Summary: Effective parenting allows children to grow up.

How can I grow up when you treat me like a little kid?

Ephes. 6:1-4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. [2] Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), [3] that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. [4] And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I wasn't fast enough to run track when I was in High School. It's not that I didn't try to run fast, I always ran hard, it is just that I ran a long time in the same place. My football coach asked me to be the equipment manager for the track team my freshman year. And since many of my friends were on the track squad, I agreed. My job was to make sure the team had all their supplies, run errands for the players and do things like tape their ankles and rub lineament into their sore muscles. Basically, I was a gopher. Not exactly a glamour job.

I didn't enjoy parts of the job, which explains why I didn't do it more than a year, but I did learn to appreciate the grace, strength, quickness and agility of the track and field athletes. I still marvel at pole vaulting. How do they do it? How do they throw their body higher than a roof top with nothing but a flimsy pole?

Long distance runners have always fascinated me. How do they do it? What discipline. They spend hours in solitude, pushing their bodies beyond its limitations to run a little further.

Primarily, track and field events gauge individual achievement, that is, except for the relay runners. Four runners, run a leg of the race, handing off a baton to the next runner, until the anchor leg completes the race for the team. All of the runners are fast. In many instances, the difference between winning and losing is in how well the baton is passed from one runner to the next.

Relay teams practice handing off the baton daily. Giving the baton is easy. The runner can see the person in front of them and can place it in their hand, but grabbing the baton is a different story-it isn't always so easy. The runners of the second leg watch as their teammates approach and begin running when their teammates reaches a mark. Because the handoff must occur within a predetermined range, they can't start too early, and because they want to be at full speed when they get the baton, they can't start too late. Timing is everything. There is a zone where the handoff can occur, it can't happen too early or too late, it must take place "in the handoff zone."

The critical years in the parent/child relationship occur "in the handoff zone." There is a time when the children begin to run to pick up speed so they can begin their turn around the track. The parents are still holding the baton, they are still the runners in charge, but they are running with a purpose-to hand off the baton.

Now, I'm the first to admit that I love my children so much, that I'd be happy for them to stay young and dependant upon me for the rest of my life. There is a part of me that doesn't want them to grow up. But, there's another part of me that loves them so much that I want them to have their turn around the track, and I want them to finish well!

Our text today, Ephesians 6:1-4 gives instruction for how the parent and child should behave while they are running "in the handoff zone." To the children, Paul gives two pieces of advise. First, he tells you to obey your parents. His only justification for the command is that it is the right thing to do.

Why is it right? It is right because your parents have your best interest in mind. To stick with our analogy, they don't want you to step outside of the lane and be disqualified. They don't tell you what to do to be mean, they tell you what to do to help you.

Remember, this isn't your parent's first race. They were in the lane before, when their parents handed off to them. Your parents use their past experience as a point of reference to guide you.

Another reason it is right is because God ordained it that way. He set your parents in authority over you and when you disobey them, you are sinning against God. For some, sneaking around and being disobedient is an enticing game, but it always results in pain for you and your family.

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