Thoughts from the Sycomore’s weekly reading of Romans…
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
Which one of us is qualified to call ourselves “fathers” of those we lead? No one. Not even the Apostle Paul. How then does Paul, who has never been a father call himself as such? He goes as far as to tell the Corinthian church to be” imitators of me.” What a bold statement! He is not being arrogant or shaming though—he literally says this in verse 14. It is not his position as a leader or how skilled he is or how well versed he is in Jesus (though he is better at these things than anyone else!) that qualifies him to be called a “father” of others. It is, as Paul says—“for in Christ Jesus,” he became a father of many through the gospel. It is only Jesus and Jesus alone who qualifies Paul and who qualifies us. Anyone can be called a “tutor” of the things of Jesus—they don’t even have to be Christian for that role.
This is why the role of spiritual fathers is never to be taken lightly and something that is never lorded over those we lead. In fact, I think that one of the true measuring sticks of how well we’ve embraced this role as spiritual fathers is when we admonish our “children.” It’s very easy to call our “children” beloved when they’re doing well. Encouragement and empowerment are aplenty in those wonderful circumstances. However, it is a completely different story when things aren’t that wonderful. The willingness, temperament, and skill to have those hard conversations are great indicators of how healthy we are as spiritual parents. I’m not sure if anyone likes to have hard conversations. However, I think that it may be one of the most precious gifts that any parent can give to their beloved—just as Jesus did for us.