Fathering

In my reading the other day I came across 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12:

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Here Paul is communicating with the church in Thessalonikē. It was a new church he had recently founded and a church he found himself quickly detached from. Here he writes to exhort, encourage, and charge the church toward godliness in the same way a father would care for each of his particular children. This passage is deeply personal and affectionate.

Paul is not primarily seeking here to instruct fathers, yet it seems to me there are implications for those of us who are fathers. Note the three paralleled participles:

  • Exhorted (παρακαλοῦντες). Writes one commentator, “In some contexts the verb may signify ‘to console’ or ‘to comfort’ (1 Thess. 3.7; 4.18; 2 Thess. 2.17), but in the context of moral instruction, such as here in v. 12, it conveys the meaning of ‘to exhort’ or ‘to urge’ a person to follow a certain mode of conduct” (Green 135).
  • Encouraged (παραμυθούμενοι). Or to “comfort” (NIV84). The first two verbs overlap. “Both verbs indicate the act of encouraging or cheering someone. The first word more frequently than the second carries the connotation of exhortation, yet both are also used in contexts of admonition. The combination in Paul seems to indicate a positive encouragement to Christian living” (Martin 84).
  • Charged (μαρτυρόμενοι). This is the most authoritative of the three verbs and it means to “implore” (HCSB) or to “urge” (NIV84) a matter of great importance. Paul uses the same term in Ephesians 4:17, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”

In this passing paternal metaphor Paul gives us a brief picture of godly fathering that is tender, personal, hopeful, encouraging, and yet firmly uncompromising.

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