|Love Covers a Multitude of Sins|
(A Father's Day Message by Chris Long)
In light of Father's Day, can I ask you a question? What words come to your mind when pondering your father?
On Father's Day, we celebrate dads. All the cards and all the messages that flow around this time make one big assumption (similar to the one made on Mother's Day): that your father ACTUALLY IS/WAS a good father!
Sadly, these days that assumption can be highly flawed.
What do you do when your father never showed much love to you? Or constantly berated you? Or even hurt you physically (or worse, sexually)? What about the dads that skipped out on their kids to pursue some other, more "exciting" life? What about those that came home drunk every weekend (or worse, every night)? Or the ones that cursed constantly or repetitively got unreasonably angry over even the smallest things? Or maybe just spent all their time engrossed in work, or sports, and never spent any time nurturing the important relationships at home?
What do you do with that?
I hope that when you think of your father, none of these things even remotely resembles that image.
Unfortunately, for far too many, that might not be the case. The stats on absentee fathers are through the roof, for instance.
What do you do?
Somehow the standard "Thanks Dad for being such a wonderful father!" cards just don't seem to cut it in this instance, do they? Where's the Hallmark card that says: "Well, I guess you tried, but you really stunk as a dad!"? I mean, let's be honest here - that sadly might be a bit more realistic for many.
Far too many people don't have the warm & fuzzy feelings when thinking of their dad. Words like "love, happiness, acceptance, character, compassionate, caring, strength, devoted, humble, spiritual leader" are some of the last they'd come up with.
So what do you do?
First, let's all agree for a minute that this is all really sad. It's really sad that an article like this one even might need to be written. It's sad. A travesty.
Step one is that we need to indeed acknowledge what we've all instinctively known, but which all the hoopla and lovey-dovey messages on both Father's and Mother's Day usually ignore. That is that some parents just plain don't/didn't do a good job at it.
A dad that abused his kids, for instance, was NOT a good father to his kids. Let's be honest and call "bad", "bad". Let's be honest and say that some men are good fathers. And some are not. Let's not confuse the two.
That's step one - and it's an important one. We've got to be honest about the situation.
For some of you, right now, this article is already proving painful. You might even be angry as some of the feelings you try to ignore have been surfacing. Your father could even have been dead for many years, and still those feelings can be welling up.
And that leads me to step 2, which is equally important, but which many don't ever get to.
If all you do is stay in step 1 - acknowledging the wrong - then you can easily stay in bondage (without even realizing you are in bondage!) to those emotions for years and years and years. The negative effects of your childhood can last you your whole life if you let it, even long after your father (or mother) has left this planet.
Many people compound the wrong done to them when they were a child, by allowing that wrong to continue to harm them emotionally and hinder them as an adult. This is NOT what God desires for you. God wants you to be whole in every way. He grieves with you that your father was not a good father to you. It hurts you. It hurts Him. But God also desires to take us beyond our hurts, to a place where we are healthy and whole and not hindered by hurts from our past!
This can be - and often is - a journey. But it starts with a real willingness on your part to want this as well. Many people when they are wronged (as a child or not) like to nurse that wrong....people can nurse bitterness and unforgiveness and grudges for years to a point that literally the negative effects of whatever wrong was done to them are magnified ten, a hundred, even a thousand times greater, in their life.
As Christians, we know that Jesus tells us to forgive, and even tells us very pointedly: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV) Note that this doesn't mean that forgiveness isn't hard to do.
One of the keys in dealing with wrongs done to us is to, in a sense, separate the person from the wrong actions the person commits. God loves every person on this planet - and that includes those parents that maybe didn't do as they should. Just because they did some wrong actions, does NOT necessarily mean that they did so maliciously (usually it is out of ignorance on their part, based often on what was modeled for THEM when THEY were a child!). God loves them and still loves them (regardless of your feelings on the matter!). God created them and wants them to come to Him and wants them whole and to live as He wants them to, just the same as He wants for you. The truth is that while they may have been a horrible sinner who did things wrong, we also have been horrible sinners that did things wrong. Oh, maybe not the same "in degrees" as we see them here, but we have still sinned before God. The same Jesus that died for us for our sins, did so for them as well. The same God that is willing through Jesus to forgive our sins and take us forward from them, is willing to do so for them as well.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8 (NASB): "Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins." God's love towards us in Christ covers a multitude of sins. Christ's love working through us can cover a multitude of sins as well.
My dad was not the best father to me when I was growing up. In retrospect, I know he loved me, but he didn't show it to me in ways I really needed (he expressed it in other ways that I am only able to appreciate now as an adult looking back - such as in his being a "good provider/hard worker"). He had a bit of a temper and that came out quite often as well. Basically my relationship with my dad was quite strained and produced quite a bit of bitterness and anger in me as a child.
My dad passed away in 2006 (not long after having accepted the Lord). About 10 days before he went to Jesus, as he was in the hospital ICU, I told him the strangest thing that just blurted out of me: I told him, among other things, that "I couldn't have asked for a better dad!" And I seriously meant it too.
I've thought about that several times since that day. Looking at it in the natural, that would not seem to be a true statement - in fact, one could call me delusional for making such a statement!
But it was exactly how I felt. How could I make such a statement?
I'll tell you how - the Lord showed me how I could make such a statement: "Love covers a multitude of sins." My love for my dad as the new creation he had become in Jesus washed away the former things. My love for him, in Christ, covered whatever wrongs he may have done. This is how we are supposed to live this Christian life! I have (and surely will) wrong others. I pray they, in love, forgive me. And I need to do the same with others.
To top it all off, with the love of the Lord working in me to forgive my dad, it's amazing how many of the "good qualities" of my dad have come to mind that I hadn't really seen or noticed back when I used to only focus on the negative and moan/groan internally of all he had done wrong.
Love covers a multitude of sins. Love can make things right.
Some of you may be familar with well-known Bible teacher Joyce Meyer. If my memory is correct, her t.v. program reaches 2/3 of the world. On a daily basis she ministers to untold millions! But she started out in life in a terrible family situation - being sexually abused by her father for many many years. She had to work through all the bitterness and anger from that, but with God's help, she did. God even brought her to a place of actually taking care of her parents in their later years (even though all of her flesh in the natural wanted no part of it!) And she was even able to be used by God to bring her father, the same father that had wounded her so badly, to the Lord not that many years ago.
God is able to take ashes in your life and make something beautiful out of it. Joyce details her story and what the Lord did in & through her in an excellent book called "Beauty for Ashes" - I highly recommend it for anyone that needs emotional healing or had a rough childhood. The revised edition (recommended) can be found used on sites like Amazon or eBay for only a few dollars - it's well worth it.
And so, with all that said, we come back to the beginning of this article. What do you do on Father's Day when you had a father that did things that really in all honesty shouldn't be celebrated? The answer is you can still celebrate them as a person that God loves and calls you to love. If nothing else, they helped bring you into this world. And the likelihood is they did other positive things too such as giving you food to eat, etc. You can celebrate them (even if only in your mind if they've left this world) as a person that God loves and all the things they did right, without celebrating all the things they did wrong (or maybe still do).
And remember: Love covers a multitude of sins.
This is version 1.0 of this document (June 17, 2011).