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Monday, March 8, 2010

Parenting your Child in the guidance of God's preachings

When are we going to learn? When are we going to learn that God's creatures can only live successfully in His world by following His ways? If God is all-wise and all-holy, His Word must be both good (because it is the fruit of unblemished holiness) and best (because it is the fruit of infinite wisdom). If this is so (and it is) why do we persist in seeking other ways?

Life becomes a bewildering labyrinth when we ignore God's truth and seek wisdom from below. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the family. Why the warfare between parent and child? Why is parenthood so difficult, dreaded, and feared? Why is growing up so painful and distressing? It is because we think we are wiser than God and have found a better way to do parenting and "childrening" than the way He sets down in His Word. It's time for all of us to realize "we ain't smarter than God!"

How clear and simple are His directions to parents and children: "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 nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)

Children are to obey. Parents have been given authority by God to command their children. Indeed, parents hold the position of God's representatives to their children. For this reason, children are commanded to honor their parents even as they honor the Lord Himself (Leviticus 19:3; Hebrews 12:9). In this anti-authoritarian age, we need to remember this. It is not unreasonable to expect obedience from our little ones (or our "big, teenage ones" for that matter!). The authority they submit to is God's and His authority ought always to be honored.

This submission required of children is not unlimited, however. Parental authority is strictly limited by God's Word. No parent has the right to command anything contrary to Scripture. Children are required to obey but only in the Lord.

Notice too, the reason why children are to obey, "for this is right." Interestingly, Paul doesn't mention the many benefits that come to children who obey their parents nor does he mention the benefits parents derive from obedient children, he simply points to the ultimate reason we are to do anything -- because it is right! It is God's will that you honor your parents. Yes, great blessings come to you (and to them) when you honor them, but the primary reason you must do this is that God requires it. To refuse to do this is to sin.

But what about the responsibilities of parents? Mutual privileges and responsibilities mark covenantal relationships. If one party is bound to submit to the authority of another it is incumbent on the other party to exercise that authority in lawful, honorable ways. Thus Paul tells fathers, "do not provoke your children to wrath." 

This should not be understood to mean that we are never to make our children angry. Being sinners, children are selfish and sometimes get angry even when authority is exercised properly. The point is that fathers are not to provoke anger by ungodly rule over their children. This is done when we give unscriptural commands; when we make unjust demands; or when we have unreasonable expectations of our children. This is done when our chastisements are too harsh or too lax. This is done when our rule is administered hypocritically or inconsistently.

If our children are provoked by faithful rule, they sin. If they are provoked by our inconsistent, unreasonable, or ungodly rule, we have sinned.

We are not to provoke our children but rather to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." We are to rule over our children as God rules over us. How does God rule us? He nurtures and admonishes us. We are therefore to instruct, encourage, and lead as well as chasten, rebuke, and correct our children. We are to set before them the truth of God and train them to walk in it. The home is to be the great "training ground" for life.

This is not profound. It doesn't come from a densely printed, heavily footnoted, professional treatise. You won't find these things in the latest psychological journals. But these simple directives are God's formula for a happy home. Following these children will receive the promised blessings of the covenant (it will "go well with you and you will live long on the land"). You won't be injured by submitting to your parents. They are God's protectors set over you for your good.

Obeying this, parents will enjoy the blessed fruits of children who love and honor them and even more importantly, love and honor the God who made them. "Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul." (Prov. 29:17) You don't have to worry about warping your children if you spank them as God commands. You don't have to fear inhibiting their creativity by insisting upon obedience to your word. You need not be afraid of wounding their "self-esteem" by saying "NO!" If God commands us to do these things, we can know they may be safely done.

Children are to be blessings not burdens (Psalm 127:3). Parents are to be prized not despised (Prov. 17:6). Why continue domestic warfare? Forget the threats, discard the nasty words, abandon the bribery, manipulation, and deception, dry your tears, and begin, by God's grace, to do what He says. Then and only then will you dwell safely and securely and enjoy covenant peace.

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