Submitting Ourselves to One Another
Part 2

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Read Ephesians 6:1-4.

Any parent is going to have to contend with children asking “why?” It’s sort of cute when they are very little and they ask questions such as “Why do people have eyebrows?” However, as the child gets older the question can become sort of argumentative. So when a parent suggests that a child brush her teeth, she says “Why?”
Of course parents do the same thing. The child asks us to borrow $10 and we say, “WHY?”
In this game of asking why, parents have a trump card to play: “Because I said so!”

Maybe its because of this that I think preaching and instruction of God’s word should be much more than a divine “Because I said so.” Thankfully, God’s word specializes in giving good answers to “Why?” (And sometimes it even raises the question.) This Scripture read today does not disappoint. It makes a special effort to spell out why children ought to obey and honor their parents and why parents ought to raise their children right.

Recall that this is the second part of the household codes we discussed last week. Verse 21 establishes all the relationships in the household. We all submit to one another out of respect for Christ. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 18) are going to be submissive to one another. That submission takes on different characteristics and in the case of children and parents there is a way each submits to the other.

Children are to obey their parents. Why? It is the proper way of things. It is natural. The family is designed in such a way that parents, who are supposed to be the mature ones, care for and develop the ones who are not yet mature, the children. So, the child needs to obey the parent. [Now if that’s not the natural, proper order of things we wouldn’t have Supernanny!]

Children should obey their parents in the Lord. Why? “That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Some translation say, so that you will live long and prosper. [This isn’t parenting by Dr. Spock, this is parenting by Mr. Spock!] The logic behind this promise is that good parents have a child’s best interest at heart and if you obey them then it is for your own good.

Parent’s also submit to their children. We might ask “How?” rather than why. The contrast in verse 4 spells out what parenting is and isn’t. Parents are not to exasperate their children or provoke their children to anger. Does this mean parents shouldn’t tell their children anything that will set off a fit? No, it doesn’t because this isn’t about the child’s reaction, rather it is about the manner of parenting and the development of a child’s character. Provoking a child to anger means instilling a legacy of rage and bitterness in a child. The same word used here is the one used back in 4:26 for the sort of anger that can control us. Abusive parents embed anger into the soul of a child. Adult children of abusive parents still harbor this anger. Abusive parents are also those who will take advantage of the instruction to children to obey their parents. They will use it like a hammer to force their will onto a child or in the worst of cases influence a child to do something ungodly. We could point out that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord” but we could also point out that the objective of parenting is not to develop cruel and broken character in children by instill anger and rage in them.

Rather, a parent has the God-given responsibility to develop and shape the character of a growing human soul. Parents should raise children in the nurture and instruction that comes from the Lord. I came across a statement in a book saying that we shouldn’t “count” the baptisms of our children as true evangelism. I strongly disagree with that on the basis of Ephesians 6:4. Godly parenting is a form of evangelism. When we raise our children in the teaching and instruction that comes from the Lord that means we raise them to have the character of Christ. It means we raise them to be Christian.

Whether someone is baptized at age 15 or 55, the goal of their life is the same. The character we want to develop in all of Christ’s people is described in the last three chapters of Ephesians. This is the godly character and holy manners that describe God’s household, and so it ought to be the same in our households.

What is parenting really? It is the passing on of the character, virtues, and manners that we’ve discussed in this series from Ephesians.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 July 2007

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