Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them round your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and of people. —Proverbs 3:3-4
“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” John Wesley by way of PJ Miller. This was just one of so many sayings he quotes as a matter of course. And I love that about him. But the thing that I love the most about my father is something that was pretty hard to take when I was young and rebellious and full of myself! It’s his wisdom (borne of much experience) and the many ways he has taught me how to do the right thing. Having my dad around is a bit like having your very own how-to-book on hand, for he not only shows you the right thing, he shows you how to do it the right way, the safe way, and the smart way. But as I said, it has taken many years for me to welcome (and even seek) his advise. As I wend my way through parenting my own teenagers who have their own pride and rebellion, I am keenly aware of the work of parenting. I am also aware of how hard it is to be a good, present and wise father. Needless to say, I am grateful for my father and my Father—for all of the love and wisdom they have shared!
The book of Proverbs may be the first “how-to” of fatherly wisdom and sage advice. In chapter 3 a father is offering his son a lesson in something that applies to each of us — Godliness, the art of walking closely with our Creator. In verses 1-12 the father’s advise encourages a handful of practices and attitudes that any man or woman aiming to walk closely with God might embrace. These include an abiding and steadfast love for others, intellectual humility about oneself, stewardship of one’s “stuff”, and an acceptance that God will lovingly correct us when we stray.
It’s clear from this father’s words that like being a great dad, a life of godliness doesn’t come easy. In verse 3-4, the father says that godliness is grounded in an attitude of unrelenting love. At the heart of the Hebrew faith was a belief in Yahweh’s chesed, often translated as “steadfast love.” It’s the idea that God’s love for God’s people never gives up or fades away. It’s a belief that the goodness of God, although at times shrouded in seasons of struggle or pain, is always in hot pursuit of the people of God.
The godly person then is one who, having been transformed by such unending love from God, displays a faithful, unrelenting love for others. Godliness it seems is first and foremost a God-shaped inner integrity. It’s a divinely inspired attitude that drives you to be quick to forgive and ready to reconcile, as well as to be the kind of parent, sibling, life-partner or friend who refuses to run but instead fights for the future of the relationship.
Yes, it is tough work to be a good and present person—but if you start with an attitude of unrelenting love (and forgiveness), borne out of God’s Chesed, then you have the foundation to gracefully handle everything else that gets thrown at you from the teenagers, the partners and the vagaries of life. Thank you God for the ways you have always pursued us—and thank you Daddy for refusing to give up.
With Pentecostal fire and prayer that the Holy Spirit bless us,
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade