I’d like to say a few words by way of challenge to young men as they’re growing up. It concerns how they relate to their parents, particularly (but not exclusively) their fathers.
This will be most obviously relevant to young men who are approaching adulthood. At the same time, it will also be relevant in various ways to the rest of us. For as Paul writes in Galatians 3:26, all of us are sons of our Heavenly Father through faith in Christ.One of the great temptations of young men as they grow older is the wrong kind of competitiveness.
As boys grow into men, they enter what we might call a different relational “space”. That is, they (rightly) start to relate as men to other people, such as their parents and siblings. They start exercising leadership, initiative, and a new kind of emotional strength. This is all good, but it brings some dangers.
For when young men start to act like young men, they soon notice (perhaps subconsciously) that this relational space is already occupied. To put it most simply, there’s already a man in the house – normally their father, though it might be a brother, or even a mother in single-parent families where mum needs to fulfil the roles of both parents. And naturally, therefore, a kind of “competition” can begin. It’s rather like watching the family equivalent of two rutting stags: two male egos are in a confined space, and the new buck wants to kick the old geezer out of the way so he can take the top spot.It’s quite easy to see this happening: the young man stops responding to his father with a respectful “Yes, dad”, and instead reacts with a grunt and a roll of the eyes. Or worse, you start to see public mini-confrontations that are a little like the adult equivalent of the (so-called) Terrible Twos.
As I mentioned before, it’s not only young men who encounter this kind of temptation. All of us can face similar temptations in the way we relate to our heavenly Father. As we grow older (and hopefully a little wiser) in the faith, we can easily start getting a little too big for our spiritual boots. Of course, it’s right that we should take on more responsibility as Christians as we grow more mature in the faith, or as we tackle increasingly complex situations in our lives. But the danger is that we can change from humbly accepting our Heavenly Father’s wise instruction to resenting it, questioning it, and even rejecting it.
The challenge – both for earthly sons with earthly fathers, and all of us with our Heavenly Father – is not to allow our growth in maturity (such as it is, and it’s often less significant than we might think) to diminish our deep sense of respect and honor towards those who are and will always be, older and wiser than us. Our Heavenly Father will always be wiser than us. And sons will find that their dads can still teach them a thing or two, even when the gray hairs start multiplying.
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honour the face of an old man,
and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32)