What Has Happened to Fathers?
Perhaps no story in the Bible troubles me more than what we read in Genesis 19:1-8. The details of what happened before the destruction of Sodom absolutely floor me. As a father, I am most appalled by the way Lot sold out his daughters, offering them to meet the sexual desires of a perverted mob. For those who don’t know the story, this is how the Word tells the story:
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
Lot’s tremendous failure in his role as protector of his daughters was obvious. What he did makes me angry to no end.
While it’s easy to stand in judgment of Lot and think that he clearly disqualified himself as a father, I am burdened by the fact that many dads today sell their kids out in essentially the same way that Lot did. It's just not as obvious. Lot's sin was that he acted in a way that made his daughters sexually vulnerable. While his was a sin of commission, ours is usually a sin of omission. Sadly, they often have the same result. While Lot took a repulsive action, fathers today are typically guilty of blatant inaction when it comes to protecting our children.
God has given fathers the job of keeping their families safe. That includes occasionally creating boundaries of protection that aren’t that popular with our children. This is something we are typically good at when our kids are young: “Be careful crossing the street and don’t take candy from strangers.” As our kids get older (and the issues move from basic safety to those of a more emotional and developmental nature), we have a tendency to disengage. Unfortunately, that is when our kids need us most.
Are we dropping the ball without even knowing it?
Let us look again at the story of Lot to gain some insights into how we have gotten so derailed from our responsibilities as fathers. A reflective passage way over in 2 Peter 2:7-8 gives us great insight into what might have led to Lot’s failure:
“If He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)…”
Rob Rienow of Visionary Family Ministries points out a couple of different things that we can see in this passage that have plenty of application for fathers today.
First of all, we can note that the Scriptures refer to Lot as a “righteous man.” Based on his behavior in Sodom, I absolutely don’t see it. A rigorous theological exploration into this story might give us clues that Lot offered his daughters because he knew his guests were angels. Or a cultural perspective might suggest that this was a clear example of a culture where men were dominant and women were second-class citizens. Whatever the case, Lot’s behavior was reflective of a man who had not a molecule of righteousness. However, the Word assures us that, at his core, Lot was a man who feared God. I believe the Word, so I have to believe what it says about Lot. This is also true for most Christian men today. We have thankfully been transformed by Christ and have a sincere desire to walk in a right relationship with God.
Next, we can see that Lot was “distressed” by what he saw going on in the world around him. The lawless thinking and practices he saw every day in Sodom troubled him greatly. In a similar way, most Christian men can watch the news, hear an abortion statistic, or see the latest Lady Gaga video and be troubled by what is going on in our world. We frown our faces and silently acknowledge that God offers a better way.
So far, so good. We can see in Lot and in ourselves both a desire for righteousness and a general sense of brokenness over the condition of our world.
But then it gets interesting.
The 2 Peter passage tells us that Lot was “living among them day after day.” He loved being in the city and he enjoyed being with the in-crowd. In addition, Genesis 19:1 tells us that he was “sitting in the gate of Sodom,” which suggests that he was a leader; a person of influence. We can conclude that a key to Lot’s moral failure with his daughters was the fact that he wasn’t staying separate from culture, he was in the middle of it. He ultimately became the quintessential righteous man who was significantly impacted by the world around him.
While Jesus commands His followers to be “in the world, not of the world,” Lot was the poster child for every man who unintentionally becomes compromised because we want to be in the culture and of the culture. This describes most of us.
In the NIV, Peter uses the word “tormented” to describe what Lot was feeling in his desire to fit in to the culture. The word implies “pressure to give in,” much like a POW is tortured to give up information or to compromise his allegiance. Many men today may not consciously be aware of it, but we are desperately feeling the pressure to fit in to our world.
This pressure to fit in is passed on to our kids.
We want out kids to be popular and to be successful. We definitely don’t want them to stand out as weird or outcasts. We may have righteousness as our foundation, but what silently drives us every day is how our kids are fitting into their world, not how we are helping them to find their place in God’s Kingdom.
We end up practicing Syncretism, not biblical Christianity. Syncretism is the practice of picking and choosing many different worldviews and perspectives that work for us and trying to “sync” them together into one way of life. For many Christians (as it was for Lot), we end up trying to integrate our Christian beliefs into the culture’s practices so that we can have the best of both worlds. What ultimately happens to fathers is the slow disintegration of anything that remotely resembles Christian spiritual leadership. It happened to Lot and it can happen to us.
Something has to change, dads. As a good friend constantly reminds me, we must choose to “embrace fatherhood,” seeing that role as the most important job we could ever have.
The Talks contains a lot more about what parents can do to step into the gap with their kids. This essential resource has been written to help parents guide and protect their kids from the impact of our messed-up and over-sexualized culture. It's on sale today for $11.99 at Amazon.
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