The picture on the right shows five generations of Nagels. From left: my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father, and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie—me. The verse on the framed picture comes from Proverbs 17:6b: “The glory of a son is his father.”
I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and I’m at a point where I understand how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”
The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s my turn.
Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first-generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. As Deuteronomy 6:5-9 tells us:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Passing on a legacy
Instead of giving you a normal list of things to do with your kids—have family devotions, pray before bed, go to church, etc.—I want to pass on three simple ideas:
1. One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to-do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids.
2. I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask for forgiveness when I need to.
Recently they were driving me absolutely crazy while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance, and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were uncalled for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, said that what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked for forgiveness.
Your kids know when you mess up. And they know when you blame others, make excuses, or just flat out refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that, and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
3. On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them. That means I need to immediately accept their apologies and not bring up their past infractions time and again.
I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over. When this child asks for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.”
Obviously this type of response will have serious effects on how a child views God’s forgiveness. So in that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.
I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?
This post originally appeared in the blog, Noah Gets a Nail Gun (no longer active). Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.