Today’s Reading: Colossians 3:20-21
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
We are in the middle of Paul’s teaching to the Christians in Colossae about the mutual obligations of those who belong to a Christian family. Yesterday we looked at wives and husbands. Today we are looking at the way in which parents and their children should behave towards each other. Along with spouses (if we are married), for better or for worse these are usually, the closest, most important and most character-forming relationships of our lives. What happens in the family home matters to God as much as our attitudes and actions elsewhere! Paul’s teaching here is still highly relevant in today’s complicated society with its diverse range of definitions, expectations and experiences of family life.
There is no guarantee, of course, that Christian parents and children will treat each other better than do those who are yet to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord. However, verse 20 says that the obedience of respectful children to their parents “pleases the Lord”. In fact pleasing the Lord should always be our primary motive in all of our relationships and activities. In verse 21 Paul warns fathers not to annoy and discourage their children. As a father, I regret how I have failed, and still fail, in this area. We can all be exasperating to our children in minor ways. However, we are not to treat them so unfairly or unkindly that they feel bitterness and are discouraged in their lives. Such a damaging failure hurts our loving Lord- as well as our children and ourselves. In examining how much we have been a blessing or a hindrance to our children and/or our parents, we need to remember that:
i) God the Father, is the perfect example of a loving father who always seeks the very best for us as His children. Sadly, human fathers are not so reliable and supportive.
ii) Jesus respected and cared for His earthly parents. He was obedient to His heavenly Father – even when that meant giving up His life on the cross to save us from our sins.
Anyone who struggles with all this, whether as a wife, husband, parent or child, will find wise advice in a best-selling book first published in the UK some 50 years ago. ‘The Christian Family’ was written by the late Larry Christenson, a Lutheran pastor from San Pedro, California. New, reprinted copies are still available online for under £9. I bought this book in the early 1970s and have always enjoyed its gentle wisdom, especially its three chapters on ‘Practicing the Presence of Jesus.’ But the last word must go to St Paul:
“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.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Today’s Prayer: Thank you Father that as your children whatever our family relationships have been like, you never let us down. Please help us to grow in our reliance upon you, and in our understanding and obedience. May we enjoy your presence with us in our homes, and in all our relationships, so that we might please you day by day. Amen. (MW)