John Bradshaw - History's Most Hated Father
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Well, there are sunnier subjects, I guess, but I'm not sure there are too many that are more important. We're going to take a few moments together to talk about history's most hated father, and, honestly, it might be a subject that arouses strong feelings, especially if your relationship with your own father wasn't or isn't good. Examine history and you find some tyrannical fathers. You'll find accounts of emperors and kings who murdered their children.
Look in the news and, of course, you're gonna find truly disturbing reports of monsters who've treated their children hideously. I'm not planning on getting too far into that. But I am talking about much more than the father who refused to buy ice cream or never attended a game or a recital or the dad who always worked late. That's careless parenting, for sure, but I'm being very specific about this. Not the worst father ever, but history's most hated father. I'm going to tell you who it is, and you might be surprised by who I identify. I don't think there's any question about it. In fact, it's not even close. In the Bible you'll find fathers who made terrible mistakes. Lot's mistake was moving his family to about the worst place they could have gone, but then he followed that up with getting drunk, and what happened afterwards was not something he would ever have been proud of.
We can think of King Manasseh, who made his children pass through fire, which is really a euphemistic way of saying that he sacrificed his children to the devil. But even after that, not even Manasseh is history's most hated father. You might be thinking, Hitler. But it's not known that Hitler had any children. Joseph Stalin had several children. Probably wasn't the perfect father, but there's nothing suggesting he was an especially bad father, either, definitely not the most hated. So if you try to figure out who wins the prize as history's most hated father, you need to set your sights a little higher.
Let's look at the Bible, Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". This was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit working together. Verse 26 says, "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" There's that plurality. The text doesn't explicitly state three persons, but we can deduce that by looking elsewhere in the Bible. Clearly, "us" is more than one. Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them".
Now, let's establish that there is a Father God. Ephesians 4:6 speaks of "one God and Father of all". In John 20, verse 17, Jesus encountered Mary Magdalene shortly after His resurrection and said, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.'" Malachi 2, verse 10 says, "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us"? Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven". In Matthew 6, verse 9, Jesus says, "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name". So you get the idea: God, the Father, is our Father. Clearest thing in the world. But how have His children related to God? Let's look at some biblical history.
Let's go back to the time before God's people had made it to the Promised Land. They'd recently left Egypt. Moses is on Mount Sinai with God. Well, what are the people doing? Exodus 32, starting in verse 3: "So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!' So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.' Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play".
So let's think this through. God liberated them from Egyptian slavery. God miraculously saved them from certain death. He made an incredible way of escape. He opened up an ocean, or at least the Red Sea. And as God is giving Moses the Ten Commandments, His very own people are at the bottom of the mountain breaking every one of them. So someone says, "They were tempted. They didn't know what had become of Moses, and it was a moment of weakness. They'd been influenced by their time in Egypt". Okay. But did things get better? Not exactly. Much later, we read that Israel wanted a king. God had been guiding them through prophets and judges, but that wasn't good enough for many of them. And God said to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8 in verse 7, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them".
This is God speaking, and He says, "They have rejected me". Speaking of Jesus the Son of God, Isaiah wrote, "He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not". That's Isaiah 53:3. Of course, this was a rejection of the Father. A similar thought is expressed in the New Testament, starting in Mark 12 in verse 6: "Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those vinedressers said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard". Mark 12:6-8. They killed the son and, in doing so, were rejecting the authority of the father.
In Jeremiah 2:5, God asks, "What injustice have your fathers found in me, that they have gone far from me, have followed idols, and have become idolators"? He goes on to say, "I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.... For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water".
You see what was happening? God had made them, created them, loved them, fed them with manna from heaven, brought water out of a rock, opened up the Red Sea, and yet He was out-and-out rejected by His people. In Isaiah 5, God asks, "What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it"? Isaiah 5, verse 4. Really, has there ever been a more hated father? Hated and rejected by people all over the entire world for thousands of years. Even one in three angels warred against God in hatred and rebellion. Has to be a tough job being God. In a moment, what is God's response to this rejection? And what if you had a lousy father? How do you cope with that? I'll have that when I come back.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. History's most hated father? No doubt about it. That's God. Sure, God has His supporters, but that number is steadily shrinking; at least that's what the statistics suggest. A recent Gallup poll stated that in 2020 less than 50 percent of Americans claim to be members of a church, synagogue, or mosque for the first time since records were kept. In 1999, that number was 70 percent. It's now 47 percent. People are definitely drifting away from God. But in addition to apathy, there's also a lot of straight-out hostility towards God. One television host spoke for many people when he said, "A more psychopathic character you will not ever find in fiction. Just the idea that people worshiped the God of this Bible is insane. There is no more psychopathic mass murderer than God".
And when that statement was made, there were few, if any, dissenting voices. The website of a well-known atheist describes God as "narcissistic," a "sociopath," and a "psychopath". Now, for the sake of definition, a psychopath, "in general, [has] a hard time forming real emotional attachments with others. Instead, they form artificial, shallow relationships designed to be manipulated in a way that most benefits the psychopath. People are seen as pawns to be used to forward the psychopath's goals. Psychopaths rarely feel guilt regarding any of their behaviors, no matter how much they hurt others". And those are the attributes that some attribute to God. That's what some people say about the One that the Bible says is love.
Now, not all atheists are nearly as uncharitable, but millions and millions and millions of people reject God. They just do it in a less jarring, maybe more socially acceptable way. But how would that feel to God, to see His people turning their backs on Him? Jesus asked a profound question when He said, "But why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not the things which I say"? Luke 6:46. That's a challenge today: people who despise God politely. God is God. And He asks for our hearts for the simple reason that without our consent, without our agreement, without our recognition of who He is, and without realizing we are lost without the salvation He provides, there's really not a lot God can do to save a person, nothing, in fact.
As long as we keep Him at arm's length, think now, people keeping the Creator at arm's length, as long as we do that, we're really saying the same thing as the people in the parable who said, "We will not have this man to reign over us". Very unfortunately, there's a subset of people for whom Father's Day is uncomfortable. They're the people who had a lousy father. And there are plenty of them. Not too much need to go into detail here, but it could be that the father was a monster, or deserted the family or was mean or rough or absent or lazy, or, or a hundred things. So what do you do if you have, or, or had, a terrible father?
Let me suggest several things. First, if he's living, pray for your father. Second, accept that some people are faulty. In fact, we're all faulty, every last one of us. Then try to really understand what your father was going through or facing. Now, let me pause here and say this. I, I'm not suggesting this in case of something really extreme. I'm not trying to sweep something awful and, and traumatic under the carpet. I'm speaking in general terms. And this is what I think most of us can relate to. I'm not saying this so you can excuse your father's bad behavior, but the truth is, if your dad had a really demanding job and he tried to spend more time at home, but his job as a, I don't know, a long-haul truck driver meant that he was away a lot, it's worth trying to understand that. If your father didn't have a role model, if he wasn't raised by his father, if he never had love demonstrated, it was always going to be hard to be the kind of father that you needed or the kind of father that he most likely wanted to be.
Now, I think that he could have and should have read books or gone to a class or asked for advice, something. But he didn't. Endeavoring to understand why he was what he was and how he was doesn't let him off the hook, but it gives you the opportunity to understand, and that can lessen your bitterness or disappointment. Maybe you had some terrible argument with your father, and he didn't handle himself well. It's worth trying to understand that maybe he was disappointed or hurt or simply made a bad choice.
Think about fathers who were raised a few years ago, and suddenly their children are playing this loud rock music, and they're wanting to go out to parties, and their sons were growing their hair, and their sons and daughters were using drugs. That's what families had to wrestle with in the late '60s and early '70s. Society as a whole was changing. It was uncharted territory for a lot of fathers. They were dealing with things that no one had dealt with before. I'd suggest this if you feel your own father didn't do a good job. Try to understand him. Try to understand his situation. Again, not to excuse his failings, but understanding will help you to let go of some of the bitterness. And there's one more thing I'd say. If you had a bad father, remember that you have a heavenly Father.
David wrote something interesting in Psalm 27, verse 10: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up". When your parents let you down, you still have a parent, a perfect parent, and that's God. And how do you understand what God is like? In John 14, Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us". And Jesus answered by saying, "He who has seen me has seen the Father".
So if you want to know what your heavenly Father is like, look at Jesus, who went about doing good, who came to heal and help and lift up and bless and forgive. All those beautiful attributes you see in Jesus, they show you what your Father is like. Now, if you're a father and you're wanting to up your game, in fact, if you're a parent and you'd like to do better at parenting, I've got 10 suggestions for you. These are not the 10 commandments of parenting, but they're 10 very good suggestions of parenting. Now, get ready to take some notes because these principles will really help. How to be a better parent, that's coming right up.
If a father is looking to raise his game as a parent, what should he do? It's easy, in theory. Love your children. Love them. Now, how do you do that? Well, one important way is to remember that love can be spelled T-I-M-E. Spend time with your children. You don't have time? Find time. You think you have more important things to do? You don't. Your other responsibilities are secondary. Take time. Do things with your kids. Show up to school events. Go to their games. Get down on the floor and play with them. Now, it sounds obvious, doesn't it? But if you're not doing it, or if you think you can get away without it, I'm telling you otherwise. Take time with your children. Children need their father in their life.
In a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Their Children," there's a section titled "Ten Ways to Be a Better Dad". Number two is, "Spend time with your children". I'm going to give you the other nine. The first point listed is, "Respect your children's mother". They say one of the best things a father can do for his children is to respect their mother. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Parents who love and respect each other provide security for their children. If you haven't been doing this, don't wait any longer. First step to being a better dad: Respect your children's mother.
Number two, now, that was, "Spend time with your children". Will ya have to let go of some things in order to do this? Probably, but it's about the best thing you could ever do.
Number three: "Earn the right to be heard". Talk with your children early in their lives so they'll feel comfortable talking with you. Establish a trust relationship. Listen to your kids. Find out what's going on in their lives. And care about it.
I'll give you number four: "Discipline with love". Just don't discipline in anger. There's nothing healthy about it. And I add to this by saying, don't yell at your kids. Just don't. It never helps. Unless, of course, your child is on the railroad track, and there's a train coming, but you know I'm not talking about that. Some men have the idea that being hard and tough as a dad somehow equates to manliness or it'll turn your son into a man. Oh, discipline is necessary, but remember that the words "discipline" and "disciple" are very closely related.
Disciplining your children is merely discipling your children. Discipline needs to be redemptive. You're preparing your kids for eternity. Discipline should lead them closer to you and closer to God's ideal for them and closer to God. So discipline with love, and don't yell at your kids. By the way, of course, kids are going to do stupid stuff. They're kids. Their brains haven't fully developed. In fact, science says that doesn't happen until they're in their 20s. Kids are young; that's why we call them kids, and we don't call them adults. They're immature. They're going to make mistakes, so get used to it. Now, keep in mind, you choose how you react to your kids. They don't force you to do anything.
Number five: "Be a role model". Show your son how a man acts with honesty and responsibility. Demonstrate for your daughter the respect that she deserves from others.
Number six: "Be a teacher". Life is full of teaching moments. Teach your children as they go through life. Do it kindly, respectfully, but take advantage of the opportunities you get to instruct your children. They are precious opportunities.
Seven: "Eat together as a family". Hugely important, and much more difficult as society keeps everyone so busy. But it's a great time for families to bond and connect. You get to listen to your children. You'll find out what's going on in their lives. It's valuable together time.
Point number eight: "Read to your children". It's impossible to overstate the importance of this. You're educating them. You're going on adventures with them. You're imparting valuable life lessons to them. You're giving them a chance to learn good values. Read to your children. You just have to. But make sure you're reading instructional, educational, value-building books to your kids. Dispense with the garbage and make sure you read the good stuff.
Now, number nine: "Show affection". Even if it doesn't come naturally to you. Kids need to know that they're loved, and showing your child affection helps your child to feel secure and loved and valued.
Point number 10: "Realize a father's job is never done". Your influence and role in their lives extends far beyond their childhood years.
And I'm going to add an 11th point. The Department of Health and Human Services didn't put this one in their report, and that is, pray with your children. Have family worship in your home, a family devotional time. Read the Bible and pray together with your children. Pray for your children and tell them that you're doing so. Every family should gather together for family worship to focus on the things of heaven and to draw together close to God.
Oh, and point 12: Take your children to church. Don't send them to church. Take them to church. Go with them. Be that example. Raise your children to know God, to love Jesus, and let them see Jesus in you. Incredibly, sadly, the most hated father in all of human history surely has to be God. The One who created the world, gave life to everyone who's ever lived, and yet has been ignored, rejected, and even despised by the vast majority of people throughout the ages. Whether you're a father or a mother, whether you're a parent or a child, you can bring joy to the heart of God right now by responding to His love. Allow God to be the God of your life. Surrender your life to Him. Let Him be loved by you. Embrace God and you're embracing life. Allow God into your heart today. Won't you do that? Allow Him to give you eternal life through Jesus His Son.
Our Father in heaven, we thank You that You are a good Father. And we who are parents need Your grace in raising children, that they can grow to know You and love You. I pray for mothers. Bless them in their vitally important role. And we're thinking especially today of fathers. Lord, would You bless the dads and allow them to reflect to their children the love that You reflect to us? I know many dads, the vast majority of dads, would look inwards and say, "I haven't always got it right". This is where we pray for Your mercy and Your blessing. And don't worry, dad, if you've made some mistakes. Who hasn't? It's not too late now to turn those over to God and say, "Lord, please, help me now to reflect You and demonstrate You and model You before my little flock". So, Father in heaven, we pray for the dads. Bless them all; draw them close; let them grow in the grace of Jesus. And we pray with grateful thanks, in Jesus' name. Amen.