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8th May 2016
Being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I started out thinking I was going to be the best parent ever, but the older my four boys get, the more I realise my need of God’s grace. My children reveal my character, my flaws and my sin.
Parenting can be a huge area for comparison and condemnation. Most of us are on a journey, and we need real wisdom when we make changes to our parenting.
This subject is hugely important because there are 18.6 million families in the UK today (12.5 million of them were married couples). 3.7 million children were living below the poverty line (nine in every 30). It is estimated that there were 36,000 sexual offences against children in the UK last year and 50,000 children have been identified as needing protection from abuse.
In Ephesians 6:1-4, it starts with the words: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” It’s very simple, but very challenging.
The first side of this coin is that this instruction is clearly addressed to children – the apostle Paul is saying that children are to take off disobedience and put on obedience, in the same way as God’s people are called to take off and put on various other kinds of behaviour. This is not a moral code. It’s for those who follow Jesus, in order that they might reflect Him.
Obedience can sound like a cold word, but it’s very much part of the New Covenant. All Christians – adults and children – are called to obey Christ. Jesus is the ultimate example of obedience. He clearly linked love and obedience, saying: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10)
Obedience is not a dirty word, but one that needs to be rediscovered, because there is freedom in obedience.
But if that is one side of the coin, the other is that parents require obedience from their children. Children aren’t supposed to just obey their teachers, the police, the flight attendant, etc. The Bible says that children are to obey their parents, which means that parents are to require obedience from their children.
Parents play the critical role in discipling their children. If your children do not learn how to obey you, they will not learn to obey anyone else’s instructions. It says in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
In Roman and Jewish culture, fathers had the ultimate responsibility for raising their children.
Fathers, what a high calling we have. We have this unique role to bring understanding and shape the behaviour of our children.
We have this amazing opportunity to reflect the Father’s love to our children in how we act, talk and behave. Your example is more powerful than your words. You are always training them.
As parents this is our most important assignment. We have various seasons of life with our children but they are limited in time. Invest your time, energy and emotion into your children.
Here are 10 keys that I’ve picked up:
1. You should lovingly require obedience – this develops as they grow, but starts from the youngest years.
2. Parents you are not helpless at your toddlers tantrums and disobedience. You are bigger than them and assigned by God to be their chief discipler!
3. Requiring obedience takes time and effort, which parents do not always feel they have! But it is so important to invest – it will produce a good harvest.
4. Require obedience in small un-important things in private, so that they will respond positively to big things in public.
5. Although it's right to require obedience, we mustn't provoke our children to anger by being harsh, demanding, or overly picky.
6. Parent from neither passivity or anger: there is a middle road. Don’t parent as a reaction to how your parents were to you. Don’t explode with anger; don’t sit back and do nothing; parent in partnership and walk the middle road.
7. Remember 1 Corinthians 13 – that’s where we parent from. Be patient and kind, but require obedience.
8. Remember that to a small child you represent God as a parent. Your parenting will affect how they view God as Father. It's an honoured position.
9. Children whose parents require obedience are happier. Who wants to be around a demanding, moody, selfish person?
10. Goal of parenting is to equip them to live adult life well and point them towards Jesus.
As children, the primary way we honour our parents is with obedience, but what does it look like to honour our parents when we are adults?
Firstly, we honour them with our words. Our words are powerful. I decided to thank God for my dad, who died five years ago, remembering all of his strengths and how God had made him. He wasn’t perfect, but there was a lot to thank God for about him.
Secondly, we respect them, which can involve time and listening. Thirdly, we care for them. As a follower of Jesus, we should look to provide all the help that is possible. There is a blessing that we receive as we honour those who are our parents.
God is aware of broken families and He is aware of broken parents. In actual fact, every parent is broken, and in Matthew 7 when Jesus described parents he called them evil by comparison to God.
The first step in honouring is forgiveness. It is impossible to honour if you haven’t yet forgiven. God can give you grace to forgive.
Posted by Paul Mann