Parenting and family life are no easy feats. But I wonder how things would be different in many homes today if we all work together in our families to heed Scripture’s basic instructions for family life?
Ephesians 6:1-4 covers everything God wants to say about children and their parents in God’s heart:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “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.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Notice that much of what God wants to say is addressed to the children—obey and honor. These are not really two different commands, but just one: honor your parents. You see, you can obey without honoring (forced obedience, or fake obedience), but you cannot genuinely honor your parents without obeying them. And just to make sure that children understand that this command is given out of God’s love for them than anything else, Paul gives this reminder—“that it may go well with you…” God’s heart is for our good, not our misery; that is why He wants us to honor our parents, whether they are alive or dead, whether they were good to us or not. Here’s something to consider—we are all children who all have parents whom we must honor.
In our setting and culture today, both parents actively train and instruct their children, so the command to fathers in our passage is really for both parents today. Yet it also reminds us that the primary leader in the home is the father, and that includes the primary accountability. We parents are simply reminded to “not exasperate”—that means not to drive our children to discouragement. There is a way of parenting that removes all hope from our children, and that’s what God warns against. You can be as strict and as firm as necessary, and yet still pay attention that the net effect is not a feeling of despair, not “Whatever I do, I will never amount to anything or do anything right.” That is what exasperation means. The beautiful thing is that again, God does not give us two different commands here, but just one. You see, if we raise up our children in the principles of God’s Word, “in the training and instruction of the Lord,” we are automatically not going to exasperate them.
Be warned, however, that raising them up in the principles of God’s Word is going to take ALL your focus. It means that aside from leading by bringing them to church, prayer at mealtimes, and family prayer, it also means living out a good example. As my mother likes to say, Christian values are better caught than taught.
So fellow parents, what are the priorities of your lives? Is it the next million, that next home, that next promotion, or overseas trip? Or is it your eternal soul and the souls of your children? Choose wisely, please.
Dr. Larry P. Pabiona is the senior pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship, a 41-year-old church in Ortigas and the mother church of 24 satellites in the Philippines and six in Canada. A neurosurgeon by training (UP-PGH), Dr. Larry practiced medicine for 14 years before being called to serve God fulltime at GCF. He is happily married 28 years to his wife Joy, with whom he has three grown children: Lazaro Kevin, Jemimah-Keren, and Benjamin Caleb.