“Just wait till your father gets home!” That phrase begets an absolute solidifying fear. No child who has ever heard those words in context has failed to feel their heart palpitate and hands sweat. The very wording and structure of the sentence has been carefully crafted by generations of mothers and I’m moderately certain it’s proper use and intonation is passed on from mother to daughter in secret ceremonies we men know nothing about.
What’s even more striking is that it is- in some degrees the reflection of the biblical mandate for men to be the Christ centered foundation of moral guidance and righteous judgment in the household. The image of the man sitting idly by on the couch while mom tries to deal with unruly children is a travesty of righteousness and a declaration of either immature masculinity, or overbearing femininity or both.
That doesn’t mean that mom is not supposed to discipline, she must, not for mere survival, but because God has granted her the role of raising children and discipline is part and parcel of that. The very fact that God would entrust the most delicate and easily moldable minds on the planet primarily into mom’s tender care should immediately dispel the rumor that the Bible somehow teaches that women are intellectually inferior to men. The Bible teaches nothing of the sort.
Sadly today’s society has treated raising children as a necessary evil rather than a rewarding task. But a number of passages challenge that notion. Start with God’s command in the garden to “Be fruitful and multiply”; move forward to Proverbs “Children are an heritage from the lord blessed be the man who’s quiver is full of them.” And listen to Jesus rebuke his disciples by saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them…” In three verses you’re face to face with God’s love of children, and with that we begin to comprehend how important our task of raising them is.
Now, everyone here hasn’t got children in the house but that doesn’t mean you should ignore this message. First of all we live in community and in community we need to learn how to best help one another. Second, we are the one’s that have the responsibility of winning disciples to Christ and teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded. And we can’t teach it, if we don’t know it.
So how should a faithful set of parents function towards their children? What does it take to be a godly parent? How do we go about raising children in a godless society? The answers are in the scriptures because the scriptures were written to and for a people living in a godless world trying themselves to do that very same thing…
So let me give you three principles to live by in terms of the functioning relationship of parents towards their children. And it starts with putting God First in your family.
Teach Them The Love Of The Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-ff)
When it came time for God to lay the groundwork for a nation of people dedicated to him, he gave them two commands. The first one is the guide from which all the other commandments originate. (Deuteronomy 6:5, NASB95) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The Second command is the conduit by which that command was to be disseminated from person to person and more importantly, from Generation to Generation. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, NASB95) “You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Training towards faith in Jesus. It’s a mistake for parents to sit on the sidelines and not influence their child towards Christ. Most of the people that I’ve spoken with that have this attitude – have gotten there because they hated going to church as a kid and they don’t want to “Ram religion down their kid’s throat” But children are not inherently capable of making decisions about anything until they learn their parent’s decision making standards. Therefore if we sit idly by waiting for them to choose Christ – they will interpret our silence on the issue as ambivalence and that ambivalence translates into a tendency away from faith rather than towards it.
There are many different filters we can press the old testament through. Such as the filter of legalism in which the Old Testament is seen as a collection of rules that Israel couldn’t keep. We can pass it through the filter of Grace in which we see God continually withholding deserved punishment in hopes of Israel’s repentance until even God’s patience was exhausted.
Or we can see the old testament through the filter of failed parenting. The primary themes of the old testament such as the repeated idolatry of Israel, the need to send repeated prophets, and finally the judgments on Israel and Judah for her idolatry are the main story lines from all of the prophets, a large percentage of the psalms, most of the books of 1st and second kings and chronicles. And they all stem from Judges 2:7,10.
(Judges 2:7) “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel. “ (NASB95)
(Judges 2:10) “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.“ (NASB95)
If Those parents, and each successive generation had been about the business of obeying Deuteronomy 6, it would be safe to say that the old testament would be a different read indeed.
There is no more sacred duty for parents than passing on the faith, and the nurturing of faithfulness. That’s what Paul means in Ephesians 6:4 by (Ephesians 6:4) “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ” (NASB95)
On top of nurturing their faithfulness towards God, our task as parents is to
Discipline with Love.
Ephesians 6:1-2 should make it clear that parents should expect obedience from their children. And a lack of obedience should beget appropriate discipline.
Hebrews 12:7-10 is written to encourage us when God disciplines us and in order to achieve that it uses the assumed reality that good fathers discipline their children with the goal of crafting right behavior in the future.
(Hebrews 12:7-10) “…God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. “ (NASB95)
The simple phrase “As seemed best to them” expresses our fallibility as parents but doesn’t excuse it. I have a feeling that’s why Paul includes the exhortation to fathers in Ephesians 6:4
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (NASB95) both ends of a narrow spectrum are in view there.
As parents we either have the power to frustrate our children by failing to bring them up in godliness or to bring them up in godliness.
Connected to that idea – and knowing that it’s a long hard road the third principle is simply this:
Keep the Goal in Mind
Raising children is an issue of stewardship. Everything we do, teach and say is a building block helping children to grow into godly adults, or a hammer breaking them down. Discipline is never intended for destruction – only correction. There is no greater purpose in raising children than creating Godly adults.
God designed the family to be more than the building block of society. He designed the family to be the crucial environment for passing the love and obedience to God from one generation to the next.
Ideally, Jesus Christ would be the center of every home, and the home the center of everything else. We who are children of our heavenly father should make every effort to make our homes into godly homes; into faithful families that function in Godliness.