This is the second half of a devotional I taught at my church’s Mother-Daughter Banquet last month, the first half can be found here.
The first half shows us that our need for God is of the utmost importance within our mother daughter relationships and urges us to live out the traits of lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance. It is also a call to look towards our specific God given vocations as purpose for striving towards healthier relationships and supporting one another in our races for Him. The next half will outline a few of the specific commands given to children and parents in the Bible.
We will start with the passage Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
As I pointed out in the first post, both commands to children and parents point back to the Lord. He is the ultimate balance and guidance for our relationships. The two commands given to children are to obey and honor their parents. There is only one condition attached to this and it is not “-if what they say is easy” “-if what they say works for you” “-if what they say doesn’t intrude on what you want”. No the only condition is that you obey them “in the Lord”. Sadly there are abusive parents out there and if you are in need of help to get out of that situation then seek it immediately, but for most parent-child relationships this is not the case. I’m not saying all parents are perfect, or right all of the time. They most definitely are not, but if what they have told you to do doesn’t go against the Bible or God’s true will for your life, then we are commanded to obey. This may seem like a great tool for parents to use to get their way, but it is not, more about that in a bit.
The second command we are given actually doesn’t have any condition attached to it. Honor can be another word for respect. We are commanded to respect our parents, no matter what. Respect does not mean we have to love them, does not mean we have to obey them, but it does mean we have to acknowledge those relationships, the weight of parenthood, and treat them at the very least, as well as you would any other human being. Unfortunately, many times since children are most comfortable being exactly who they are, emotions fully unleashed, with their parents, that disrespect and attitude permeate their interactions. This goes completely against what God has commanded us to do. Even when our parents are wrong, or are upsetting us, or their rules are “totally uncool”, we still must speak and act respectfully towards them. Realize that they are flawed humans, just as you are, and are just trying their best. No one wants criticisms shouted back at them when they make a mistake, and no one will compromise or even listen to a different side of the story if it is laced with rude remarks and a closed mindedness. This is when we must step back and remember to not think of ourselves as better than anyone else, to purpose in our hearts and minds that we want to have good communication and honesty with one another, and remember that just as God is working on your parents in that moment, He is also working on your longsuffering and patience as well. God actually gives us a promise that if we follow this command, our souls will be well and our days long on the earth. The Holy Spirit inside of us will feel unsettled, we will bear emotional scars and baggage, and we won’t be able to enjoy our day to day life if we are constantly butting heads and disrespecting our parents. Many of us bear the scars of our upbringing not because our parents weren’t perfect and damaged our psyches, but because we are unable to honor their effort and forgive that very fact.
Even though most of this passage is speaking to children, the commands are fairly simple. These are the commands given for us to follow in relationship to our earthly parents, however the entire Bible is showing us how to live as children of God and that is where our focus should be. The simplicity of these commands fits the maturity and capabilities of their intended audience. The nuanced and complicated command here is to the parents. The weight and responsibility of bringing up a child in a way that both honors God and prepares them for their own walk is unfathomable to a child until they experience it themselves. But hopefully this gives a little more insight to them and direction to parents.
We all know of funny warning labels we’ve seen on products right?
Well, they are there for a reason. Someone, somewhere, didn’t realize the obvious and hence the warning label was warranted. I think this applies to Eph 6:4 as well. God wouldn’t warn us as parents to not provoke our children to wrath if it weren’t bound to happen. Also in Colossians 3:21 we are warned not to provoke our children to anger or else they will be discouraged. I think a huge step in the right direction when parenting is to acknowledge this will happen. We have to stop acting like we are perfect, like we know what we are doing in every situation, like we have it all together all of the time. We don’t! No one does! It doesn’t mean we stop striving for the best we can give, but it does mean we have to admit when we are wrong. I think it would be a healthy move to discuss with our children ahead of time that we will make mistakes, and tell them that if they truly feel angered, wronged, or discouraged to come to us so we can discuss it. And then we have to be willing to listen to their feelings. I know it’s quicker and easier to lay down the law, no questions asked, and expect them to comply but we’re not dictators and we’re not God. We have to show what truly living with God’s grace and mercy looks like, and give our children a living example of how to right our wrongs and how to live out the traits of lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearance.
I feel many times we mess up when we are at our weakest, the end of our earthly limit to the hardships of life, adulthood, parenthood, and everything in between. We must learn to live out these principals and show children what it’s like to lean on God in our weakness. It’s worth it to point out that this command also has no conditions attached. God is telling us to not provoke our children to wrath or discouragement, period. Not only when they are following the rules, only when they are achieving the desired results in school or extracurricular activities, only when they are respectful to you. No, we are to live in God’s strength no matter our children’s reactions to us and life in general. This can be incredibly hard but if we expect it of our children, we must expect it of ourselves as well. We are not living this way based on the people around us and their reactions, we are living this way for God.
So how should we be parenting our children? God answers that in the latter half of verse 4, “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Quick definitions here-
Nuture- used as a noun here, not a verb, so the meaning is the care and attention given to someone or something as it develops; the sum of the environmental factors influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism
Admonition- a gentle or friendly reproof, a counsel or warning against fault or oversight
So, we must bring our children up in an environment of the Lord with gentle counsel from the Lord when they are going astray. Just as we are commanded in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The word train here is rooted to the word catechise which means “To instruct by asking questions, receiving answers, and offering explanations and corrections.” So it’s not what we may think of training as some harsh process like basic training or physical training, but instead a communication process sort of like the Socratic method. This allows the child and parent to work together in reasoning and teasing out the right, Biblical answer, instead of a direct order of right or wrong with the child not understanding why. While yes, there are certain times that children need to just accept right and wrong, as they get older and move out from under the parental protection, they will need to know the reasons backing up what they were taught. If they are not, then they will easily depart from the ways of the Lord because they are not connected to it. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and lived it in my own life as well.
This is not to say children shouldn’t be punished, far from it, both Proverbs 13:24 and 19:18 acknowledge that there is a time and place for punishment and reproof. However, I feel there is not enough calm communication and explanation included with the punishment.
The nurture and admonition in our passage references back to Abraham and the commands that were given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, Genesis 18:19. From there, there are three specific instances referenced, Deuteronomy 4:9-10, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, and Joshua 24:15. I’ll talk more about these in the next post. I wasn’t expecting a Part 3, but this is already long, and I don’t want to rush it. Many blessings my friends!