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Children Need Models, Not Critics

Since Sunday morning won’t be focusing much on the fact that Sunday is Father’s Day, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about that here.

My father, who died in 2001, was not a perfect husband or father. But a) he never pretended to be; and b) who is?—certainly not me.

But was a great husband and a great father.

There was a sign that hung above my father’s desk while I was growing up. It simply said:

Children need models, not critics.

That was my father’s philosophy. To model – to set an example, to use one’s energy trying to walk the walk yourself – rather than to criticize the failures and faults of others.

I want you to imagine, if you will, a child working in the back yard, helping his father build a storage shed, or as we called it, a “mini-barn.”

The child is doing it wrong: cutting the wood the wrong length; using the tools incorrectly and even dangerously…taking too long to do the work. 

The father knows the child is doing it wrong.

And the father has several ways to respond.

  • One possibility is for the father to ignore the fact the child is messing up, to offer empty praise and affirmations, to pretend there are no standards or to set the standards aside; to expect no excellence. To passively watch the job get screwed up.
  • Another possibility is to ridicule the child, to belittle, to criticize unhelpfully. To eventually knock the child out of the way and take over himself with a gruff “Get out of the way, let me do it; you’ll never amount to anything.”
And then there is a third way.

For the father to say, “here, let me show you.” 
  • For the father to step in, yes, and take a tool, but to stand beside the child, rest the child’s hand on his hand and guide a saw back and forth until the child picks up the feel. Then to step out of the way long enough to see if the child catches on…and step back in when encouragement, direction – modeling – is needed.
That’s a father who realizes that children need models, not critics.

Oh I thank God I had an earthly father who chose the third way.

But let’s take this a step further:  

So many people believe those three roles about our Heavenly Father:

  • One, that God ignores us, or expects no standards, or who is there only to offer empty affirmations…a God who doesn’t get involved with humanity at all, or who – if He does, is just watching it without judgment or involvement or real involvement or investment;   
  • Others believe that if God does step in, it is only to pop us on the head for our slightest transgressions: a stern God, one who punishes or ridicules or minimizes human efforts, or who – if allowing us to do any good – does so only by robbing us of our free will.

But isn’t it possible to believe that our Heavenly Father’s relates to us in the third way?
And now okay here’ the mind-boggling thing:

Isn’t it possible to interpret God’s role in sending Jesus that way?!?—that Jesus was our Heavenly Father saying, “Here, let me show you.”? 
  • That Jesus was God saying, “I’ve been trying to reach you through creation, through prophets, through my law, but let’s face it: you’re not picking it up. And so here: Let me show you.  Let me live a life as one of you…and in such a way that even 2,000 years later, it will be an example – a model – an enfleshment of who I am…so that whenever you wonder who I am and what I care about, you can turn to this life, and know.
A heavenly father who realizes humanity needs models, not critics!
And now let me take this even one step further:
If that is true of God and Jesus, then it isn’t it true of the church – the Body of Christ today – as well? 
If it is true our children need models, not critics,  
If it is true that humanity needs models, not critics,  
Then isn’t it true that the city of Falls Church…our colleagues at work…the wider culture in which we live and work…needs the church (and individual members of it) to be models, not critics?
“Models, not critics.”

Now that’s a vision and inspiration.  

Thanks, Dad. 


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