by Kenneth O. Gangel
“Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks, and falsehood is always weak, no matter how strong it looks.” — Phillips Brooks
I heard a story about a guy who showed his buddy the beautiful diamond ring he had bought his girlfriend for her birthday. The friend looked shocked and asked, “I thought she wanted a four-wheel-drive vehicle.” “That’s right,” he said, “But where am I going to find a fake Jeep?”
When young women marry young men they expect the real thing—not perfection but authenticity. And we don’t mean the diamond or the car. And, unless they have been painfully disappointed too many times, most wives still expect the same thing fifty years later. Yet cheating on wives has almost become a cliché in America, a pattern of life literally modeled from coast to coast—in Washington and Hollywood.
Of course wives cheat on husbands, too, but I wrote this article for men. Parents who cheat on each other also cheat on their children, until the whole family loses its collective authenticity and becomes a sham. That’s why the covenant of marriage rests at the very bedrock of family life.
Abraham was no ordinary man. The Bible calls him a friend of God (Is. 41:8; James 2:23). We learn from this great patriarch that even godly people whose faith seems to radiate from their behavior are often tempted to tell less than the truth. We also learn the danger of such duplicity. When forced to enter Egypt because of famine, Abram feared what might happen to his beautiful wife, Sarai, so he instructed her in advance to tell the Egyptians she was his sister (a half-truth, since she was his half sister).
In this particular historical event, Abraham’s sin brought God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s house. In true demonstration of biblical grace, God overcame Abraham’s sin, forgave his lie, and sent him back to Canaan (Gen. 12:10-20).
I suspect Abraham learned two important spiritual lessons from this side trip to Egypt: truth and trust. He exemplified the lesson of trust through the rest of his life on earth. The issue of truth, unfortunately, gave him difficulty again in chapter 20, where he told the same lie, with essentially the same results!
Someone has argued that the best evidence for Christianity is Christians themselves—imperfect, sinful, broken people into whose lives God has brought forgiveness and restoration. Abraham was like that—and so are we. He had to learn to pattern his life, including consistent truth-telling, after the very nature and character of God. We are so accustomed to lying as a cultural behavior, that strict adherence to truth at times seems unusual, perhaps even impossible. But truth is built into the very fabric of God’s being. God says of Himself, “I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right” (Is. 45:19).
As God’s truth-nature reflects in us, we become real, authentic, genuine men whom people can trust. When we make promises to our children, we keep them. When we make a covenant with our wives, we stand by it for life.
A good leader does not surprise his followers; his consistency lets them know what to expect. Fathers are family leaders and truthfulness and trustworthiness produce the kind of consistency that creates peace and stability in a family.
Families are hungry for truth in a society of falsehood—even if they don’t know it. Your handling of Scripture at home is every bit as important as the way your pastor handles it at church. And your modeling of its principles in daily living is just as essential for your family as your pastor’s behavior is for your congregation. There is no double standard! An old line says that truth is like a plant: it must first take root and then it bears fruit.
The relaxation of worship in our day may have already caused a de-emphasis on Bible exposition. God’s truth— whether in the family or in the church—cannot be compressed into thirty-second sound bites, wall plaques, or little paperback books. When that happens our lives and our worship become self-focused rather than God-focused. And truth dissipates like a morning fog.
We live in a society whose people say whatever seems appropriate at the time. Philosophers call this behavior “existential,” living for the moment and letting the future take care of itself. We watch this kind of mentality played out ad nauseam on television with politicians and celebrities. Say what is most convenient now, hope it works, and if not, simply contradict it later.
Complete carelessness in speaking and writing mark our culture. In this kind of milieu, God needs men who will stand up and tell the truth—clearly, consistently, courageously—even when it may be harmful to them.
If television and marketing determine our kids’ values and behavior, the battle for truth has ended and we have lost. This is not some stage your kids will outgrow. You’re fighting for their minds and hearts, and if you are not prepared to lead the charge for truth by both living and teaching it, you have not just lost, you have surrendered.
Winning the battle for your family requires three things: truth-learning, truth-living, and truth-teaching. Truth-learning speaks for itself. Your careful and consistent involvement at church, your personal Bible study, your practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer and meditation form the process of truth-learning in your life. Truth-living means the authenticity and reality we’ve been talking about throughout this article. The old cliché says, “What you see is what you get.” Your family should be able to see and experience truth through you.
We want to concentrate here on truth-teaching, which implies that you have truth-learning and truth-living reasonably well in hand. Genetic scientists have written extensively over the last five years regarding how people are shaped more by their genes than by their parents. Most is unconvincing, and almost all of it unbiblical. At the very least, nurture is as important as nature, environment as important as heredity. In a society of relative truth, we claim absolute truth grounded in Scripture, and that’s what God expects us to teach.
God will not allow Christians to shift family accountability to churches or schools or other organizations. Teachers are important, but in the role of nurture they are bench players—substitutes for parents. Through all the years of parental relationships, God expects truth-teaching to be one of our major responsibilities. Dads who do not know God’s Word and do not prepare for truth-teaching will find themselves inadequate and frustrated when trying to carry out their God-given commands and responsibilities.
This article is adapted from a chapter in Fathering Like the Father (Baker) authored by Drs. Kenn and Jeff Gangel, available at Christian bookstores and on the Net.