We are All Called to Be Spiritual Fathers and Mothers

A spiritual father has a correct concept of God.

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I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
1 John 2:13,14 ESV

If we are followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, siblings in the family of God, we are called to mature into “spiritual fatherhood/motherhood” in the family.

Is that a surprising thought? Let’s think together about this idea of “spiritual parenting.”

In his first letter, the fatherly, aged apostle John penned a tenderhearted passage on the growth stages in a believer’s life. He describes for us spiritual childhood, then spiritual young adulthood, and finally Spiritual parenthood:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you,
fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you,
young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you,
children, because you know the Father.
I write to you,
fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you,
young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-14 ESV

Did you notice that he repeats two times the exact same description of the “father stage” of spiritual growth?

 …you know Him who has been from the beginning.”

It’s as if John is saying,

“You know the Eternal GOD in His pure Person…the great I AM, the Burning Bush God, Jehovah!”

Nothing else is needed…nothing else distracts. A spiritual father has a correct concept of God.

There’s a total focus on the Ever-Present God and what HE is doing…especially in the lives of people.

Henri Nouwen, in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal Son, talks about how we are each ultimately called to be the “father (or mother)” in others’ lives.

…my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out His divine compassion in my daily life…every son and daughter has to choose to step beyond their childhood and become father and mother for others. It is a hard and lonely step to take…
Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal, p121.

Nouwen talks about three ways to truly compassionate fatherhood: grief, forgiveness, and generosity. All three of these characteristics require a heart completely empty of self-seeking, a heart that steps over our own stuff and pours itself out for others. This is where the Father seeks to take His children as they “grow up” in Him.

I love the image of “stepping over our own stuff.” It has helped me many a time in conversation or in situations to remember that as I mature in God I must be willing to step over this conflict, that slight, the other hurt, etc. That’s the way of the Father…and the way of fathers and mothers who walk in His way on behalf of His children:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Do you have any spiritual fathers or mothers in your life? If so, thank God and imitate their faith!

If not, ask God for some…they are treasures!

And then grow to become one!

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7 ESV


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on A Branch in the Vine

Featured Image by bingngu93 from Pixabay


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About the Author

Jan Loyd is a child of God, a disciple of Christ, a Jersey girl, a former nun, a teacher, and now a wife of 48 years, mother of two, grandmother of 5 boys and finally a baby girl...these are just some of the hats she wears or has worn. Her hat as teacher has seemed to be one she’s worn her entire adult life, ranging from teaching elementary school, homeschool, adult ESOL and GED language and writing. But along with all of these opportunities has been her favorite above all the rest: teaching women the Word of God in various ways, Precept Upon Precept and Bible Studies she’s developed by the grace and tutelage of God along the way. The heart of the message that she delights to share is that we are in union with the Living God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Currently you may find her on her devotional blog “A Branch in the Vine” where she shares several times a week and in her Bible Study/ devotional book The With-ness of our God: Relationship in Every Dimension.