When we read Paul’s command in Ephesians 6:1-4, we understand that children need to obey. But, as parents that are called to shepherd those little hearts, do we always know why? Or, do we always know the repercussions of calling our children to obey (outside of simple compliance or order in the home)?
Here are a few things I scribbled down as our church studied this text from Ephesians. No magic pills here (to command obedience), just points to ponder.
- We must instill the concept of God as ultimate authority into our kids. In context, Paul’s big point is that Christians are submissive people to human authorities but REALLY to the ultimate authority (read Paul’s repeated uses of “as to the Lord” in 5:21-6:9). Ultimate authority will be the basis for his next words regarding Christians and the armor of God – we equip ourselves because God is ultimately in charge of all powers. As parents, if we abdicate our role in calling our children to submission (i.e. obedience), we are doing them NO favors. In fact, we are passively teaching them to exalt their own authority which will ultimately encourage them to reject God’s.
- We must realize that there are some issues that we can choose to make an “obedience issue” or not. True, many standards of living and behavior flow from the character of God and God’s Word. For example, we teach our kids to tell the truth. That’s non-negotiable. To lie is to disobey which results in appropriate discipline (“as legitimate sons,” Hebrews 12:7-9). But, there are many standards of behavior that are optional – we can choose to make them an “obedience issue” or not. For example, we chose NOT to make “cleaning your plate” and potty training obedience issues. Sometimes we REALLY wanted to! But we chose to encourage compliance without demanding it (on those issues). Parents must realize that we have some options regarding the issues over which we demand obedience (that’s a roughly worded sentence but I think you know what I mean). We need to pause and evaluate whether or not we really need to go there on a particular issue. Because once we demand obedience, they must comply.
- We must call our children to obey the standards of the home, whether they profess Christ or not. Sometimes this can be a difficult one for parents of teens who may reject Jesus. The reality is that Paul’s call to honor one’s parents stands as an unconditional command. Parents, it is good for us to call our children to obey the standards of our home (which means honoring the parameters that mom and dad create) because it is honorable. That is reason enough. For example, a 19 year old son living at home may baulk at his parent’s curfew. Yet, if he were staying overnight as a guest in someone else’s home, he would be expected to honor the “house rules, “ one of those would likely be that everyone is inside with the doors locked at a specific hour so that the owners of the house can rest. Young adults must give their parents the same (even greater) honor than they would another host. “Honor your father and mother” applies even to those kids that may have no claim of Christian.
Of course, much more can be written (and has been written) on this subject. Those are simply a few thoughts that have come from personal meditation on Ephesians 6:1-4.