We have a series going on Tuesdays now called, 5 Signs of a Functional Family. In the first of that series we looked at An Attitude of Service. What I like about an attitude of service is that it can be part of a dysfunctional family on some level. Our family situation does not have to be functional in order to display an attitude of service. An attitude of service can even be the beginning for restoration, and this is encouraging to me.
Some of the most difficult aspects of family dysfunction can grow into a beautiful tapestry through God’s gracious and loving restoration. Many of us have been blessed by family figures other than our own biological relatives. They’ve become the mom or dad, brother or sister, son or daughter that we’ve always wanted. Some of us have had a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle, or some other friend who has come alongside to help out along the way. Whatever our particular family configuration, there is a way forward through the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is filled with encouraging messages like the one found in Psalm 68:6a:
"God settles the solitary in a home...." Psalm 68:6a
Nobody told me that parenting would be so challenging and rewarding; so frustrating yet so very fulfilling. I wasn't trained in Parenting 101. They didn't teach parenthood in school. I’m pretty sure that I thought to myself, How tough can it be to be a parent, right? Lots of people have done it. None of them had any training either. Well, if you haven’t already figured this out on your own, let me assure you, parenting is a tough calling! It’s worth it, but it’s not for wimps.
When Paul writes to the Ephesian Christ-followers about parents/children, he only gives them 4 verses; about 60 words total. It feels like he’s not giving us a whole lot to go on here. But as we dig in together, we’ll discover a lot that applies to our lives.
Ephesians 6:1 begins by addressing the children. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Children are to obey. This sounds simple enough; obey your parents’ rules while you’re living under their roof. Verse 1 tells children to do this because it’s the right thing to do. But I’m not sure that we truly realize just how profound this simple truth is. This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments, which goes to show that obedience to parents is a key aspect in a person’s relationship to God. However, I’m afraid we may have developed a tendency to think, oh, lighten up a little, after all, kids will be kids. This verb for obey is an imperative, which means that it’s a command. We are not talking about the same kind of voluntary submission in the husband/wife relationship. Between parents and children, this notion of submission denotes absolute obedience.
Have you ever noticed how serious the Bible is about children obeying their parents? One sobering example is found in Romans 1, which includes the phrase, disobedient to parents. It’s startling to read through the sins listed around that phrase where Romans 1:29-32 is talking about godless people:
By the way, this includes obeying our parents even if they are not Christians. They are still in a position of authority over us and it is pleasing to God for us to obey them.
This pleasing obedience, in v. 1, leads us right into Ephesians 6:2-3:
"Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:2-3
Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 5:16 which says,
"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Deuteronomy 5:16
So, this original Old Testament reference, is connected to the blessing of the Promised Land, which God’s people were about to enter. And now Paul, writing to the Ephesian believers, applies God’s promised blessing in a more general way in Ephesians 6:2-3.
Therefore, it is not only right to obey our parents in verse 1, but there is also a promise in verses 2-3 of God’s lifetime blessing when we honor them. Although this is not a guarantee that you’ll live to be 100 years old, there is a general principle that holds true here. Living God’s way, by obeying His commandment to honor your father and mother, will contribute toward enjoying a good life and living a long time.
Some of us might be wondering, what about adult children? Once we move out of the house, are we still called to honor our parents? I think most of us would admit that we don’t suddenly stop being someone’s child at a certain age, whether that be 18 or 21 or whatever. The term child usually denotes a relationship rather than a particular age. So, many of us continue to be a son or daughter well beyond the age of 21. Even now, as a 57-year-old woman, I am still my dad and mom’s child. And although I don’t live under their roof any longer, or obey their specific house rules in the same way I did (or should have) as a kid, I’m still called to honor my parents.
One example of this in Scripture is when the Apostle Paul gives directions to Timothy. He explains that Christ-followers, as adult children, should continue to honor their aging parents.
Let's take a look at 1 Timothy 5:4 & 8:
"But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.... But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5: 4 & 8
It is pleasing to God when adult children take care of their parents and grandparents. Even as adults, we have an ongoing responsibility to honor our father and mother.
To honor someone means to show high regard for them and respect them. Honoring our parents is about attributing a high status to them and assigning them to a place of prominence and importance. Frankly, honoring is quite a bit more challenging than obeying. And it’s at this point that we need to once again take a step back and look at the broader context of Ephesians 5:21-6:9.
This entire section on husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and slaves begins with the admonition in Ephesians 5:21 of, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. And that hinge verse for this entire section is linked back to the primary imperative in Ephesians 5:18, …be filled with the Spirit.
So, submitting to our parents is motivated by our reverence for Christ, and it is empowered by the Holy Spirit who fills us each day with the power that we need to honor our parents throughout our lifetime.
Ephesians 6:4 goes on to zero-in on dads:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
Parents are called to bring children up. Paul wants fathers in particular to pay close attention to verse 4. To exasperate someone means to make them angry. Its synonyms include to frustrate, irritate, or annoy.
So, fathers are specifically being cautioned about making their children angry or frustrating them. That’s something to ponder as we consider some of the ways this may be occurring in our homes. It’s also something for us to talk to God about.
The Apostle Paul is essentially ruling out:
Colossians 3:21 puts it in a nutshell:
"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." Colossians 3:21
In Paul's day, Roman society favored men, permitting them to rule in authoritarian and iron-fisted ways in their homes. This meant that they could pretty much do or say whatever they wanted to in the privacy of their own homes. But, one of the key messages in Ephesians 5:21-6:9 is for men to step up and become sacrificial, kind, and considerate leaders. This applies to parenting as well. Rather than tearing our kids down, parents are urged to bring them up!
Ephesians 6:4 says,
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
The last part of verse 4 is a positive call to action. Fathers have a wonderful opportunity to nourish their children through things like:
Human fathers are to care for their families as God the Father cares for His.
It’s important to note, that the broader context of Scripture does make it clear that husbands and wives are actually in this together. So, although dads are given a clear instruction in Ephesians 6:4, we should not conclude that they are the only ones with the task of bringing children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
For example, Proverbs 1:8 says,
"Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching," Provers 1:8
And Proverbs 31:1 talks about, The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him. Therefore, dads and moms are in this together.
It’s important that we don’t miss this: Ephesians 6:4 says, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is a wonderful reminder of the incredible calling on our lives. Parents, dads and moms alike, are God’s chosen instruments on behalf of their children. As parents, we are entrusted with bringing children up according to those things which are pleasing to the Lord. What an amazing purpose and mission! And some of us are even blessed with the opportunity, to be a stay-at-home parent! How cool is that!? This matters to God and He uses it to accomplish His purposes in our world.
There’s an intriguing parallel between the verse 4 phrase of the Lord and the verse 1 phrase in the Lord. Both of these little prepositional phrases are important. They emphasize that family is directly connected to faith. Our fellowship with the Lord and our obedience to Him are hinged on each other.
As Christian moms and dads allow their own daily lives to be impacted by following Jesus, they serve the Lord by helping their children learn about faith in Christ. This whole structure of the family is designed by God for the mutual benefit of everyone living within the family structure, and this is designed to bring God glory. In any family, no matter how difficult the situation, no matter whether we are talking about biological children or foster-care or adopted or step-children or whatever, we can glorify God in our particular family situation!
Sure, family can be messy, challenging and even awkward at times, but the fact still remains, God has designed people to function best when they embrace their role in healthy, functioning, God-honoring relationship structures.
So, whether you have a more traditional family or you are a single parent or a remarried couple with a blended family or whatever else, choose today to bring yourselves under the blessing, protection, and beauty of God’s structure for a Christian family. Choose to be a family who chooses to follow Christ and let Him redeem your relationships into something blessed by God. Choose to say along with Joshua 24:15, ...But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
How are you cultivating God-honoring, heathy relationships in your family situation?
9/6/2019 10:45:38 am
God is so concerned with healthy relationships, I love it! I think it shows how great God is, that he cares about our families and how we love and support each other.
9/6/2019 06:44:04 pm
Yes, Katrina, He cares about even the little details of our life, so I know He cares about our family relationships. Those matter a lot to Him because they are a picture of His love for us.
9/6/2019 01:37:35 pm
This is very really unique helpful information. keep it up. Thank you so much!
9/6/2019 06:46:16 pm
Thank you, Martina!
9/6/2019 06:52:55 pm
God's Word is a textbook for life, for marriage, for childrearing, and much, much more, Carri. It's for sure a gift and we are so blessed to be able to have multiple copies laying around our homes and on our electronic devices when Christians in other parts of the world do not have this privilege. Thankful!
9/7/2019 10:08:06 am
I totally agree. It doesn’t matter the set up of your family because it can be blessed and successful as long as we are choosing to follow God’s guidelines for it. Great post.
9/8/2019 01:31:19 pm
Totally agree, Brandi! :) God uses all kinds of family situations to glorify His name.
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