By, Isam Itson III
Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
In ancient Rome the father was seen as the head of the family. He lorded his authority over the members of his household. The whole purpose and value of his wife, children, and slaves, was to honor and enlarge his public reputation. Their goal as members of his family was to honor and increase his status no matter what it cost them.
The Apostle Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus Christ in a way of life that is completely contrary to the ideal of Roman manhood. He encourages the fathers within the church at Ephesus and in the surrounding region to not make their children angry in a way that leads to lasting bitterness and hatred. In the Greek language this is the word for anger that tempts people to sin. Instead they are encouraged to actively train their children for life with the awareness that God is in charge and to fulfill God’s purpose for creating them.
As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to raise our children to live the way that God created humans to live in the first place. The discipline and instruction of the Lord is a bible way of saying that we are called to raise our children in the way that Jesus Christ lived in a broken world and among broken people, for the glory of God. We raise our children within our way of life as followers of God.
Fathers are instructed to equip and train our children to follow Jesus in the same way that we follow Jesus. The apostle urges us to help them see that they are called and blessed by God to bless others. This means we hold them accountable to considering the needs and sensibilities of others as vital to their own integrity and authenticity as human beings made in God’s image. We help them learn to help others at their own expense. We show them what it means to love God with their whole being and to love their neighbor as themselves. We help them experience the fulfillment of helping people help others in the name of Jesus and to the glory of God the Father.
Through our love and joy in them fathers help them experience the infinite depth of God’s love for them and joy in them. We are called to love our children and rejoice in them and value them the way that God loves us, rejoices in us, and values us. We pay the price for their life in the same way that God paid the price for our life. We hold nothing back from them that contributes to their well being and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for them.
We raise our children to weep with those who are grieving and to rejoice with people in their happiness and accomplishments. We teach our children how to focus on their end goals and persevere through opposition and suffering. We meet them where they are at and help them grow step by step as responsible human beings made in God’s image.
We acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments along the way. While raising them, we prepare them and equip them to overcome the challenges at their next level of development.
And as fathers who follow Jesus Christ, we do this in cooperation and collaboration with our wives. Unlike the Roman ideal of manhood, God’s glory and honor expressed through the lives of our wives and children, is infinitely more valuable than our reputations at work and in the world at large.
Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
This simple instruction to children seems self evident to some and archaic to others. The implications of this command point to the core of what all followers of Jesus Christ find most difficult. Submission to God given authorities. From a young age children are challenged to live within the boundaries their parents establish for their behavior. Ideally this will prepare them to follow the authorities that God has given for the equipping of the members of the church for a life of cooperative service to others in submission to God (Ephesians 4:11-16 and https://practicallyholy.com/one-goal/).
In all humility the most important life skills we pass on to our children are the habits that embody grace, honor, and patience in relationship to our family, friends, neighbors, and enemies. Our daily example of humility in relationship to God and submission to one another makes the deepest impact in the hearts and minds of our children. As we walk with God and wrestle with ourselves we prepare our children to walk with God and wrestle with themselves.
Taken together, Paul’s instruction to fathers and children and husbands and wives in his letter to the church at Ephesus promotes an approach to domestic life oriented around the life, love, and glory of God. Paul highlights the fact that our private lives are meant to reflect our public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and the way we treat people at church should be consistent with how we treat one another at home.
1. How do you purposefully and consistently honor God’s love, value, and purpose for your children?
2. If you are married, what does your spouse say about the example you are setting for your children?