wisdom for the New Year…
To begin, I know that our hearts were all saddened as we closed out 2012 with one of the most heartbreaking stories of the year: the horrendous loss of life at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school.
With this tragedy in mind, in his December 20th blog post Ravi Zaharias wrote: “All these recent mass murders have been done by men. Many of them young men, yes, even mere boys. Jonesboro, Columbine, Virginia Tech, now Newtown. Is there something within our culture that doesn’t know how to raise strength with dignity and respect? Is this how boys are meant to be? From bloodletting in hockey games while thousands cheer to savagery in school shootings while thousands weep, we must ask ourselves what has gone wrong with us men? Where are the role models in the home? Is knocking somebody down the only test left for strength? Is there no demonstration now of kindness, gentleness, courtesy, and respect for our fellow human beings?”
Yes, Ravi, “Where are the role models?”
Well, I am an ardent proponent of one of the central principles in all of Scripture: “Father, teach your children.” This is the backbone and central theme of the book of Proverbs. This is how we “build a monument unto the Lord” in the hearts of our children, and this is a significant way in which we secure the future of the church. We need role models. but, we we need to realize that, in reality, everyone is a role model. Everyone sets an example, and people of influence, greatly influence others.
So, it is fair to read into Ravi’s question: “Where are the godly role models?” Where are the gentle role models? Where are the kind and merciful role models? America’s youth are being pointed toward and are growing up to worship a god of power and strength, but can we see that the fruit of this “apple” is turning bitter in our stomachs even as we hold the core in our hands?
Yes, we need role models – godly role models! We need dads who are not only present, but mindful of their personal presentation to their children. We need dads to know and show goodness and mercy. We must model the power of godliness – the healing power of genuine empathy, the character-building power of kindness, the persuasive power of simple courtesy and the conquering power of a Christ-like sacrifice.
Polish-American rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said: “Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”
The first-century Greek philosopher, Epictetus stated: “Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling that desire.”
You don’t have to be a theologian to discover that the path to self-respect and true freedom is not in the power we have over others, but in the power we have over ourselves; a power that extends to a disciplined and selfless life modeled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Alexander the Great was a man of men. A leader of leaders. A poster boy for our modern violent culture. He rule armies and nations, but couldn’t rule his own appetites. Many historians believe his untimely death at age 33 was aggravated by his obsession with the drink.
Yes, fathers, teach your children. But what you teach emanates more from who you “are” than what you “teach.” It seems plain that character is more effectively caught by example than taught from a textbook. The godly inner steel that we hope for our youth to develop must melt into an outward display of godly dignity and respect for others. This comes best from the one who should be most influential in their lives – from DAD – from his personal life and life style.
So, model power and strength to your sons – absolutely! – the power and strength that it takes to become a genuine man of God. Gentle, kind, sacrificial, deferring to the needs of others; in this way you will supply tremendous grace for your sons to become the men of God that you long for them to be.