The last verse of the Old Testament looked forward to one who would come to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal. 4:6). This expectation was fulfilled in John’s efforts to “make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Lk. 1:17). The turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children was a basic fruit of the repentance John demanded.
Men, it is still the case that one of the first indicators of our faith in Christ is our attitude toward our role as fathers. Our children will never outgrow the need for the affection, approval and advice of their fathers. We as fathers will always need a relationship with our children which is a high priority in our lives and which gives us a powerful incentive to be the men we ought to be.
Think of “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11). God changed his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5). He explained, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice …”(Gen. 18:19). That is the exalted goal of fatherly love.
When fathers neglect their role, they, their children and their neighbors suffer. That final phrase in the Old Testament indicated that the hearts of fathers had to be turned to their children lest the land be struck with utter destruction. Of our own society, David Blankenhorn wrote, “For unless we reverse the trend of fatherlessness, no other set of accomplishments—not economic growth or prison construction or welfare reform or better schools— will succeed in arresting the decline of child well being ….”
In 1999 a third grader won the Father of Year Essay Contest. The child wrote: “One day my dad had something really important to do for work, but he had already told me he would take me for ice cream. He wanted to go to work, but he chose to take me to get ice cream. That made me really proud because it seems like my feelings are important to him.” That man had a father’s heart.
— Bill McFarland; watermillchurchofchrist.org