HOW DO YOU TREAT YOUR PATRIARCHS?
Patricide is the act of killing our fathers. It can take many forms. Dishonor can be a form of patricide. To dishonor a father is to strike at one of the defining relationships in the universe--- that of the Father and the Son. Revisionist history is a form of patricide.
When historians attack the spiritual forefathers of a nation, or when they pervert the legacies of the past, they engage in a form of cultural patricide. But whether the act of patricide takes the form of physical murder, a dishonoring rejection of authority, or historical revisionism, the result is always the same--- to cut off the future from the past and to ensure the destruction of the individual and the community.
The very first prophecy in the Scripture (Genesis 3:15) concerns Satan's attempt to destroy the Godly seed. Because Christ-centered family unity and multigenerational continuity are so central to the perpetuation of the Church, we should not be surprised that a primary focus of Satan's work has been to sever the relationship between fathers and sons.
This principle was graphically illustrated to me fifteen years ago during a visit to Sub-Saharan Africa. At that time, my father and I were working with the victims of terrorism when we met Endabo Musa. As a young man, Musa was taken from his African tribal village and brought to Patrice Lamumba University in Moscow during the heyday of Soviet African expansionism. His father, the local tribal chief, had released him on the expectation that he would be receiving a world-class education. In point of fact, he and hundreds of others like him were taken from their parents to be indoctrinated and trained in the arts of terrorism. The Soviet's goal was to use these boys, many of them sons of local leaders, return them to Africa, and then destabilize the region.
Now here is the point of my story: With tears in his eyes, Musa explained to us that one of the first orders of business for a Soviet trained African terrorist was to go back and kill his own father, thus breaking with the past, showing true allegiance to the new Soviet philosophies, and ending the history of multigenerational continuity which had existed in the tribes for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Thankfully, the story has a happy ending. In his case, Musa was sent to kill not only his father, but also a Christian preacher. Heavily armed and accompanied by other terrorists, Musa entered a packed soccer stadium where the preacher was delivering a message. Before he could perform the wicked act, the words of the preacher touched the heart of Musa, who abandoned his mission and became a Christian. Today, he is a pastor living in Germany.
The Soviets had brilliantly adopted the old Satanic strategy--- get the boys to forget their fathers, to reject their fathers, and even to kill their fathers, and you capture the nation.
The biblical response to patricide is patriarchy. Patriarchy presupposes that fathers are to be honored. They are to be recognized as sacrificial leaders, as the chosen vessels of God for protecting, providing for the family, and instilling vision. Patriarchy presupposes that it is not just a father's role to teach his children to succeed, but to succeed him. Patriarchy is inherently life-oriented. It is honor-directed. Of course, there are perversions of patriarchy with which we would have nothing to do, but biblical patriarchy is central to the long-term success of any nation because at its core is the idea of Christ-centered, multigenerational faithfulness.
One of the contributing factors to the spirit of patricide in America today is the fact that so few modern fathers take the time to build truly meaningful relationships with their children. Boys are crying out for a relationship with their fathers, but fathers are too consumed with other priorities until the situation with their sons reaches crisis level. Modern fathers have come to accept as normative the idea that the sum of their involvement in the life of a boy is attendance at a few athletic events and the occasional chat. Some surveys indicate that, on average, the American father spends a maximum of six minutes a day with his son.
The absence of fathers in the life of their sons, coupled with the relegation of spiritual matters to the domain of womanhood, have rendered us a nation populated by fatherless families. And a nation of fatherless families is a dying nation. Perhaps this phenomenon is why the Bible, in the very last verse of the Old Testament, links true revival to the turning of the hearts of fathers to their sons.
Our colonial forefathers understood the importance of fatherhood. In his book, Obedient Sons: The Discourse of Youth and Generations in American Culture, 1630-1860 (University of Massachusetts Press), Glenn Wallach documents the fact that the Puritan pulpit was regularly populated by preachers who emphasized father and son discipleship and multigenerational vision.
Many of these preachers had themselves come from a long line of faithful patriarchs. A personal favorite is the great Puritan preacher Cotton Mather, son of the Rev. Increase Mather and a member of one of the most godly and influential families in American history. Like his father before him, Cotton was a scholar and devout student of Scripture. His father's emphasis on covenant succession and multigenerational faithfulness inspired Cotton to become an ultra- prolific author (more than 450 books), a scientist (who introduced the smallpox vaccine) and a herald to the sons of his generation to honor their fathers. As historian George Grant has reminded us, it was George Washington himself who described Mather as "undoubtedly the Spiritual Father of America's Founding Fathers."
When asked the reason for his many accomplishments and abilities, Cotton explained: "I was simply the fruit of a well-watered tree." In 1715 he addressed the New England legislature with the following words:
"One generation should make way for another... Let them in the generation that is passing off, be willing to pass. Let them in the generation that is coming, be willing to be likewise passing... Oh Children, Beware of Degenerating from the godliness of your Ancestors... Ah, New England, we fear, we fear, there is apace fulfilling on thee that Word... "there arose another generation after them which knew not the Lord."
These words were not lost on the people of the day. Less than a century after Mather warned the people of New England to embrace multigenerational faithfulness, a very famous, very busy man was separated for a season from his son. This man had grown up in the land of the American Puritans. His own father had been a great man who had taken time to disciple him, as had been done by fathers in their family for generations. Zealous not to allow distance to diminish his fatherly duties, he penned the following words---
"I advise you, my son, in whatever you read, and most of all in reading the Bible, to remember that it is for the purpose of making you wiser and more virtuous. I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind, which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue. My desire is indeed very imperfectly successful; for, like you, and like the Apostle Paul, "I find a law in my members, warring against the laws of my mind."
But as I know that it is my nature to be imperfect, so I know that it is my duty to aim at perfection; and feeling and deploring my own frailties, I can only pray Almighty God, for the aid of his Spirit to strengthen my good desires, and to subdue my propensities to evil; for it is from him, that every good and every perfect gift descends. My custom is to read four or five chapters every morning, immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day."
The author was President John Quincy Adams. A man of profound integrity, Adams understood the responsibilities of fatherhood. Though Adams did receive superior formal education, his character, his vision and his worldview were largely shaped by his own father, President John Adams, who gave his son not only personal instruction, but opportunities while still a youth, to venture into the world of men, ideas, and action. Consequently, we see John Quincy, at the ripe old age of fourteen, officially serving his country in the Court of France. Remarkable!
I was so impressed by John Quincy's commitment to Christian fatherhood, that I took his letters and published them in a book entitled, The Bible Lessons of John Quincy Adams For His Son (read more about it at www.visionforum.com). This book is important, not for the substance of the theology presented, but because it is a record of a very busy man who did not allow his public responsibilities to detract from his fatherly obligations. I must honestly admit that even among the greatest proponents of biblical orthodoxy today, there are precious few who as eloquently and passionately communicate a love for Holy Scripture to their children as did John Quincy Adams. There are fewer still who would take the time to write seven thoughtful letters to a son exhorting him to be a student of Scripture.
For many years now, I have been deeply impressed with the importance of fatherhood, family, vision, multigenerational faithfulness and covenant succession. I believe that God means these concepts to be defining in the life of a Christian man. These are not mere words, but living, breathing realities that constitute key themes in biblical history. These concepts are best summarized in a much maligned, but biblically significant word--- Patriarchy. Taken from the Greek patria (father) and arche (beginning), it embodies the idea of man as a father, a leader, a prophet, protector, provider, resident historian, vision communicator, and covenant keeper for the family.
Patriarchy presupposes a passion for children. The promise from God to Abraham that He would multiply this man's progeny and make them mighty on the earth was a defining motivation in Abraham's life. Historically, men of God have craved children--- lots of them. The more, the better. Children were perceived as a source of blessing, a source of wealth, and a tool for advancing the Kingdom of God. The Bible even describes them as the Godly man's "reward" (see Psalm 127-128). Of course, it has not always been God's will to send children. Sometimes he closes the womb. God always knows what is best, and His plans are not to be resented or despised. The point is, however, that historically, it was unthinkable for a Hebrew or Christian father to actively try to prevent the blessings of God or to cut off his reward.
Recognizing that from the beginning Satan wanted to destroy the godly seed, my wife and I entered marriage with the vision that we would actively seek the Lord for as many "arrows" as he would send, though we specifically desired twelve. Our prayers were answered early in our marriage with the birth of a son (Joshua), followed by another (Justice), a daughter (Liberty), another daughter (Jubilee), and little Faith Evangeline who just celebrated her first birthday. Praise be to God Almighty, I am pleased to announce that we are now expecting the birth of our newest "arrow" (send in your suggestions for names) in August of this year. I would covet your prayers for strength and safety for both my wife and my unborn child.
In 1994, I was a young husband and father traveling on a train to meet my wife, when, moved with awe for the significance of the gift of family, I penned the following words as a vision statement, and dedicated it to my wife. The poem is a special reminder to me of my covenant vows with my wife, and the glorious privilege of fatherhood. In honor of my new child (number six) which my dear bride Beall carries, I would like to share it with you. I encourage you to read it at the dinner table tonight during your family devotions:
More noble than the valiant deeds of shining knights of yore,
than a royal throne or a lion with his pride,
There is a spirit in this land and
Jezebel's her name.
She wants your wife, your children too--- she'll never compromise,
a hundred thousand, million men may fall prey to her lures,
praise, and friends embrace, her pagan plan of death,
Stand strong and rise o
man of God to meet this noble call---
Your wife is your helpmeet, my friend, and
not another man's,
Protect, provide and give to her your undivided life,
to those tiny ones who trust you for their care
For when they put their hand in
yours and know a Daddy's love,
Look not toward worldly goal or gain, or for your liberty,
your heart and sacrifice and make your manly mark---