Fatherhood Takes Courage

Recently my wife and I were re-watching the classic 1960 western The Magnificent Seven. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie is about seven tough guys who are hired by a poor farming village to fight off a marauding gang of bandits. The cast includes screen legends Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson.

As we watched, I was struck by one scene in particular. Several of the village boys have taken a liking to one of the gunfighters, Bernardo O’Reilly (played by Bronson), and want to be like him. The boys complain that their fathers, who are simple farmers, are cowards.

“Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers,” Bernardo scolds. “Because they are not cowards!” He explains:

“You think I am brave because I carry a gun. Well, your fathers are much braver, because they carry responsibility — for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. … There’s nobody says they have to do this; they do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day, with no guarantee what will become of it — this is bravery.”

Is it inappropriate to shout, “Amen!” during a western? Because whoever wrote those lines got something right. Being a father — especially the kind of father God’s word teaches us to be — takes courage.

  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it carries with it the very weight of responsibility that Bronson's character spoke of in that movie.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage in a culture where many fathers abandon that responsibility out of selfishness or fear and appear to pay no price for doing so.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it requires commitment through good times and bad.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because saying, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15) means setting spiritual priorities for the family and holding to them.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it calls for constant self-examination and self-correction.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because “bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) sometimes requires having difficult conversations with our children to help them understand important things.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it sometimes means having to tell our kids no for their own good.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because corrective discipline is no fun for anybody, yet it is indispensable (Hebrews 12:9-11).
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because children’s perception of their earthly father greatly influences how they think about the heavenly Father.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it demands thinking and acting like a grown-up — something many men in our world seem unable or unwilling to do.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage in a world where popular entertainment often depicts dads as bumbling and incompetent. (Can you imagine a character in a modern movie saying what Bernardo O’Reilly said to those young boys?)
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage when many influential voices speak as if the father’s role can be filled just as effectively by government programs.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage in a world where many adults’ picture of fatherhood is darkened by their own experience of fathers who were abusive or neglectful — including some fathers who called themselves Christians.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because our children are looking to us to demonstrate the Bible’s teaching about marriage (e.g., Ephesians 5:22ff; 1 Peter 3:7). We are influencing our sons’ view of how they should treat their wives and our daughters’ expectations of how their husbands will treat them.
  • Godly fatherhood takes courage because it will sometimes require us to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness — from our Lord, from our wives, and even from our children.

Do we need to add that godly motherhood takes courage, too? It does — for many of the same reasons and more. In our current cultural environment, godly parenting is a daily act of bravery.

To those Christian fathers and mothers who every day show faith and courage in raising your children as God directs: well done — and keep it up! The good fruits of what you do are noticed, and the church's outlook for the future is hopeful because of it.