Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-4).
Have you noticed how relationships always work in pairs? They are never one-sided. People on every level function interdependently but, at the same time, one group sets the tone and the other responds, and vice versa. Take the relationship between parents and children or, as Paul instructed here in his letter to Ephesian believers newly rescued out of paganism, fathers and children.
Why did Paul single out fathers for their specific role in the family? Is it not because, again, fathers have the responsibility to take the lead and to set the tone for the whole family. This, of course, assumes that there is a father in the family and that he recognises and understands his role as the head of the home.
With today’s rebellion against God’s beautiful idea for marriage, the world is full of biological fathers who have abdicated their role as real fathers, procreating offspring like animals whose main purpose is to pass on their genes, while ignoring their task of raising their children in a godly environment. Is it any wonder that the world is also full of ‘orphans’ who have no identity, no security, no home and no name because their fathers are not fathering them as Paul instructed?
It was not God’s idea to set boundaries around human behaviour to spoil our fun. Belief in the lie of evolution has a spin-off. If human beings are no more than a higher order of apes, evolved over millions of years to walk upright and to have superior intelligence, then it is in order for us to behave like apes, ignoring such things as decency and morality. (From where do morality and conscience come if we are only human apes)?
We can only be safe and flourish within the boundaries of well-defined moral behaviour. God’s prescriptions for children and fathers in the family circle constitute the safety zone in which they are protected and can live in harmony with one another.
When roles and functions are blurred, the power struggle begins and the result is chaos and unhappiness. It is the father’s role to set the standards for the child the moment he or she enters the world. Baby is not king in the house and the sooner he learns that, the better.
God has only one requirement for children – obedience to their parents. That does not mean that parents must beat their children into submission. They must apply discipline where necessary but always in the best interests of protecting love and preserving unity, not venting their anger and frustration on the child because they are bigger and stronger.
Why is obedience to parents of primary importance? A child is naturally selfish and independent – the hallmarks of Adam’s nature in them. If he is left to himself, his potential for selfishness and independence will come to full bloom in a life of lawlessness and rebellion against all authority and he will end up a hardened criminal living a wasted life, probably in a prison cell.
It is the father’s role to tame that potential for rebellion by nurturing his child in the atmosphere of love and acceptance, to submit to his authority in the home. That presupposes that the father will love his child enough to set reasonable boundaries and to reinforce them lovingly and not in anger or frustration. Again, that presupposes that he is submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord and that he honours God and obeys His Word just as he expects his child to honour and obey him.
Once again, there is no place for one person lording it over another even if they are father and child. No child will honour, respect and obey a cruel or abusive father. He will do so if his parent treats him with respect. That implies and includes reasonable boundaries which, of necessity, will change as the child grows older.
This interconnected, interactive behaviour is intended to foster loving and harmonious relationships in the home that produce order and contentment. Each one in the family must know his or her place according to God’s Word, within which he or she will be safe and contented. When one or another steps out of line, the result is chaos, confusion and unhappiness.
There is a pitfall every parent must avoid – the idea that it is important to be your child’s ‘friend’. Some parents are afraid to exercise discipline and to teach their children to behave in a civilised way because they don’t want to lose their child’s ‘friendship’. That is a lie from the devil. Parents are parents, not friends. God placed parents in the home to guide and shape their children for responsible adulthood, not to be on the level with them or to please them.
It is only within this environment of interactive living that children can be their real selves and can develop to their full potential in the atmosphere of harmony and peace. The world is full of angry people, angry because Dad was either missing or a tyrant in the home. God’s way is the only way that really works.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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