The Church

What Every Father Needs to Know

Tony Stone

Fathers, this is for us.  I encourage anyone to read this, but it will have special application for fathers, or men who aspire to be fathers.

I ran across a local news article picked up by CNN (see the video here) about a man in his early 30’s named Orlando Shaw. He has fathered 22 children with 14 women. After reflecting on the video, I thought it would be beneficial to look at some of Orlando’s top lines and contrast them with our heavenly Father, so that we can hope in the true fatherhood of God.

“I love all my children.”

This sentiment is easy to say. Many fathers say they love their children, but what they understand as love and what God understands as love are two different things.  Love is not the same thing as action, but “actionless” love calls true love into question. A father who only imparts biological life, but isn’t a source of life for his children puts his professed love under doubtful scrutiny. God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet in sin, Christ died for us.

“I can’t pay no child support now.”

One of the defining characteristics of leadership, (and consequently manhood) is bearing responsibility.  Responsibility is so bound up in the meaning of “headship” that when the father of the human race fell into sin, he took all of humanity with him. Responsibility isn’t a choice; it’s a state of being. Fathers are responsible. There are many men who feel as if they are not responsible for the supply of their children’s needs. This isn’t like our heavenly Father who supplies us richly with grace in Christ, gives us life, and sustains us daily.

“It’s called cell phones.”

The news reporter asked Orlando how he keeps up with all of his kids. Now, we know it’s not impossible to keep up with large families, and do it well.  But given the circumstance of Orlando not supporting his kids, the question is warranted.  His answer is, “cell phones.”

Orlando did not invent the act of conveniently fathering at a safe distance. Many fathers can be distant from their children, arranging life so they don’t have to be bothered (that’s not how real life works, our kids are gushing with needs). Fatherhood is meant to be hands-on, not mitigated through phones. God’s love for his children overflows by the Holy Spirit within us – now that’s close proximity!

“I was young and ambitious.”

When asked why he didn’t use any form of contraception, he said he was young and ambitious – to the laughs of a crowd of (presumably) friends or family members. Starting a business is ambitious. Going to college is ambitious. Taking care of your kids is ambitious, too. Using your sexuality as a weapon to create a few dozen fatherless kids is not ambitious. That’s reckless.

Ambition is all about a journey. God shows us his ambitious in that he pursues rebellious children, even to the furthest extremes of our sin. God’s ambition is applied to our saving, not to our destruction. What immeasurable grace!

“The ladies don’t like me, they love me.”

Orlando said this with a great deal of gloating. It’s sad women would oblige such a man, but his comment shows his self-assessment. He thinks he’s basically loved by women, and that he impresses them. He thinks the boyhood he’s putting on display is actually attractive. Fourteen women are taking him to court, but he still believes he’s loved by all the women. This is an immature and boyish mentality. Women are basically tools for his pride. Our heavenly Father has a right view of Himself. We are the only ones who misread him when we doubt his goodness, glory, and beauty.  Although we often misread him, he loves us with an everlasting love. We love him, because He has loved us first.

“The Shaw family stays strong; I’ll make sure we’ll be here for years and years to come.”

When asked whether or not he’s happy about having so many kids in the world, he was proud to respond that way.  I’m saddened for the kids.  They will have a distant dad (unless the Lord changes this man’s heart) and if God himself doesn’t intervene by some special provision of grace, there will be 22 kids growing up bitter and the product of Orlando’s version of a strong “family”.

And therein lies the problem- many fathers don’t understand what a family is.  A family is not just a grouping of similar species that happen to share DNA. A family is a covenant group of people bound together by love.

What differentiates a truly human family and a pack of feral hogs? We, in the image of God, are love bound. The first aspect to break a part the faulty view of “fatherhood” will be a faulty view of “family”. God joins us together through the finished work of Jesus Christ and makes us into a family of faith. We start to resemble Jesus and experience life as a covenant family.

Confess Our Poor Fatherhood

It would be easy to just get mad at Orlando and feel as if Orlando is everything that we aren’t.  Let’s pray for men like Orlando because he needs help and we ourselves have an Orlando hidden in the “unevangelized” corners of our hearts. The first step in changing isn’t trying harder to not be like Orlando, but is confessing we are poor sinners who need the grace of God! We also need to pray God gives that grace freely in Christ; he is more eager to give than we are to receive!

Look to our heavenly Father daily and remember his gracious care for us in Christ. Encourage other men in this way.  God will continue to free us up to be men who put on display the Fatherhood of God in how we lead in our families, neighborhoods, churches and beyond.

1 Comment

  1. Jonathan Williams

    Brother Stone,
    What a well written post. I’m a son of a dad who has 16 kids by 6 different women. I see a lot of my dad in Orlando. Growing up I despise my dad, and frankly that he was a coward for having all those children. Today, I forgiven him and love him dearly through my actions. Thanks again, for bringing up such important topic.

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