Summary: There are many parallels between our relationship with our children and God’s relationship with His. We may gain much profit and insight by comparing these two relationships.
And you fathers, do not provoke your children to anger: rather, bring them up in the training and exhortation of the Lord.(Ephesians 6:4)
For this is the love of God -- that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.(1 John 5:3)
There are many parallels between our relationship with our children and God’s relationship with His. We may gain much profit and insight by comparing these two relationships.
Some children resent and resist their parents, even though outwardly they may obey. Others willingly obey for the most part, except for occasional lapses. The children of God fall into the same two categories. Some see God as a stern taskmaster whom they obey against their will because they fear the consequences of disobedience. Others willingly and gladly obey, although at times they may be reluctant. Certainly Jesus was in the “willing” category. Isn’t this what God intends for all of His children? And isn’t this what we desire for our own children as well?
How demanding the parents are goes a long way towards determining the children’s attitude towards their authority. At first sight it appears that there is a tradeoff between the parent’s level of demand and the child’s willingness to obey. But this is not really true, as we shall see.
Some parents try to teach their children obedience by imposing rules which are not in themselves necessary or useful. But does God treat His children this way? As far as I can see, there is no instance in the Bible (and especially in the New Testament) where God gives people useless rules just so they could practice obeying Him. Such rules may be useful in the army, where unthinking, instantaneous obedience is required. But for children, who are being prepared to become thinking, discerning adults, useless rules are the best way to gain their disrespect and distrust.
Some parents are demanding simply because they enjoy wielding power. They boss their children around as they themselves were bossed around by their own parents. Others justify their despotism by saying they want their children to grow up to be achievers. Unfortunately, their children often grow up to be the unhappy, compulsive overachievers that dominate the business world today.
The Christian parent’s own image of himself as God’s child often determines how he treats his own children. Demanding parents see God as demanding. Their practice of faith is rife with rules and restrictions that more easygoing Christians do not observe nor even recognize as part of God’s instructions.
How can a parent challenge and stretch the child while maintaining his willingness? The answer may be found by looking at how God parents us. He seasons all of His demands, especially His most arduous ones, with lavish amounts of love and personal attention.
What do your children want most from you? It may appear that what they want most is freedom to eat junk food, watch TV and indulge in other wasteful, expensive, and empty activities. If the situation with your children appears this way, it’s probably because they haven’t received from you what they really want most, which is attention and time.