I am a father of two young sons. Being a dad to them is challenging yet infinitely rewarding. I can’t imagine life without them. They bring our family so much joy. Though I fail often as a dad, I’m reminded daily of God’s grace as my wife and I strive to point them to Jesus as their only hope.
In Being Dad, Scott Keith shows us how fatherhood is a dimly lit reflection of the Father’s love for his children. He shows that our modern understanding of masculinity and fatherhood is often directly at odds with the biblical model. Through his book, Keith helps the reader grasp a deeper and more biblical view of fatherhood through the exposition of and reflection on the parable of the prodigal son, or as he titles it: “the Parable of the Two Lost and Found Sons and the Dad in the Middle.” He explores the meaning of fatherhood, the lost understanding of biblical masculinity, and how we can reflect our heavenly Father through being dad to our kids.
A reflection of the Father
One of the main takeaways from this book is Keith’s brilliant connection between the fatherhood of God and our fatherhood of our kids. He describes this connection as an analogy of being (analogia entis), meaning earthly fathers are like our Heavenly Father even though we are a poor and broken reflection of the perfect way that God loves his children. Keith spends the first part of the book expanding on this idea of fatherhood as an analogy of being in a deeply theological and applicable way for fathers of any age. He does this by showing how another man, who served as his mentor, acted as a father to him throughout his adult life. Keith’s dad died of a rare blood disease when he was only two years old.
Keith writes about the ways we should display the Father. For example, we should extend grace to our children, not out of some obligation or requirement, but out of a deep love for our children. And even though our children will sin and fail, we seek to forgive our children out of a heart of love and devotion; we shouldn’t keep a list of wrongs or ever withhold forgiveness for the wrongs they commit. Likewise, we show grace to them just as we have been shown grace by God when we did nothing to deserve it. Finally, we don’t simply act as if their failings didn’t happen but seek to restore and help them learn from their failings.
In a society overcome with emotion by the #MeToo stories and a number of broken families all around us, Keith’s words describing what true masculinity is are sorely needed in our culture, and specifically within the church. He defines true biblical masculinity as “a male’s quiet confidence and strength of character that find expression in graciousness” (21). This definition directly contradicts so much of what we see in popular culture—and in our families. Too often, masculinity is tough, powerful, macho, misogynistic, and reckless. He shows, instead, that true masculinity is seen ultimately in the life of Jesus and in part by the father in the story of the prodigal son, who extended forgiveness and grace to both of his sons despite their lack of respect and honor. He did so because they were his children, and nothing could change that.
Grace to your kids
I deeply desire for each of my boys to grow up with a confidence and graciousness that is a picture of Christ. But I often wonder how I will ever teach my boys these traits. Like many of the testimonies that Keith includes in his book, I wasn’t raised with a father that pointed me to Christ. Yet, Keith encourages that regardless of our family upbringing, our kids can learn grace and mercy through the ways that we, as fathers, interact and care for them. “If we as dads want our children to be good, gracious, or kind, first preach, teach, and model to them the Gospel of Christ, which is God’s grace and forgiveness” (51).
We might not be able to model what we had growing up, but as believers, we can model to our kids the grace that we have been shown. In turn, they will see that even though their dad was not perfect, he sought to reflect the Heavenly Father, who showers grace on his children as they confess their sins to him.
An encouragement to men
All men, dad or not, are all called to exhibit God’s gracious forgiveness and love to the world around us. We won’t do it perfectly, and that’s to God’s glory. Each of our failings will not only remind us of the grace we have been shown, but they will show a watching world that we’re completely dependent on Jesus for our salvation. I pray that we each reflect our merciful Heavenly Father to our children so that they might know the Father and the grace of Christ for themselves.
Book Review originally appeared at ERLC.com