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Training the Apprentice

Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honour 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.' (NIVUK)

The Bible rarely speaks to children directly (Colossians 3:20), but it does here.  The Old Testament commandment (Deuteronomy 5:16) is freshly brought to life by the Apostle.  Unlike the confused parenting in today's Western society, in which children have increasing rights and parental authority is diminished, this is clear biblical guidance for Christian families.  What a relief for parents and their offspring to know that it is God's will for children to honour and obey their parents.  The laws given to Moses have found their fulfilment in Jesus Christ, including this one (Hebrews 5:9-10).  But the principle of loving obedience to the Father which Jesus demonstrated (John 15:10) also applies to human family life.  Love and obedience go together (John 14:23).

God knows that children do not have the information, the wisdom or the maturity to be able to decide their own future.  They need help and guidance (Psalm 25:5).   But without the willingness to honour their parents and teachers, they cannot learn; except the hard way.  We do not expect engineering apprentices to know how to build a bridge or engine without instruction; nor would we commit our lives to first year medical students.  They need to learn the right way: and so do children (Proverbs 22:6).  Otherwise the next generation will follow their own impulses, copy the faulty examples of their peers, or fall prey to people who will exploit them.  But loving praying parents want God’s will for the child: and loved children should be glad to obey.  In Ephesus, children would have been present when this letter was read out and would have reassured them that the Lord is pleased when they obey their parents.

All over the world, where we see the depressed offspring of family breakdown and feral teenagers, we should ask why. There may be unwarranted personal rebellion, but usually, either the parents do not care or they do not believe they have the right to instruct and gently discipline their children in love.  That is why we need to hear what God says in the Bible.  As fathers and mothers share God's Word as a normal part of family life, then homes will change and society will transform (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).  The promise of longevity and blessing is no bribe; it is the real consequence of God-authorised behaviour which brings contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).

The working parent faces a dilemma.  Toiling round the clock to provide money for the family squeezes the quality time which is the birthright of every child.  A heavy overtime commitment that buys toys can never buy love; and the workplace may even be the undoing of the family instead of its provision.  That is why Christian men and women need to regularly re-evaluate their commitment to work in the light of their responsibilities at home.  But it is not easy to get the balance right.  Sacrifice of time and bonding will happen in most families (those serving abroad feel it most keenly); but if that 'sacrifice' is really an excuse to avoid responsible parenting ... there is a real problem.  Children cannot know how to please God and therefore be secure, unless they are taught from God’s Word and see the teaching modelled close to them (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Dear Lord. I really do want the children I care about to have the best opportunity to know what is right and true, while knowing they are loved. Forgive me for the times when I have failed them. Please help me to set my work into a pattern that includes them and in which they know that they are valued. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams