Today is Fathers’ Day, a ‘designated day’ in the UK calendar to celebrate fathers. Many feel such days are artificial and overly commercial and that it is not wise to be attached to them, but the Bible reminds us to honour our father and mother and this can be an opportunity to thank fathers for their often unsung influence and input into our lives.

Fathers have a vital role to play in a child’s upbringing and development, but we live in a society where fathers are often marginalised, playing a peripheral role, if one at all. Many children do not know their fathers, have little or no contact with them and have few male role models in their lives. Other children, even if they live with their fathers, see them as remote and distant. To be a good father is a difficult job.

Jesus talked frequently of his relationship with God as a father-son relationship. We know very little about his relationship with Joseph, the man who assumed paternal responsibility for him (it’s believed Joseph died when Jesus was relatively young), but a lot about the intimate relationship he had with God. He talked about God as his Father (John 5:17-18) and said, ‘the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ (John 5:19) Fathers influence us more than perhaps either they or we realise. What a father does, a child will automatically copy.

This is both a sobering and challenging thought to ponder on this Fathers’ Day. Fathers, what are you doing which your child will also do? Are you modelling a life of faith? Are you showing your child how to walk in the Spirit? Are you demonstrating godly values? Or will your child see impatience, objections, a dog-eat-dog mentality, a workaholic who is forever saying ‘not now’ or ‘later’? Our lives can seem so busy, so frantic, so constrained. Do our children know they are unconditionally loved, accepted and welcome or are they learning they’re an inconvenience in our world?

Jesus sad, ‘the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these.’ (John 5:20) A good father loves his child and spends time with him. A child primarily learns skills and confidence from parents. Jesus talked of the Father giving responsibility to him. (John 5:22-23) We too need to give responsibility to our children as they grow, for how else will they become trustworthy, competent adults?

Today, fathers, reflect on the awesome privilege you have as fathers to shape, influence and model God to your children. This is your primary role as a father. Children, today reflect on the fact that no matter what your earthly experience of fatherhood has been, you have the opportunity to know God as your Father in the same intimate and loving way that Jesus did. Let’s rest in that relationship and, like Jesus, seek to do only that which pleases the Father. (John 8:29)