Walk Worthy in Family (Ephesians 6:1-4)Series: Ephesians (Your Identity in Christ)
We are half-way through the Apostle Paul’s instructions to us regarding how to walk worthy in our relationships. The problem we can often have with this section is that, due to its difficulty to apply, it is often ignored or seen as optional. Satan has deceived the minds of so many believers into thinking obedience to these commands is only necessary as long as it is easy. The moment difficulty and hostility enters a husband-wife relationship, a parent-child relationship, or a boss-employee relationship, these commands are often cast aside as impossible ideals. We have said we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord. These commands are where the rubber meets the road. Faith and obedience are a growth process - there is no denying that. But these commands regarding marriage, family, and work relationships are so often the test to see whether or not we truly trust Jesus as Lord.
Today, we will focus on the family. As a whole, families are one of the most broken aspects of our culture. Sometimes, godly families are God’s tools for fruitfulness in the world. Other times, families are just breeding grounds for the spread of anarchy and selfishness. We want it to be said in Jesus’ body that our families, though imperfect, are sources of light in this dark world. Let’s consider Paul’s commands to children in Ephesians 6:1-3.
Children, Obey and Honor (6:1-3)
Listen up, children. It was not too long ago that I was a child and a teenager. Life is fun as a kid. You have lots of energy and new experiences. You have few responsibilities. Life is exciting - except when mom and dad get in the way with their rules. You were playing video games, but your parents told you to clean your room. You were having fun with your friends, but your parents said it was time for them to go home. You wanted to eat ice cream, but your parents said “no.” You wanted to just have 24/7 fun in high school, but your parents told you to get a job and save for college. You wanted to stay out till 2am, but your parents told you to be home by 11pm. Life seems like it would be so much fun as a kid if it weren’t for parents telling us what to do.
Do you fear God? Paul has two commands for you. First, obey your parents. I know that can be difficult. Sometimes parents just do not understand what is going on in your mind. Sometimes they aren’t patient with you. Sometimes they might even make a mistake or make rules you think are too strict. You wish they would understand you and the things you are going through. You wish you could just grow up and make decisions for yourself. Some of your friends may even encourage you to just do whatever you want. But this is not right. God says the right thing for you is to obey your parents. The only time you can ever disobey your parents is if they try to stop you from serving Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:37).
Paul’s second command is to honor your parents. That takes it to the next level. If we honor our parents, then we will certainly obey them. But honoring our parents also means we will treat them with respect. It means we will speak kindly and politely to them. It means we will not make fun of them. It means we will accept that they are over us and that we will submit to them. The Bible even says in other passages that honoring our parents means we will take care of them (cf. Matt. 15:1-9; 1 Tim. 5:4, 8). Your parents cared for you when you were young, so honoring your parents means you will take care of them when they are old.
One of the hardest things I faced when I was a teenager was what to do when I disagreed with my parents. You must always honor and obey your parents, but this does not mean you will always agree with them. But what should you do when you disagree with them? One of the biggest mistakes I have made is to yell at my parents and act like they are dumb. That never helps. If you disagree with a decision they make or you think there is something they are not understanding, respectfully ask them if you can say something. If they don’t let you explain how you feel, accept it. If they allow it, calmly explain to them why you disagree with their decision. They might change their mind and they might not.
Regardless, honor them. Paul tells us why in verse 3 - life will go much better for you and you will live longer. Understand, your parents will make mistakes and sometimes you will disagree with them, but they are trying to do what is best for you. You will not always understand the decisions they make or the reasons they give, but if you will obey and honor your parents even when you do not understand, life will be much, much better for you. I always thought my parents didn’t really know much, but I remember I was 20 when I finally realized how smart they actually were. Ashley and I had just started dating and we were having trouble. I did not understand what the problem was. I called my dad and he immediately explained everything to me. He told me Ashley just needed some space and that we were moving too fast. I didn’t tell him, but I thought he was totally crazy. It turned out that he was exactly right. You will have to have your own experiences to realize how right your parents are, but try to logically accept now that your parents are right and the decisions they make will help you have a better and longer life. Proverbs 30:17, “The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.”
Adults, Paul’s message is for us too. Some of us have parents that make foolish decisions. Either way, we all know that our parents still make mistakes and have flaws. Sometimes we think when we get older that everyone deserves our patience and understanding except our parents. Sometimes we will be tempted to speak evil of them. God still commands us to honor them. Honor them. Speak kindly to them and speak kindly of them. Your children are learning how to treat you from how you treat your parents. Furthermore, take care of your parents. That is your job. It might take a lot of time and sacrifices, but you won’t regret the sacrifices you made to honor for them.
Fathers, Bring Them Up (Ephesians 6:4)
Before we consider Paul’s instructions to fathers, I want to make some caveats and lay out some things we can all agree on.
- I am young and I have not even started to raise children.
- Since I have not had kids, I know everything about how to raise them.
- Lord willing, one day I will have failures and regrets of my own. One day, I will realize how hard it is to obey this passage from experience.
- Paul had no children and was not married, yet God still directed him to write this.
- There are a lot of opinions about parenting. Some opinions make us feel unnecessarily guilty. Some opinions unnecessarily comfort us. Some opinions make us trust man’s ideas and not God’s commands.
- No work of ours is before the world to see like parenting is. Because of this, parents can be really defensive. This never helps with anything in any part of our lives.
- If we trust the Lord, we will strive to obey his instructions.
- Nobody will be a perfect parent; thank God, his grace will cover our imperfections.
Notice how Paul’s instructions are to fathers. This is not because mothers are not part of the raising process. They are every bit part of it - and often times more. However, Paul addresses fathers because fathers are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the family. Because of this, parents should absolutely work together, but fathers are the ultimate authority. Fathers, one day you will have to answer for how you raised your children. The question will be whether or not you relied on the Lord’s wisdom or your wisdom and whether and obeyed his teachings or whether you tossed in the towel. The fact that fathers are given the ultimate responsibility is a bit troubling since many fathers in society leave the majority of parenting and discipline to moms. Fathers, don’t do that to your wife. Play with your kids. Cuddle with your kids. Instruct your kids. Discipline your kids. Pray with your kids. Bring them up.
*One day I will realize how hard it is to be a father. One day I will have failures of my own.*
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger. This means fathers should discipline, but discipline must not be excessive. Do not take your anger out on your children. Unless there is some danger you are protecting them from, yelling is not right. Hitting your children because you are angry is not right. Discipline for the good of your child, not because you are angry. Try to remember what your parents did that unnecessarily provoked you to anger. Consistency is important. If you only punish your kids for a disobedience 25% of the time, it is confusing and frustrating. Punishing the wrong kid is also frustrating. Parents will mess up, but try to actually punish the right kid. Not apologizing will also provoke your children to anger. When you mess up, apologize. Don’t try to brush it off by playing a game or telling a joke. Apologize. One of the biggest things that provokes anger in children is a lack of explanation for rules and punishments. When your kid is 6 months or 2 years old, you can’t explain things. But explain your judgments and rules when they get older. They want to stay out until 2am, you say they have to be back by 10:00 or 12:00. Explain why. “Nothing good ever happens after 10:00 or 12:00.” They will often not understand. But treating them like a human and at least giving an explanation helps. Remember - kids are humans. They have independent thoughts and feelings. They are not to be manipulated.
*One day I will realize how hard it is to be a father. One day I will have failures of my own.*
Fathers, bring your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fathers, this means you are not raising your children to become straight-A students and brilliant engineers. That is not the goal of parenting. Raise them with the Lord’s instructions. Teach them to fear God. Raise them to love him. Tell them the story of how God saved Israel from slavery. Tell them the story of how God saved you. Tell them about Jesus. Tell them why we obey God. They are souls. You are responsible for them. One day they will be accountable to God. Prepare them for that. Always remember that the goal is to bring them up to have a relationship with God. That is why you spend time with them. That is why you physically discipline and spank them. That is why you instruct them. It is so difficult. It rips your heart out. You are exhausted. Remember that it is their job to test the lines, and it is your goal to point them to God and to his lines. Deuteronomy 6:6–7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Fathers, bringing up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord means you are not to raise your children after the ideals of popular psychology. Popular psychology and society will give you opinions about discipline. In particular, society will quote studies and tell you not to discipline your child. Be diligent in your discipline, remember that your children are learning about God as our Father from how you father.
Proverbs 22:15, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Proverbs 23:13–14, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 29:17, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
Fathers, remember Proverbs 29:15. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” I really appreciated Scott Smelser’s instruction from this passage in February. The temptation of many parents is to only use the rod or to only give reproof. If we only using the rod on our children and do not teach them with our mouth, we are not doing our job. If we only tell our child “Stop! Don’t! No! Be quiet!” and we do not use the rod on our children, we are not doing our job.
Fathers, consider how Paul tells fathers - not churches - to bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. Sometimes when children grow up, they wander off. This is what scares me the most about being a father one day. Sometimes, parents share the blame for their child’s demise, sometimes they do not. Whoever’s fault it is is not the point. But the thing Christian parents often say is, “I don’t know what went wrong. I always brought them to church.” It is good to bring kids here. You should. Bring them to Bible class. Train them to pay attention in the assembly. But, fathers, if you simply bring them here, you are not bringing them up in the Lord’s teaching. You are their teacher. If God’s word is not opened and taught in the home, “church” will seem like a hypocritical side-hobby. It is tough because you are tired, but it will be worth it. I loved it when my dad would pull out the marker board and tell us a Bible story. Even as a little boy, those stories gave me direction.
Wherever you are in this - children or fathers - do not leave here discouraged. If you see that you are not obeying Paul’s commands here, realize that God’s grace is for your sin too. It is not too late. That’s the beautiful thing about God’s grace. When we see our sin, it is not the end of the world for us if we will humble ourselves and repent. Fathers and children, repent! Children, obey and honor your parents. Fathers, take responsibility for the upbringing of your children into the nurture and admonition of the Lord.