Paul continues his focus on practical Christian living. In our reading today Paul is focusing on the parent child relationship. He shares what a healthy relationship looks like.
Paul addresses the children first. I’m wondering if there were children present during the reading of this letter or if their parents conveyed his message to them. Would Paul have bent down and spoken these words in person to children? I can imagine Jesus doing so. I don’t doubt He did so when He blessed them.
I wish someone would talk to today’s children and share this message with them. Our society is full of children ruling the household. The children are not taught to obey their parents. I guess I’m probably over generalizing the situation because the ones that behave this way are far more obvious than those who follow Paul’s instructions.
There is good practical reason for children to obey their parents beyond spiritual health. The parents are charged with protecting the children. They have also had a LOT more experience in the world. These two facts put the parent in a better position to know what is beneficial for the child. When the parent says, “Don’t swim without an adult present”, it is from a point of protection and experience. Fortunate is the child whose parents care enough to expect obedience.
Paul turns to the fathers next. An overbearing parent is counterproductive to a healthy child. The child who can do no right in their parent’s eyes usually ends up with a crushed spirit or in complete rebellion. Children need to know that the things their parents require or request of them are reasonable and attainable. Don’t set standards that will never be attainable. Discipline with love. The child who knows that, regardless of the mistakes they have made, that their parents still love them will be a child who wants to please their parents. They will also be better parents to their own children because of this example. THIS is the epitome of God’s love for us.
Paul’s final instruction to the fathers is to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (verse 4). These lessons are “caught” as well as “taught.” The child will learn of God’s instructions best when mommy and daddy model those instructions. When the parents live the precepts of God in plain view of their children, the children will see this as the pattern of behavior that is acceptable and expected. Be the living word in their world. There is no better way to show them God’s love that showing that love to them through you actions.
One very important area of loving your child and bringing them up to be godly children is discipline. If I can choose one cornerstone principal it is “say what you mean and mean what you say.” Do NOT make idol threats or promises to your children. If you say they will receive X if they do Y then follow through if they do Y. Do not make a “threat” you are not willing to carry out. Do not make a promise of reward you aren’t prepared to deliver on. Your words must speak truth to your child if you have any hope of them respecting and obeying you.
I would like to inject one more idea in raising healthy children. This isn’t one that is penned in scripture but it is actually based on it. When you praise or admonish your child for an action they have performed, relate it to the action. “Good job” or “I like the way you did X.” On the admonishment side, “That was not a nice thing to do” or “Your actions need some attention.” Don’t tie their actions to their person. “You are a bad/good girl/boy!” This wounds their self-worth.
I say this is based on scriptural principals because we are not saved by works. God judges our works, good and bad, but they are not what our relationship with Him is built upon. We are His children and He loves us even when we don’t behave properly. He addresses our sin without diminishing our worth to Him. The prodigal son never lost his Sonship just because he was in rebellion. He lost his inheritance but he was still welcomed home with love. Our children never lose their relationship with us for their behavior and it is the behavior that needs addressed instead of their personage.
Father God, thank You for the children and grandchildren You blessed me with. I wish I had modeled more consistent behavior for them throughout their lives. Thank You that they still love me in spite of all my mistakes as a mother. Thank You for being the Father to them that they didn’t have in our home. I know this wasn’t easy for them but You sustained us all through it. Please help me be a better parent and grandparent even now. Also help me be a better daughter. I want to continue to honor my parents for all of my life. I pray my life reflects the love they invested in me. I know I wouldn’t have met You without them. Thank You for giving me such loving parents. Yes, they made mistakes too but You sustained us all even in the tough times. Thank You.
Thank You for being the model of a perfect parent. No way I will ever live up to it but I will continue to try. Thank You that You love me even when I don’t measure up.