ADOPTED FATHER (Article) by Dr. Abidan Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 16, 2020)
“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord…” (1 Corinthians 4:17)
Popular culture appreciates fathers but does not consider them essential. In reality, God has appointed fathers to be the primary influencer in their children’s lives. This is not to say that mothers are unimportant. In fact, in many situations, mothers have done an amazing job playing both roles, but parenting was designed to be a tag team job. We need to encourage men to be the fathers they are designed to be and even step into the role of an adopted father for those who may not have one.
Paul the apostle recognized the need for a father in the life of a young man named Timothy. Acts 16:1 tells us that Timothy was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.” The way Luke phrases that statement, Timothy’s father never converted to Judaism. Intermarriage between Jewish people and Gentiles was not as problematic as long as the Gentile person converted to Judaism. The requirements for conversion were quite high. If there was no conversion, it was strictly prohibited. You can imagine what Timothy must have endured. Probably, his mother’s people did not accept him because his father was Greek and his father’s side did not accept him because his mother was Jewish. Keep in mind that Timothy did have a father but society and circumstances must have made that role very difficult. It is true that there are men who don’t care about being fathers but that’s not always the case. Then, it was probably on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) that Timothy’s grandmother, mother, and Timothy himself got saved— “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Paul doesn’t mention Timothy’s father which may suggest that he never got saved and maybe even cut off all relations with Timothy and his mother.
Paul must have felt compassion towards Timothy and decided to take on the role of an adopted father for him. Repeatedly, he referred to him as his son—“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy” (1 Timothy 1:18); “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Paul was protective over him, telling him “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). He encouraged him to “Fight the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12). He even warned Timothy to avoid those who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal…” (2 Timothy 3:2-5). When my own father became a Christian, his biological father disowned him and God sent an American missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander to be his adopted father. He was instrumental in sending him to seminary and became a mentor to him in life and ministry. My father was so impacted by Dr. Schelander that he named his firstborn after him. Dr. Schelander even touched my life as he was the only grandfather I ever knew.
Have you been the father you were called to be? Have you been grateful to the father (biological or adopted) that God has placed in your life? Is God calling you to be an adopted father to someone who doesn’t have one? Is God your Heavenly Father? Through Christ you can become a child of God.