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Children and Parents

May 2nd, 2014

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1,4

The preciseness of these words should be well-noted. The first command above is to children, who in their formative years are under the authority of their parents. They should obey their parents, and this is specific, not theoretical. He did not say that the children should respect adults in general, nor even parenthood in theory, but that their specific parents they are to obey, “For this is right.” This command does not depend on the character of the parents, whether they are wise, or good, or intelligent, or irresponsible, rather it depends on the way in which God has created the world, that He has placed children in homes and there they are to learn discipline, develop character, and this through obedience to their parents.

But this obedience is to be done “in the Lord,” which in the context clearly refers to Christ. It bring us back to 5:21 that speaks of mutual submission in relationship “out of reverence for Christ.” This means that the attitude of the child toward the parents is to be similar to the child’s belief in Christ. It is a spiritual worship for a child to be obedient to his parents. But also the obedience has a limitation, that the child is not under obligation to obey the parent when that obedience would be against the clear will of the Lord. The child is not under obligation to sin against Christ in the name of obedience to or respect to his parents.

I have known many young Christians in Asia whose unbelieving parents insisted that they participate in some non-Christian religious practice that a Christian’s conscience will not allow him to do. It is one of the most difficult tests of faith in life, and though a Christian must always and continually show respect and love to his parents, the Christian has only one Lord, Christ Jesus Himself, and cannot in good conscience participate in non-Christian religious observances, and is under no obligation to do so. But the love of the Christians toward their parents has often been the very thing that God used to win the parents to faith in Christ.

To the father, however, is the command to be gentle and nurturing to their children. We presume that the command was given to the fathers, not because the mothers have no similar obligation, but that the fathers were the ones most likely to abuse their child, to be rough and uncaring and even cruel. The natural created order for the human family is that the father will take leadership and will exercise that leadership in compassionate, tender, mutually-submissive love. The one who is the strongest and who is likely to earn the most money should use these strengths not to abuse or control others, not to lord it over them and get his way, but to love and support and care for them. The mark of a Christian man is this considerate, loving, caring, and sacrificial giving leadership in the family.

The two words “discipline and instruction,” or “nurture and admonition” (KJV), of the Lord give the parameters and the nature of Christian instruction in the home, indeed they include virtually the entire process of raising up children. The phrase “of the Lord,” as it does throughout this passage, significantly colors the entire meaning. As the Lord deals with us graciously, patiently, kindly, and lovingly, so the parent should deal with the child. But the Lord does not hesitate to use discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11, e.g.) with us, nor apologize for it, and neither should a parent believe that discipline, when applied fairly and justly, is an insult to grace and love. True love does not spoil neither disciples nor children (Luke 17:10).

The first of these two words is paideia and describes a general training, education, or instruction. Christian education in the home and in the church is pervasive and involves learning about many things namely the word of God, but also how it is to be applied, as well as the challenge and encouragement given to obey. Christian education can never be separated from Christian character, and the subject that is taught should be done in a spirit that is agreeable to its nature. Kindness demonstrated in teaching and dealing with others is essential when one is teaching about kindness.

The second word is nouthesia and means “to put into the mind” and here it is a more personal and individually suited training that is considered. The general principles of love and grace, as well as holiness and righteousness, are not enough, but each of us also needs personal attention in our individual lives in how to personally apply these matters. It means to be reminded of one’s own faults, his specific failures and weaknesses, as well as his own strengths and abilities. “Admonition” is the word that is often used to describe this, but it cannot be only negative admonition. It must also be positive encouragement. In this word is considered that the parent should not only teach what is right and what is wrong, but should also help the child to obey.

It is the mark of the Spirit in dealing with us that He never convicts us of sin without also assuring us of the possibility of forgiveness and the reality of grace. So in dealing with our children we should be hopeful and positive. Strictness should never destroy the child’s spirit, but rather they should also know that there is grace and restoration and redemption possible. God says to us, “Come let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). And this should also be the attitude of the parent in dealing with the child.

Our salvation in Christ and His work in us should be demonstrated in our homes. Is your marriage and home what you would like them to be? What are the specific admonitions that the Lord is placing on your heart, that He has given to you to do in these passages? Take the first step toward being a better family member and you will find the strength of God is available for you to continue in this journey. To paraphrase 5:28, the one who loves his family loves himself.

Christian Parenting, Ephesians, Marriage

Faith in the Home

May 1st, 2014

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:33

One of my earliest and most painful lessons in church life that I learned was how easy it is to neglect your spouse and still be considered a “good Christian,” at least for a while, until it all comes out publicly as to what is really going on in your life.

I was twenty-three years old, seminary student and part-time youth minister at a large church in Dallas. Ron and Cindy (not their real names) were a thirty-something couple in our church who volunteered in the youth and who gave every appearance of being happily married. They were one of those “go-to” people in the church who always found time to help out, no matter what. Cindy was attractive and a bit flirtatious, but, well, that was just her personality. She liked hugging the teenage boys but it seemed innocent. I could not help but notice that Ron was not home very much, and was willing to take on all sorts of extra projects at the church. More than once, when we finished with a meeting late at night, he and I went out to eat. I was single and had time on my hands, but his wife and children were at home.

After observing this for over a year, I began to have my suspicions. Something was not right with Ron and Cindy. Once Cindy got upset with me when we did not ask “another man” in the church to teach in the youth area again, and we had done so simply because he clearly lacked the spiritual maturity to lead in the youth area. A few weeks later it came out that Cindy had been having an affair with this “other man,” that she and Ron were getting divorced, that they were leaving the church. We lost regular adult leaders in the youth area, but also they had hurt one another and disappointed many others. Somehow, Cindy and this “other man” justified adultery and at the same time wanted to teach in the youth area of the church, as well as be active in our church sports program, etc. Ron had helped it all along by his own long and frequent absences from his wife and children.

There is a clear realness to the writings of the Bible, speaking with godly authority into the lives and circumstances of real people. After his tremendous writings in chapters 4 and 5 in Ephesians on the nature of the Christian life, Paul brings the discussion down to marriage and family. The proof of our Christianity is not just in how we act in church when we are around other believers, but how we treat those in our families. And the center of the family is the husband/wife relationship.

Do you love Christ? Then love and respect your spouse. Your Christian faith must be first expressed in the home before it is genuine enough to be expressed in the church. Love is expressed through forgiveness and grace, patiently dealing with one another, not being moody and ill-mannered, but being tender and compassionate toward one another. Consider the burdens each other carries, and help to make the other person’s life easier and happier. Bring joy into your home and into your marriage and be someone people want to be around.

Respect each other and express this respect to one another and in front of your children. Do not mistreat, slander, demean, or belittle one another, instead lift one another up, speak words of hope and encouragement, speak the truth but do it in love. “He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph 5:28) and the same may be said about respect, The woman who respects her husband respects herself as well.

Of course, if we are honest we will admit that none of us is a perfect spouse, we all have our rough edges and Christ is still working on us. It is the mark of authentic Christian faith, however, that we are honest about our weaknesses and are working on them. This passage does not demand perfection - if it did then none of us would ever be qualified - but that we take seriously our marriages and family life, and see them as a higher priority in the eyes of God than the public witness to our faith.

It is, after all, a relatively easy thing to put on a “Christian face” and “Christian voice” a few hours each week. We can each put forth a bit of effort to pretend everything is fine when in public. It is much more difficult to pretend in the home, simply because we spend more time there. So make the family, especially your marriage, as the place you will first demonstrate your commitment to Christ.

The pay off is huge! For when the marriage relationship is characterized by love and respect, then it colors everything else in the home. It makes the home a truly happy place.

Ephesians, Marriage ,