Summary: A practical message on parental authority and nurturing children.
IN CHRIST, I AM…FAMILY STRONG—Ephesians 6:1-4
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the poor of Calcutta. When she received the prize, she was asked, “What can we do to help promote world peace?” She replied, “Go home and love your family.”
Strong families are the foundation of a strong, healthy society.
The Apostle Paul points out that only one of the Ten Commandments is specifically connected to a promise: “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Originally, the promise pointed to life in the Promised Land, the land of Israel. The Promised Land would be a place of peace, and a place where God’s people would thrive, in obedience to God. A healthy family structure would be the foundation of strong communities and a strong nation, under God.
Paul expanded the promise beyond the land of Israel, to “enjoy long life on the [entire] earth.” When the church went into all the earth in the name of Jesus, God’s people demonstrated the truth of God’s promise in every part of the world. When families are strong, the church is strong, communities are strong, and even nations are strong.
Parents and children have an opportunity to make an impact on the entire world!
HOW CAN FAMILIES FULFILL THE PROMISE OF GOD’S BLESSING, IN OUR WORLD TODAY?
Life today is quite different from life in Bible times. Families are pulled in many different directions: parents and children are busy, everyone is connected to their friends on social media, and children go off to school while parents go off to work. Many families lack the stability of two parents, extended family nearby, and supportive communities. Even the broader culture is not always supportive of godly family values.
No matter what the culture or family situation, the Apostle Paul identifies two sources of blessing in families: Children must learn to submit to authority, and parents must nurture their children to maturity in Christ.
CHILDREN MUST LEARN TO SUBMIT TO GOD-ORDAINED AUTHORITY
Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
Obedience to authority is a critical lesson for a healthy life. If children don’t learn it at home, they might have to make up their lessons later, at school or work, or in the court system.
Look at a newborn baby: self-centered, out-of-control. He always wants to be the center of attention. He cares only about his own needs, and doesn’t understand authority at all. That is cute in a newborn, but when a toddler is hoarding toys, throwing tantrums, and defiantly saying, “No,” it is no longer so cute. If children are still throwing tantrums at ages 8 or 18 or 28, we say, “Grow up!”
The future of a child depends on learning to control self-centeredness, and to submit to boundaries, rules, and the needs of others. That will be a key factor in getting along with others, making friends, keeping a job, and success in life.
Parents have a crucial role in teaching their children to submit to authority. They set boundaries: “Don’t touch, sit quietly, wait to speak, don’t grab toys.” Are they taking away the child’s freedom? No, they are helping the child develop his own life skills. Parents lay out expectations, and make requests they expect to be honored: Pick up your toys, clean your room, do your homework, go to bed now, be home at 10 p.m. If requests are not honored, there will be consequences, like there always are in life.
Parents must ACCEPT THEIR GOD-ORDAINED RESPONSIBILITY TO EXERCISE AUTHORITY.
What motivates you as a parent? Is it to avoid struggle or conflict? Is it to have well-behaved kids? Is it to make you and your family respectable? (You go to the grocery store with screaming kids…How do you feel?)
One philosopher (Bertrand Russell) said, “The fundamental defect of fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them.” Is that what motivates you? Or are you motivated to have peace and quiet at home?
God gives another motivation for exercising authority: It is your job as a parent. Even when you don’t feel like it (and sometimes you don’t), you exercise authority, because you are under God’s authority. God has given you the responsibility of giving direction to your children.
Social scientists who study parenting have identified three parenting styles.
Authoritarian parents rule with an iron hand, controlling every aspect of their children’s lives. They think of themselves as the boss, answering to no one. Their control is based on power and threats of punishment.
Permissive parents are passive, doting parents. They ignore conflict, have few boundaries, and little control of their children. Their attitude is that they are not the boss, and they feel that they should simply encourage their children to make good choices.