I continue to be amazed at the durability of simple pride among believers. Many have left Christian denominations and clubs after tiring of being ruled over by men and traditions rather than God. And some of those same folks are finding themselves in the latest version of just what they left, only with themselves as the ruling class.
The fashion now is to ask a believer, "Who is your father?" in an effort to find out if he has submitted himself to another man's rule, and if not, to determine his availability to be ruled. While the construct of spiritual fathers is both biblical and IMO a necessary part of our spiritual development, this current twist seems more intent on bringing people under submission to human authority and to cement those relationships-- often with regular cash payments to "dad" as part of the equation. I'm not so sure this is healthy spiritual parenting. A good father holds most precious the day his child is mature and free. Some of the new patriarchs I am seeing are gathering to themselves "children" long past the age to be asking their daddy for permissions and instruction. Jesus warned us not to call anyone "Father", as we have but One. This admonition is ringing in my ears again, for the first time in a long time.
Years ago, I was separated from my children by distance and circumstance, and I was worried sick about my inability to be an active father to them over the miles. I was complaining rather bitterly about this state of things to a dear brother, who looked me in the eye with unaccustomed sternness and said from the Lord, "How dare you think that I am not their father?" In that single sentence, I found myself re-oriented by the Holy Spirit into my right place with my children. God is their father just as he is mine. While I am called to serve them as a father, both physically and spiritually, that role is merely a small reflection of the glorious reality of their True Father. The measure of my success as a father will not be how often my children call me for advice-- or how much they take it. It will not be even in their expressions of love and respect for me. It will be, rather, in how well my children are able to connect with their heavenly Father, carrying their connection with me as a model and an encouragement and a help in walking as eternal sons.
Good fathers raise and release, rather than collect and keep. They save up for their children rather than seeking to have their children support them. They decrease as He increases. They rejoice more in their child's divine sonship than in their own fatherhood. I am blessed in hearing my own natural father, who introduced me to Jesus, refer to me often as "son", but just as often as "brother".
For those of you spiritual fathers who are working hard to lay your lives down for your spiritual children, may God bless you. And may you see those children blossom as true sons of the Most High. For those who are embracing fellowship in your households and neighborhoods, may your table be full! But for those who would in the name of fatherhood gather people to themselves so that they may rule over them, may God eventually make this plain as well.