The family is a crucial part of the extended family, society in the form of citizenship and more especially the Church. Let me say from the outset that over the last 40 or so years of ministry I have met some wonderful, loving, caring families … but I have never met the perfect family! What is also so distressing is to find so many dysfunctional families. Many get married and don’t know the first thing about married life. At the same time, far too many people have children, planned and unplanned and are not prepared or equipped for parenthood. In pre-marital classes I always go through the Gospel to show those getting married where their hearts ought to be … committed to a functional relationship with Jesus. Failure here could prove drastic when problems arise because if the marriage does not have Jesus in the center of the relationship, there is no divine power to rescue things. If you look at a triangle and put God at the top and the man at the one bottom side and the woman on the other and then using a rule … as you slide the it upwards, both the man and woman (once married) draw closer to God … and at the same time, they draw closer to each other. Then, once married, take another triangle and label the three points A, B & C. Based upon:
Ge 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh”
Call “A” leave; “B” united and “C” one flesh. These three represent a legal marriage in the eyes of God and the Country’s law, love and commitment and healthy intimacy. Now, in the center of the triangle, put a “D”. This represents child or children. In the center of a God fearing, loving, legal and tender relationship, children will enjoy a safe environment filled with loving care. Now take the above as done, the Fifth Commandment reads:
Ex 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”
The word “honor” here means respect … but how do children know they are to respect their parents? Please remember we are talking about a god fearing family! Children must be taught! Remember we looked at Deuteronomy 6? There we saw that parents need to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Once this is in place, it will be easier to … “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” Then the parents will be prepared to take God’s Commandments and:
Dt 6:7 “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
These three verses are saying to parents … teach your children the ways of God. If you don’t you will reap the rewards of dysfunctional children and likely a dysfunctional home. Although sending children to Sunday School is a great spiritual exercise to prepare them for adult Church Worship, the children’s ministry is not where the children are to be won for Jesus … the home is! It is the parents’ duty to teach the children the gospel, pray for them and to set a gospel lifestyle before them to model against. You want your children to respect you (honor), respect them and model respect. From Ephesians 5:21 where Paul uses the word “submit” … what follows from verse 22 to 6:9 if affected … that is even though the word “submit” is not used it is implied in all the relationships he mentions. So:
Eph 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Col 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
In both verses children are called to obey their parents … to submit to their God given authority. Obedient children please the Lord … God sees obedience as the right thing to do! Remember obedience is honoring and respecting! Then the focus changes to the parents.
Eph 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Col 3:21 “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Parents help their children by not exerting undue pressure or requirements upon them. When teaching at a High School I learn a lot from counseling teenagers. Parents wanted the best from the kids academically, in sports and other extra curricula activities and at home doing various duties. If they don’t perform as required or expected they are in trouble. This is just one example of exasperating or embittering children. Look at the Ephesians verse … “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”. My suggestion that too often this is not practiced. The gospel is not taught, the Bible is not read, praying is not modelled, Church (Sunday School) does not feature and parents wonder why the children lean towards disobedience and disrespect. Once parents fulfil their duty (lovingly) the children will follow in theirs (lovingly). Remember the Fifth Commandments carries a promise!
Eph 6:2 “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—3 that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Children don’t respect their parents to receive the blessing of long life … that would be the wrong motive. Rather as children love their parents, they will respect them and then the promise is long life. But this long life does not necessary mean many years but better quality of life and relationship. But remember … Loving Jesus holds the relationship together. Then the family will continue in love even when the children leave home, marry and have their own children … and they in turn will model the same love, spirituality, gospel teaching and happiness we showed them.
Dear Father, grant us the ability to love our families the way you love Your Family. Help us to put away self to focus on each other, building godly families where the children will go on to build godly families too. Amen.