Today, across the country, kids of all ages honored the man that raised them by eating lots of grilled meat, buying ugly ties, and making picture frames out of popsicle sticks that say in some format, “My Dad is Better Than Yours.”
I think Father’s Day is great, mostly because I have an amazing dad who is sorely underappreciated. For all he’s done and continues to do, my dad truly deserves Father’s Day treatment every day.
But as I was running through my neighborhood today, I was struck by the fact that today is just another day for many of the kids who live here. You see, according to census data, only 14% of the families in my community have a father in the home.
Because I grew up in a home with a great dad, life without a father is almost unimaginable. But here, this is the reality, multiplied across neighbors and friends. Though American society is traditionally recognized to be a paternalistic one, in communities like mine, society is changing. And sadly, the future is bleak for homes headed by women. From an economic standpoint, female-headed households are twice as likely to be in poverty as homes where a male is present. Even more tragic; youth suicides, behavioral disorders , high school dropout rates, incarceration rates, and criminal activity are all dramatically high among the fatherless.
Such is a world without dads.
This issues weighs heavily on my heart, not just because I’ve had an amazing example for a father or I live in a broken community, but ultimately because the fatherless hold such a special place in the heart of God.
Throughout Scripture, we see God’s justice and mercy evidenced in his care for the fatherless:
“He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18)
“You are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
“In You, the fatherless find mercy.” (Hosea 14:3)
We see God’s heart for the fatherless over and over again in Scripture. And for every acknowledgement of God’s posture toward this population, there are twice as many exhortations for His people to act in a similar manner.
“Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” (Psalm 82:3)
“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
The Scriptures equate defending the fatherless with doing good and James goes so far as to say that the working out of our faith is evidenced in how we treat helpless populations, like the fatherless. I think it’s safe to conclude that if we value what God values and are serious about keeping his commands, then we will intentionally serve those without a father.
Even if you don’t live in a neighborhood like mine, it’s likely that you know a fatherless child. Fatherlessness is a nationwide epidemic and it’s time that we, as followers of Christ, acknowledge it as such and respond with love and justice. We can’t replace the fathers who aren’t there, but we can demonstrate the love of the greatest Father one could ever know or imagine.
May every day be Father’s Day – where we proclaim the love and the mercy of our Father and prove it’s reality in our lives by serving the fatherless generation around us.
To learn more about engaging in the plight of the fatherless, please check out the work of The Mentoring Project (http://thementoringproject.org/). It’s a great place to start!