Recently I was listening to a eulogy for a military leader who had lost his life while commanding his troops during a battle with enemy insurgents. His fellow soldiers commended him for being a commander “that led from the front” instead of directing a battle safely behind the front lines of combat. I think that describes the difference Paul is referring to between being an instructor and being a father. An instructor can tell you how to do something, but a father is there to show you how it is done. Being an instructor is pretty safe because you can always say that something didn’t work for the one being trained because they just didn’t understand what you meant. However, when you are demonstrating what should be done while working with the trainee, they get to see you while you succeed and when you struggle or fail. Sometimes that can bring embarrassment.
But regardless of the possibility of less than perfect outcomes, the Apostle Paul risked saying, “…imitate me.” I’ve talked to some young married men who are thinking about never becoming a father. They say that they are worried about what kind of world their children would be born into, but I think that they are also judging their capabilities of wisely helping to navigate their children through that challenging world.
Considering the world that we are living in, I can’t help but feel that we need more spiritual fathers than ever before – godly men who will “lead from the front.” We need men that are being taught and led by their heavenly Father (2 Corinthians 6:18). These men would be following the Biblical example of godly character and self-sacrifice given by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:21). We need men who will risk saying, “…imitate me” as I follow the Lord.