“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:14–16, ESV)
There is something special between a good father and his son. The good father loves his son and hopes that the son will follow in his footsteps. I also think that there is an inner desire of the son to be like his dad. At least it is the way I feel through the experiences of my lifetime.
Take for example my dad. He worked as Chief Engineer for a steam turbine manufacturer. He had served in the Army Air Corps on a B-17 crew during WWII. He was interested in math and science, but not so much in non-technical subjects. I sought to walk in his footsteps, earning a degree in mechanical engineering, receiving a commission in the United States Army, doing well in technical studies and poorly in others. When I left the service, I went to work for a company as a project engineer.
After getting married, we had two children. The first was a daughter and the second a son. When we had our son and I held him in my arms, I thought that someday he would follow in my footsteps. Not that I was a perfect dad, but I think that most good fathers would have the same aspirations for their children.
Sometimes, because we have such aspirations for our children, we can become somewhat strict disciplinarians. We do not want to come across that way. However, we do. What we really want is the best for our children. We want them to grow up to be successful in life.
Here Paul had given an exhortation to the Church at Corinth, a church that had gone astray in many areas. In the previous verses, he was dealing with an issue of pride that had manifested in factions in the church. Paul wrote some harsh words to the people of the church. Yet, his purpose was not to shame them or destroy their spirit, but to “admonish” them by bringing them an exhortation to rise to a healthier level.
You see, he addressed them as his “beloved children.” Paul saw himself as their spiritual father. Every good pastor sees himself that way, with the parishioners as his beloved children. He wanted the best for them and he knew that the way they were going was a pathway of pain and destruction. It broke Paul’s heart to see his children on that path.
Moreover, as a spiritual father, Paul went on to write, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” Like all good fathers, he wanted his children to walk in his footsteps. He wanted them to have a heart of devotion for God, to love the Lord, and to walk in a manner that would bring glory to God.
This world, the home, and the church is in desperate need of good spiritual fathers and mothers. This is not just about the home, where this is most assuredly needed. The church needs men and women who will serve as spiritual mothers and fathers to others. In several church experiences, I had such spiritual fathers in my life. They were loving enough to give me exhortation when I was off the right path and also to give me encouragement when needed.
The challenge here is twofold. First, everyone should have a spiritual father of mother in their Christian walk. Second, those who are ready should seek to be a spiritual father or mother to a child in the faith.