ALIVE | Parenting | Ephesians 6:1-4
Topic: New Testament Passage: Ephesians 6:1–6:4
ALIVE | The Way Unearned | PART XII
ALIVE Parenting | Ephesians 6:1-4
Introduction | All Family
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series walking the through the book of Ephesians called ALIVE: The way Unearned where we see life with God has been given to us.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
Living New - The way unearned is not a way unchanged. Chapter 5 verse 15 says we are to “look carefully how we walk” in the context that we have been made Alive by God and that He has prepared “good works” for us for us to “walk in them”. This include pursuing wisdom over foolishness. Understanding and practicing what is the will and design of God for our lives. Not emptying or depressing ourselves to drunken debauchery but rather being filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit who gives us Joy. Joy and patience are to plays itself out in relationship where we are addressing each other it says with singing and making melody (joyful harmony with God and people) with attitudes that are not entitled but are grateful to God all leading to dispositions humility rather than pride where we don’t seek to dominate one another but rather submit to one another. This is possible when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit in us not in our ability to change ourselves. Those are big important assumptions that have to proceed any discussion of the instructions from God. When we skip identity and go right to instructions, we will think our identity comes from our ability respond to direction rather than in receiving the grace and mercy of God.
We are created for relationships- The way unearned is not intended to be walked alone. We have relationships with friends, family, neighbors, etc. which are important and edifying. We are all part of a family. Our families have great influence over how we learn about and practice relationships. As adults we are not neutral blank slates, but individuals formed over two decades (or more) of shaping, intentionally or accidentally by the families we grew up in. We take the various joys, victories, as well as the traumas and the wounds with us as our personalities and ways of being are established. Our generations who proceeded us went through the same process of transferring and forming before we arrived on the scene, so they start the process with us being impacted by their parents and family. We cannot minimize the impact our families of origin have in who are today and how we hope to change, grow, or engage in the future. This will overflow into how we interact with one another as a society as we navigate being people with distinct roles and responsibilities as members of different generations. So, as much as any area of our lives, if we want to see change in our world, our society, our communities, even in our churches, we have to start with individuals, with marriages, and families. Children led and loved by parents who are loved and led.
PART I |ALIVE Children | Ephesians 6:1
Eph 6:1 | Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Alive children are more than just simply kept alive by their parents, they have been taught, trained, loved and cared for by their parents. Children learn about obedience to authority first through how they engage with their parents. Not yet adults, children are to understand to be under the authority of another is to respond with obedience. In this, they learn having God as a Father also includes obedience.
It’s right, it seems like this is a pretty general concept “kids obey parents.” This was the norm in Roman society even through adulthood a father was a patriarch with power over a child their whole lives “A Roman son never came of age with his father living. Certainly, in Jewish society where reverence to parents was seen as part of reverence to God, and nearly every functioning society. There is a naturally understood order and role in the parent child relationship. One obeys and is loved and led by the other. NOT the other way around. When this get reversed it seldom goes well, it is not loving, wise, or sustainable for parents to be led by their children. “Children obey your parent” should be easy, you do what mom and dad say. It is good and right to know that you are someone under authority, that you are not the one with all the answers, that you are not the center of the universe. It’s simple, perfectly practice obedience, which is complete, immediate, and joyfully at all times. No problem, this never goes wrong at all. Adam and Eve were in the garden (perfect setting) in relationship with God the Father (perfect) yet they rejected their natural and good dependence on God for unnatural independence. Sin and rebellion entered the world. Rebellion from God, His rule and design which did not lead to greater joy but destruction. Every generation since has been impacted by sin. This means children don’t enter the world as perfect angels…
Children are Selfish Needy Sinners – This is evident very quickly as they are consumed with demanding their needs and desires before all others. As they grow older they are constantly pushing boundaries, ignoring direction, responding to correcting or limits with temper tantrums, and rarely showing gratitude in how they’ve been provided for. Showing and telling “you are not the boss of me” implying “I am the boss of me”. In all that, they’re not much different than us adults with hearts that don’t respond to God as a Father. This is also compounded with health and behavioral conditions, special needs, etc that manifest in physical and mental inability to properly respond. All Children are selfish needy sinners who need the grace of Jesus.
‘obey your parents it the Lord’ Part of the grace of God given to children, are parents who love and care for them. Obedience is a response to love. The proper response to the loving direction and correction of parents is obedience and gratitude. In the same way we should respond to God this way. Children will only be able to do this by the grace of God. Our kids grow up in a world we participate in creating. The smaller/younger they are the more impact and influence we have in the world they experience. We are not responsible for the outcome or responses of our children, but we do have a call and responsibility to be consistent and clear in providing an environment that reflects what is true about God’s love, wisdom, and expectations. As they get older the structure and environment change and instruction transitions to influence.
PART II | ALIVE Families| Ephesians 6:2-3
Eph 6:2-3 | “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
God has commanded children to “honor their father and mother” this is regardless of if they are honorable. It is a disposition of humble reverence that recognizes all parents are imperfect but have been given to their children by God. This is one of the ten commandments with a purpose and promise, that life will be long and prosperous. This is necessary so we are not in constant rebellion from the generation before. It is the desire of nearly every generation to respond and react to the generation that proceed it. Yet it is foolish to believe and act that everything they valued, taught, practiced was wrong, archaic, or foolish and any more than it’s unwise to not look, question, or think critically in order to realistically see where there are weaknesses and opportunities for growth. A new generation is not intended to start from scratch or reject from what was already good and right AND a new generation should not blindly accept what they have been given or seen by adopt attitudes and actions which may be counterproductive to flourishing. The first is a pridefully created prison of believing you’ve got it all worked out, the second is to willingly stay in a prison of generational sin when freedom and liberty has been purchased and granted. A mega theme of all of Ephesians is being brought and adopted in a big multi-cultural family. Being made alive and new does make you members of a new and forever family AND it changes how you love and live with the family God has given you in the present. It doesn’t abolish your family or minimize it. It makes your engagement with it an important opportunity to live out your life a new creation with patience, peace, and purpose.
The purpose of intentional generational honor is to cultivate a culture of stable long-term flourishing over one of regular rebellious upheaval. Where the work, effort, sacrifice, and literal life given from one generation to another is received with some level of respect and gratitude. Where there is a culture of families taking care of one another especially during the season of most need and vulnerability. So those parents who birth and cared for children during infancy to adult hood (beginning of life care) would lovingly receive gracious honoring end of life care. This foster a culture of sacrificially supporting, cultivating, and caring for life that has an enduring positive impact on the flourishing of a society. What did you learn from your parents? Where do you need to honor or obey them?
PART III |ALIVE Parents | Ephesians 6:4
Eph 6:4 |4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Parents are essential in the lives of children as they nurture and care for their wellbeing and train them up in the ways they should go. Fathers in particular have tremendous impact in their children as they teach their children about the character and nature of God as Our Father. While this verse (along with other text on parenting) absolutely apply to mothers and fathers, there a reality that fathers will have a significant impact on setting the tone and temperature of the home and family. We learn about God as a Father from our fathers. How does your relationship with your father reflect what is true about God as a loving father? How did it fall short? Fathers will either teach something true about God in their present, active, and loving engagement; or something false when they are apathetic, absent, or abusively angry.
Of all the verses in Ephesians this one has to be the most personally convicting to me and one that I feel the most inadequate to preach and teach on. Both because of the loftiness of the ideal and the depth of my failure.
Parenting requires patience and power under control – The first instructions to parents is not about how power and authority is to be expressed but how it is to be restrained. It is power under control. All exercise of authority is because you are one under authority of God. You are not the sovereign, you are the ambassador, so you role is to represent the King to your kids, not be the king to your kids.
Fathers are to earn the respect of their children, not encourage their resentment – This is when the rubber meets the road in how we react to the sin or rebellion of our children. But why is this so hard? We forget the gospel in our parenting and immediately retreat back to the law. Not for ourselves, but to these smaller humans (with souls who are equal image bearers to their parents if not equal in agency) We have spoken, we have given the law, they have transgressed and now it is time for them to know the righteous wrath of the almighty father (or mother) so they will tremble in fear the next time they consider rebellion.
This passage effectively rules out reactionary flare-ups, overly harsh words, insults, sarcasm, nagging, demeaning comments, inappropriate teasing, unreasonable demands, and anything else that can be perceived as provocative. In his instructions to fathers in Colossians, Paul says, “do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Col 3:21)
Adam and eve had one rule in a perfect garden with a perfect Father and they didn’t follow it. How may rules spoken or unspoken are in your home? How likely is it that your children can, and would follow through perfectly the law of your home? Do they obey you only out of fear of your reaction if they don’t or do they have an understanding of where their life, identity, provision, protection, and flourishing come from and how you are a necessary agent used by God to functionally shape and give these things? How you use authority with your kids will teach them something about God’s authority. You might have your spoken theology in line but not your practical theology. Kids notice the inconsistency. I’ll teach them to doctrines of grace while leading a graceless home will not have the desired impact. I wrestle with this all the time.
Religion is “I have sinned my Dad is going to kill me” Gospel is “I have sinned, I need my Dad.”
The response to legalistic, domineering, or discouraging parenting is not laissez-faire or lawlessness. It is equally unloving to allow children to think there is no necessary response to authority, that they are an authority on their own, or that their actions don’t have consequences. This is no help. The opposite of inciting anger and heaping discouragement is not blanket affirmation or appeasement but is active intentional discipleship. Our kids need consistent, faithful, gentle, firm, loving authority that displays justice and is soaked with God’s grace.
Bring up – Nourish and cherish – It is a similar words and phrase to how loving husbands are to treat their wives. Part of parenting is helping your children know and become the people that God has intended them to be. This means your parenting has a purpose. What is the goal of your parenting? We have so many goals and desires for our kids some are positive, some are possessive. But the goal is not to remake them in your image but allow them who God wants them to be. This might mean different paths, interests, and outcomes then you experienced. This requires flexibility and acknowledgement that your kids are gift given by God to steward for His glory not yours. Calvin translates this as “let them be fondly cherished” this is a far cry from “seen and not heard”, or children as possessions. The goal of your parenting is the same as the great commission – to make disciples of Jesus. The way unearned needs to be passed down from generation to generation part of this is done as children are brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding your house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of Hosts” – Charles Spurgeon
Model Humility and dependence on the Lord - It is more than OK, but rather necessary at times to apologize to your children. To let them know when you’ve sinned in your anger, when you’ve rejected them with your impatience. To confess, ask forgiveness, and ask them to pray for you or allow them to have moments to speak into your life. Children are very preceptive to moods, emotions, reactions, and inaction, but they are not always awesome in interpretation of what the causes are. When your kids know you need Jesus too, know that you know you’re not perfect, know that you sin, that you need and have received the mercy and grace of Jesus they are more likely to have respect and understanding for you faults and all. You want your kids to honor and obey you but not worship you. That role is reserved for God alone.
Discipline – This is the same word for training. Training has purpose. There is consistent correction and intentional guidance. Discipline isn’t punishment but it is necessary in learning to understand that sin hurts and sin has consequences. In Hebrews 12 it says God discipline like a good and loving father. That to not receive any discipline is similar to being “illegitimate” not part of the family. It goes on to explain while all discipline is painful and not pleasant in the present it is for a good purpose, to produce peace, wholeness in life and in relationship with God and people. When we are engaging in godly discipline (not angry vengeance or abuse) we are intentionally discussing concepts like mercy (not getting the just punishment you deserve), justice (receiving righteous consequences) and most importantly grace that you receive not based on your earning or merit but as a gracious gift. It’s an opportunity to talk about the nature of identity, where you can be receiving just consequences for action while not losing the significance and status of being part of the family. There is a big difference between “no son or daughter of mine does X!” verses “Our sons and daughters do y, and when you do x there are consequences and discipline but you are no less a part of this family.” This requires discipline by parents to engage intentionally and patiently.
Instruction – Engaging their minds, emotions, and heart with the truth of the Gospel. There is a version of this in Deuteronomy 6 where you see the instruction to talk about the truths of God diligently with your children “as you sit and as you go” when you wake up, when you’re going to rest. That God’s word would guide your hand/actions and would dwell in your mind (in between your eyes) and that God’s word would be what shapes what it’s like to be in your home as a refuge and sanctuary (like a mini church) for your family. More than simply teaching and imparting wisdom, instructions, it goes on to remembering and recounting God’s great and might work to save His people from sin and deliver them to a promised better land and future. This means we need to be a people who are fluent in the both the truth and the narrative of the Gospel of what God has done, be aware of what He is doing, and who are hopeful for what He has promised.
Know His Story and Tell your story – if you’ve been saved and changed by Jesus don’t act like the version of you your kids have meet is the only one that existed so when they fail or struggle think somehow they’re less than or deficient. When it’s appropriate tell you kids how you’ve been impacted by the Gospel, let them know you were someone in desperate need of salvation, and you’re someone who is daily dependent on His grace and mercy. When there are wins and blessings, share them with your kids and then give God the glory. When there is loss pain, trails, share them with your kids in ways that point to endurance through the faithfulness with God. That God meets us in our grief, God is with us in our valleys, and is worthy of our honor and praise even when we don’t understand our circumstances or suffering. Give them a faith that is realistic and ready to engage with the big questions and endure their longer trials. Give them the Gospel.
You need the gospel, your kids need the gospel, you family needs the gospel. Your kids are sinners and so are you. That means you cannot earn your kid’s salvation any more than you can earn your own. It means your failures of parenting do not condemn your kids and don’t condemn you. You have been given instruction and direction on how to guide them, but it’s God who does the work in their hearts. If God has called you be a parent, He has called you by grace to receive His love and give His love. You are a conduit of God’s grace to the next generation, but it’s the Spirit that flows with power. Rest knowing God knows and loves your kids more than you do. You are not responsible for the outcomes, but you are accountable to how you engage. We look to Jesus as the author and perfecter (finisher) of our faith. Jesus was born into a family. Jesus was obedient and honoring to imperfect parents, Jesus has lovingly and intentionally made us new so we can be loving and intentional as parents, children, and family members who Trust Jesus.