Thanks for writing.
I am very sorry to hear about your childhood experiences with your
father. His behavior is sinful, and he needs to repent of it.
What do you need to do? You can not answer for your father, nor can you
force your father to repent or change. However, you are responsible to
live your life from here on in a way that is pleasing to God, as we all
I agree that you can not forgive your father for something that he has
not repented of. The concept of forgiveness means that I am going to
deal with the offender as Christ has dealt with me. Christ buried my
sin in the depths of the sea (Micah 7;19); He put it behind His back
(Isaiah 38:17); He has separated it from me as far as the East is from
the West (Psalm 103:12), and He remembers it no more (Heb 8:12). In
other words, He never brings it up, and treats it as if it never
happened. However, Christ did that in response to my repentance, and my
subsequent confession of sins. According to I John 1:9, when I confess,
He will forgive.
Your father needs to deal both with you and God about his sin. It is,
however, the responsibility of believers to attempt to restore those who
have faults (Gal 6:1). You can not do that with your father if you do
not confront him with his unBiblical behavior, and you can not confront
him if you have forgiven him. Therefore, you can not forgive him,
because it is important that he repent and confess so that he can be in
a right relationship with God.
At the same time, apart from your responsibility to confront your
Father, you have a life that you need to lead. Paul said that
"forgetting those things which are behind... I press towards the mark
for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil.
3:13-14). You need to move on, and live the parts of your life that do
not directly involve your father as if you had forgiven him. You need
to try to control what you think about. I am sure your experience is
something that is vivid in your memory, but you CAN control your
thoughts. In Phil 4:4-8, Paul tells the church (in the context of two
women who used to be close, but now can't get along) that they are to 1.
Rejoice in the Lord always; 2. Be moderate, which means to be willing
to put up with less than you think you deserve, because Christ is coming
soon; 3. Don't worry about anything, but pray and thank God for every
situation; 4. Let the peace of God take control of your heart and
mind; 5. Control your thought life, and only allow thoughts that are
virtuous and praiseworthy. I'm not saying that this will be easy, but I
am saying that it is not only possible, but Biblical.
You need to understand that you are responsible for your own spiritual
life. We are not going to be able to stand at the judgement seat of
Christ and blame others for our lack of Scriptural behavior. Romans
14:12 states that "Every one of us shall give account OF HIMSELF to
God". You won't give account for your father, but for you. Thus, you
can not allow his wickedness to keep you from doing right. I have often
asked people this question: Are you going to allow a carnal, backslidden
Christian to determine your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If
you don't do right because of your father, this is exactly what you will
be doing. Thus, not only will Satan have won a victory in your father,
but he will win one in you as well, because you will not be an effective
servant of our Lord.
I am basing all this, of course, on the assumption that you have been
born again. If that is not the case, then that needs to be the first
step in your relationship with Christ. (See the Priority Section of our
website). If you are indeed already a Christian, please don't get mad
at God for what has happened. Isaiah tells us that God's ways and His
thoughts are not like ours, for His are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
Paul reminds us that "all things work together for good to them that
love God" (Romans 8:28). God was not asleep when these things happened
in your life. He did not cause them, for men sin because of their own
lusts (James 1:13-14), and God can not be blamed for that. Yet somehow,
in the sovereign mind and plan of God, these seemingly tragic events
will not only make you more conformed to the image of His Son (Romans
8:29), but will also allow you to bring more glory to Him (I Cor.
10:31). And being conformed to Christ and bringing glory to God is what
we as Christians want to do more than anything else.
Dr Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209