Batman and Joker. Dogs and cats. Parents and children. What do these 3 groups have in common? They are all sworn enemies. But one of these groups doesn’t have to be. Of course I’m talking about parents and children, although I have seen dogs and cats cooperate.
As a youth pastor I get to deal with each of the parent/child groups extensively. What I find is usually a back and forth tug of war. The parents think it’s the children that have problems, and the children think it’s the parents who have the problem. Usually neither one will admit their own faults, and they will try to convince outsiders of the irresponsible behavior of the other group. I may be a dreamer, but I believe parents and children can coexist in harmony and actually have a thriving relationship with rules and discipline. Of course this can happen when each group determines to follow Scripture.
Ephesians 6:1-4 is the primary passage that deals with children’s responsibilities and parent responsibilities. For the child it is simple: obey and honor. For the parent it is also very clear: don’t provoke to anger but raise children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Of course it is hard to actually live out these instructions, but nobody would argue that the Scripture is unclear.
What parents and children both have in common is that they have the same motivation. In v 1 it says for children to “obey your parents in the Lord.” In v 4 it tells parents to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The common denominator is the Lord. He should be the motivating factor for children and parents alike. In fact, the Lord is the motivation for wives and husbands as well (5:22-33). And the Lord is the motivation for employees and bosses (6:5-9). To summarize: the Christian child, the Christian parent, or even just any Christian has as their supreme motivation to please the Lord Jesus Christ. Our entire goal in all we do is for the Lord to be happy with us.
This is where parents and children need to come together to build harmony in the home. Children need to understand obeying and honoring is the right thing to do, because the Lord is pleased when they do that. They also need to understand that parents are trying to raise them with discipline and rules, because that also pleases the Lord. Parents must understand they have to instill rules and discipline, but also be consistent and reasonable, because the Lord has required that of them, and He is pleased when they do that.
If you find your home a constant battlefield, then you need to sit down with each other (parents and children) and begin here. Both groups need to confess where they are falling short and ask the other’s forgiveness. Then each group needs to remind themselves that there is something bigger at stake here than simply extending a curfew or going to a dance. What is at stake is the Lord being pleased with this home. So a child who is not obeying is not pleasing Christ. A harsh, demanding, unreasonable parent is also not pleasing Christ.
Let me just say, in no way is this a negotiation. Parents absolutely have the authority in the home. But a parent’s most convincing strategy is being a humble, honest, pleaser of Christ. Lord willing, may this lead to joy and fellowship in the home, rather than bickering and battling.
Pastor Mark Scialabba