This past Saturday morning was monumental for reasons I did not expect. Having awakened a little later than normal, I began to move towards the secret place, where I would begin the day in the Word of God and prayer; I never got there. This Saturday would be different, as my wife needed milk for the family and our two year old was already awake… doing my best to be benevolent, I offered (with reservation) to make the milk run. The reason for my hesitation was my plan for the day, which was to share the gospel of Jesus in the neighborhood surrounding the church. The actions of our Great Commission calling take the fullness of the Spirit, for we actively wrestle with principalities and power bent on keeping the lost in darkness and bound in chains. I needed to be with Jesus… Interestingly I was, just a little differently than I thought.
While driving back from the grocery store, and flipping through radio stations, I heard a statistic that left me breathless with heart break. A former resident of Rochester, who played football in the NFL, was speaking about a program he began in Rochester earlier in the year to deal with a huge problem. The problem, which I believe is a spiritual curse, is contained in a number so egregious as to be unbelievable… Eighty percent, yes 80% of young men in the City of Rochester grow up in a fatherless home. Let’s wrap our mind around that just a bit. If there were 10,000 young men in Rochester under the age of 18 (The number is greater), 8000 would be in a home without a father. If that does not cause a reaction, you really need to check your pulse. My reaction upon hearing that statistic was an almost instantaneous feeling of breathlessness, followed by weeping. Yes I said “weeping”. I immediately thought of my son, and daughters, and the child my wife and I will soon welcome in the spring next year. As I wept and ruminated on the number 80% another statistic flooded my memory, indicative of another curse in our city, which brought a similar reaction. Almost a year and a half earlier, close to the birthday of my now two year old daughter, I was told in a restaurant meeting that in the first year of my daughter’s life, 8000 babies had been aborted in the Rochester area. I asked for the man who was sharing to repeat the number, thinking I must have heard incorrectly. I had not, and in the next few seconds, I felt as if an elephant was laying all his weight on my chest, and that pressure had squeezed the tears of Christ out of my broken heart. I do not find these numbers to be separate but inexorably tied together. Fatherlessness breeds a view of relationships between men and woman that is utilitarian, unbiblical and sinful. That view produces “unwanted” issues needing to be taken care of, as well as more fatherlessness.
In the midst of the cancerous growth of fatherlessness we usually look for a way to change the numbers and mitigate the issue without dealing with the root cause. We come up with plans and programs in our fervor, that on the surface look wonderful and have many good, if not environment changing parts to them, yet they never really make a long term dent in the issues at hand. In many cases the suggested antidote is education, which leads to economic empowerment leading to the lessoning of poverty which tends to breed the numbers we are discussing. The suggested education is aimed at academics, self-worth, vison casting, practical training and a host of other areas which in themselves have worthwhile components. As a whole they become a humanistic solution that squeezes out the only true Antidote; Jesus Christ. As Jesus told His disciples, when they were playing the card of social justice “the poor you will always have with you”. Looking to the “need” for education and economic advancement or even mentoring, as the means to reduce the 80%, is short-sighted on many levels. The reason it is short-sighted is that fatherlessness is not just a minority issue, as much as politicians and some clergy want to make it.
Consider the white suburban culture, where there tends to be much better educational opportunities and advancement; we are seeing a rise in teen pregnancy, divorces, single parent homes, drug addiction, violence and a host of other social issues once thought to be inner city issues only. “What is s contributing issue to these problems?”, one might ask, where education and upward economic movement are more available? Fatherlessness is a primary factor, although how we get there may not be apparent at first. Good economics create more disposable income, extracurricular activities, buying power in technologies and educational opportunities, yet are these making a better more effective young person in suburbia? Not really! More extracurricular activities have brought less time spent with Moms and Dads and more with coaches and leaders who are leading in ways often counter to what is desired in the Biblical family. More disposable income has opened a technological world to young people which their parents do not understand. More educational opportunities means more time spent with teachers whose private agendas color what they teach and infect their pupils with ungodly views of the family and fatherhood. This is compounded by the fact that these things demand more separation in the family, as more work needs to be done by parents (particularly fathers) to fund the “prescription” for success. When one really thinks about it, young white people are not being raised by their parents (fathers in particular), as much as they are being raised by the culture they are in. In essence with all the “opportunity” the suburban white culture has had, it is still plagued by increasing and troubling trends in the very same statistical categories inner city children are dealing with.
Someone may take issue with what I have written thus far, claiming I don’t understand what it is like to be a minority in the inner city. This would be true, but I do know what it means to have a bad case of being human; the condition where all the egregious numbers and percentages begin anyway. Having a bad case of being human always needs a scape goat to explain away the real cause of the problems associated with the human condition. The real cause is our error prone response to God… His Word calls that sin. Whether it is poverty, father-less-ness, sexual immorality, violence, greed, a lack of natural affection, poor parenting or hundreds of other things; they all begin at the same place…
Romans 1:21-26 (NKJV) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Un-thankful people, often search for a reason for their pain outside of dealing with their sin first. This pattern leads to humanistic answers (worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator); that no matter how good they may seem will never change the human heart. This is why good programs and fatherly mentoring, as good as they can be seldom change the numbers; for apart from a change in the human heart, they are unsustainable. There needs to be supernatural change in order to change the curse of fatherlessness. Fatherlessness can only be overcome when we deal with He who is a Father to the father-less (Psalm 68:5).
The scriptures are filled with language that suggests God as Father, in fact when dealing with Christ specifically; Isaiah characterized Jesus as THE model for a father.
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV) For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In Jesus role as Messiah, He revealed the relationship we can have with God who is Father if we come through His cross…
Romans 8:14-15 (NKJV) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
Who better to teach men how to overcome the curse of fatherlessness, than those who understand fatherhood from the One who is perfectly our Father? This benefit and blessing can only be had for those who first deal with their own sinful heart in the cross of Jesus. This is why we must be careful to not run to “fix” what we see as broken in the numbers without first acknowledging the inborn sinfulness of the young men in that egregious number of 80%. If we mentor, empower, teach, provide opportunity for or attempt to love the young men where ever they reside, without declaring God’s love in Christ, we will fail to make a dent in the “curse” the numbers represent… “For God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we are still in our sin, Christ died for us. The greatest tragedy for the 80% is that they have never heard nor seen this truth lived out, that God the Father loves them so much He sent Jesus to die for them; so they could find forgiveness and be adopted as a son, whose Father will never leave them and will change them into those who would end the curse. It is repentance towards God in light of this truth that guarantee’s the curse ending transformation, because Jesus lives and dwells in their hearts.
More than a few years ago I realized that no matter how much I could give my children, no matter how much I declared my love for them, no matter how well I could protect them or provide for them, none of that would matter if left out one essential element. That element is a proper understanding of God as Father. Not only is it my duty to teach them theologically, but to live the Father’s love, as His Spirit fully lives in me. May God not only do this in our homes, but compel us to the 80%, not to give them a program, but the Presence of God the Father in the love of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray to overcome this curse, for time is short and no matter what the percent, not knowing God’s love in Jesus death and resurrection is the greatest injustice the world has ever known.