Read Colossians 3:20-21 (ESV)
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
How does this verse demonstrate the value and worth of both parties in the authority structure of the home?
Kids often think that being a boss would be great! No one to tell them what to do, where to go, when to be there, how to act, would be awesome! They might fantasize about what they’d do if they were the parent for a day. But as kids get older and gain some maturity, they often realize that being in charge doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. In fact, being in charge just means more responsibility. It means you answer for your behavior and the behavior of those you oversee.
In today’s verses, Paul continued his instructions for how Christian households should operate. As we mentioned yesterday, God is a God of order and not chaos. In order for the household to run smoothly, He designed a chain of command that is for the benefit of everyone involved. When it comes to the parent/child relationship, God gave parents authority over their children.
We see this same command in Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment. God said: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Honoring the rules of your parents can indeed preserve your life. Many of my boundaries and expectations for my kids are for their physical well-being. Don’t play in the street. Don’t get in a car with a stranger. Wear your seatbelt. Eat your vegetables. As a parent, it is my job to physically protect my kids. If you’ve spent any amount of time with a child, you know that they cannot be left to their own devices. They need guidance!
But it is also my job to spiritually protect my kids. I ask them not to watch certain shows or listen to certain celebrities because I know they are trying to sell my kids a false gospel. I also don’t make spiritual disciplines optional for my family. They are expectations.
I expect my kids to obey me in all things because I answer to God for how they are raised. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
The author of Hebrews was reminding those who are in positions of leadership within a church that they keep watch over the souls of those in their charge. It also reminds those under leadership that submission is for their own benefit! This applies to the child/parent relationship as well. I will stand before God one day and answer for the way that I led my family. For this reason, my children ought to respect my authority as their father. I am not ruling over them. I am keeping watch over them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Obedience to my wife and I is to their great benefit.
But Paul doesn’t give parents free reign to be harsh or unreasonable with their children. Just as we can get discouraged by our constant failings and frustrated with the continued battle with sin in our own lives, our children can become frustrated and discouraged as well.
Parents, as we raise our kids, we will be presented with many opportunities to continue to graciously point our kids back to the hope of the Gospel. Our kids are expected to obey us or they should be disciplined! But we are expected to be gracious with them. They are still learning, they are still sinners, and even if they are in Christ, they are not fully sanctified yet. And neither are we.
Father, thank You for being the perfect parent and thank You for earthly fathers and mothers who are seeking to raise their children up in the Lord. Help them to lovingly set high expectations and boundaries for their kids and yet, be gracious to them when they fail. Just as You are gracious with us. Amen.