“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
Apparently, this week must be the week for vulnerability and confession on my part. So far, you know that I was a fairly rebellious child from yesterday’s lesson. Today, I have another confession to bring to the table. Are you ready for this one?
I’m not a parent.
Some of you might already be thinking, “Um, is that a bad thing, Cherie?” No, of course it’s not, but the true confession is really rooted more in my insecurity about this fact. I’ve been teaching Bible studies and leading women now for several years. I was only twenty-three years old when I taught my first Bible study to a large group of women at my church, and most of the women in attendance were old enough to be my mother. Since I began women’s ministry, I’ve taught mothers and grandmothers – women who are older and have much more life experience than me. Last year, I was asked to speak to a moms group, and for several months leading up to this, I was shaking in my boots. I don’t really have a fear of public speaking, but I was so worried that I would be perceived as inadequate or unworthy to take the stage at an event such as this. My point? I’m coming to you today as a humble servant, preparing to teach a portion of Scripture to you about parenting, and while I am not a parent yet, I pray that God will still speak to your hearts through the wisdom of His Word and the words that He has given me on this topic. Although I do not have biological children, God has allowed me to spiritually mother several, and I will speak from this experience.
While this verse begins by specifically addressing fathers, since Paul was just speaking of both parents in the previous verses, we can assume that this verse can be applied to both as well. Also, the same word that is translated for “father” here in Ephesians 6:4 is the same word used for “parents” in Hebrews 11:23, so let’s move forward in assuming that this instruction is for both mothers and fathers. It was a common reality in Paul’s day for fathers to rule their homes with stern and domineering authority. Because women and children were mostly viewed as second-class citizens, their emotional needs and welfare were seldom considered. Love was not the motivating factor of the father role in many cases.
Paul speaks very clearly to this fallout in verse four by saying that this type of parenting is unacceptable for the Christ-following parents. Even though the unbelieving world may live their lives void of a loving and Christ-centered home, Christians should not. While parents have been given the awesome weight of responsibility to raise their children to know and love the Lord, their authority should never be characterized by unreasonable demands that are void of love, demands that will ultimately lead their children to a place of anger, despair, and resentment. While children will seldom enjoy being disciplined, the underlying motivation in parenting should always be love.
What does it look like, then, to discipline children according to God’s commands and to raise them under the instruction of the Lord? Like most, if not all things, I believe this is a matter of the heart. Before each time you discipline your child for doing something wrong, check your own heart. Are you angry and is your response to them one that is filled with rage? Is your discipline coming from an emotional outburst, or is your discipline coming from a place of love? When your children disobey and directly violate the boundaries you have set for them, your heart will hurt. You will be discouraged. You might even be angry, but like any other emotion in life, we must submit ourselves to the Lord first and foremost in all things, including the discipline and instruction of our children. Every teachable moment with your children should be for the purpose of showing them the love of Christ and pointing them towards a righteous walk. Do you parent in love? Are you sowing seeds of love into your children? Does your discipline point them towards God’s love? It should.