Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4, ESV).
In his commentary on Ephesians, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) makes a great point that all of us who have children would do well to remember:
It is a conviction of mine that no man has a right to tell other people how to raise their children until he has children of his own and has tried to raise them. As a corollary, I am convinced that no wise man will give advice even then until his own children have grown up and turned out well.
He speaks wise words indeed. No duty on earth is more joyous, more rewarding, and at the same time painstaking and heartbreaking like raising children. Danny Akin one time said that if school were life, marriage would be graduate school and raising children would be doctoral work. With raising children, you not only learn much about children, but oftentimes you learn more about yourself.
This morning, our passage deals with the mutual relationships between parents and children. Yes, I have four children, but I am not qualified by experience to tell anyone how to raise their children. But through the leadership of the Word of God and the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, we can see what God’s design for this relationship is.
Paul writes this in a very troubling period in history. The Roman Empire gave ultimate rule to the father to do with his children as he pleased. Sadly, too many of these fathers ruled in a selfish, heartless, iron-fisted manner. William Barclay notes in the patria potestas (“the father’s power”), it states:
A Roman father had absolute power over his family. He could sell them as slaves; he could make them work in his fields, even in chains; he could take the law into his own hands, for the law was in his own hands, and he could punish as he liked; he could even inflict the death penalty on his child. Further, the power of the Roman father extended over the child’s whole life, so long as the father lived. A Roman son never came of age.
Roman fathers could also reject their children based upon his first sight of the child as well as the gender. One Roman father wrote his wife, “If — good luck to you! — you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.”
Christianity has done so much for the elevation of the status of women — and now in this case, for the status of children in society. Paul was well-aware of this mindset of parenting and was also aware of how diametrically opposed his worldview was. But as Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. We are still struggling with very similar problems here in 21st America.
Here are some more troubling statistics:
One million children a year see their parents divorce.
More than 50% of the children in America’s public school live in single-parent homes.
35% of America’s children live apart from their biological fathers.
50% of children who live apart from their biological fathers have never set foot in their father’s house.
Children in single-parent homes have a 300% greater possibility of a negative life outcome than children raised in homes where both parents are present.
The majority of children in America have less than 10 minutes of significant and meaningful conversation with their parents each week.
It seems that all aspects of the home are under assault by the enemy. With the divorce rates both inside and outside the church up around the 50% area, with the majority of homes in America in which our children are raised are single-parent homes. Even so many who keep their homes together find themselves ruled by a me-first attitude which leads either to yelling on the one end or cold wars on the other.
This morning, I pray that God’s Word will not only inform us about his will, but will also transform our hearts through His Holy Spirit.
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