Why Bad Fathers Deserve Grace Too
“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians 3:14
With Father’s Day coming, I asked my husband, the father of our three amazing boys, what message he thought other fathers should hear. He belongs to a small group from our church where they regularly talk about such things, so my husband’s answer made a lot of sense.
He wanted fathers to know, regardless of what’s happened, they all deserve grace.
So true. Here’s why.
We talked about certain fathers in the Bible who some people might think do not deserve grace. Yet God used these men in amazing ways that paved the way for Jesus’ birth and the covenant of grace we all now enjoy.
If God had grace and compassion for them, He, of course, has it for all fathers everywhere. Which means we need to be examples of Christ to the fathers we know and love as well.
Noah the Drunk
Full-scale reproduction of the ark in the Netherlands.
Noah was a good man who loved God. In fact, he was the only good man on the planet it seems (Genesis 6:8–10). So, God told Noah to build an ark for his family and the animals of the earth, and the Lord wiped the earth clean with a historic flood (Genesis 7).
Noah wasn’t a bad guy, but he wasn’t the best father as we see in Genesis 9:18–29. He had a son named Ham who made fun of him to his brothers after Ham found his dad partially naked during a night of drinking. Noah wasn’t too happy about it. He cursed his son with a curse so strong it’s believed to persist today in the conflict between Israel and the remnant of the Canaanites(Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan). Ham’s life went on to be very difficult too.
Probably not the best way Noah could have handled the situation.
It’s unfortunate Noah allowed his pride and anger to rule his behavior. As we know, that’s no way to parent. It’s important we moms and dads stay in control of our emotions when it comes to our kids’ shenanigans.
But God blessed Noah. He showed grace. And since Noah was the (only living) patriarch, he carried on the scarlet thread of Jesus (Genesis 10).
Jacob had a difficult time being a good father too.
After he fled to his Uncle Laban’s house to escape Esau’s wrath, Jacob met Rachel and fell instantly in love (Genesis 29). Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his other daughter though, so Jacob worked Laban’s farm for an additional seven years — fourteen total — to win Rachel’s hand (a man must be head over heels in love if he’s willing to do that, don’t you agree?).
Many years later, after having children with both wives (and two maids, Genesis 30:3–13), it was Jacob’s two sons by Rachel — Benjamin and Joseph — he favored the most. And everyone knew it. Especially his other sons.
I’m sure you remember the story of how one day Jacob gave his son, Joseph, a beautiful coat that Joseph carelessly flashed around. Joseph’s brothers got very tired of his boasting, so, after many years of jealousy, they all agreed to throw him in a pit to die (Genesis 37).
Joseph’s misfortune wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Jacob and how he chose to parent. He clearly had favoritism for Joseph, which his other sons resented, and many child psychologists say is a big no-no.
Thankfully though, God worked the situation for good.
God showed grace to Jacob and continued to bless him. His family was saved from famine and death (thanks to Joseph, Genesis 42–45), and his other son, Judah, carried on the scarlet thread of Jesus (Genesis 38 and 44).
King Saul’s Anger
King Saul was the first king who ever ruled Israel. He was hand-chosen by God personally for his wisdom and love for the Lord. He did a great job of ruling Israel for a while, but then things began to change when David showed up.
David was a lyre player in the king’s court, and he was best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. Their bond was inseparable. God blessed David with battle victories so much that Saul became enraged (perhaps deranged, even) and sought to kill him. But Jonathan helped David escape his father’s evil intentions, and David, as you know, eventually took the throne.
Saul must have done something right in his parenting because Jonathan was a good guy and a great friend to David. But we know Saul allowed his jealousy and need for power to overtake him so strongly he seemingly went mad and took his emotions out on Jonathan.
In 1 Samuel 20:27–34, Saul is wondering why David hasn’t shown up to eat at the king’s table for the past two days. Jonathan made up a story to cover up the fact that David was hiding from Saul, which made Saul so mad he yelled and cursed at his son. Then he tried to kill Jonathan with a spear right there at the dinner table.
Again, not the best parenting. Some have speculated that Saul suffered bipolar disease, manic depression, or some neurological disorder though there is no proof. Regardless, there were obvious issues.
Saul may not have been a great father or father-in-law to David, but God still showed him grace. He paved the way for the throne of Israel to be given to David, who permanently established Israel as a nation and played a huge part in the scarlet thread.
God’s Grace for Fathers
We find other examples of bad fathers throughout 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Some of them obeyed God, but sadly others taught their sons to worship false gods such as Baal and Ashteroth. Their dishonor and disobedience angered God, but He continued to keep His covenant with David that his seed would establish God’s kingdom and his throne would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:12–16).
Of course, God’s covenant with David was all because of His redemptive plan that Jesus fulfilled when He died on a cross and rose to life three days later. It proves that no matter how badly we might behave, God always shows grace. He makes it available to anyone who wants it. For those who don’t ask for it, God’s grace is still manifest in our families and with others we know because of His continuing plan of redemption.
God does not want anyone to eternally die in hell. He would much rather we choose Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and He is the only one who can save us from sin and death. His desire to save us is why He longs to give grace.
A Pharisee once asked Jesus what the Greatest Commandment is. Of course, Jesus had no trouble telling the Pharisee what the Torah says but He added a bit more to it.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37–39
If we are to love God and love others the same way, we can conclude that if God loves us enough to show grace no matter what we’ve done, we should also show grace.
Grace Equals Blessing
Remember, grace is unmerited favor. No one truly deserves it, but we choose to give it anyway because of Christ’s love in our lives. Just as God forgives, so should we. As He loves, so should we.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
“But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7:47
“Even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” Colossians 3:13–15
Though men sometimes make poor decisions, whether in parenting, business, or life in general, God can always make beauty from ashes. He can always turn a situation around for the sake of His great love and grace. If we can extend that same grace, who knows how we can touch their lives and point them to (or back to) Christ?
This Father’s Day, let’s remember it’s not always easy being a dad. Let’s show some extra grace and love. Whether the father in your life is near or far, let’s make it a great day of blessing for the glory of God’s name. Through our words and actions, we can bless others. In doing so, God blesses us all.
Grace. It might be the best Father’s Day gift of all.