I am so grateful for our children. We have six and each child gives us unique hope (and sometimes worry) for the future. We’re in a season where we cut baked sweet potatoes into tiny, appealing bites, and we also stay up late to encourage our teenager that she is not alone. We’ve been parenting for over a decade, and it’s been the topic of many of our prayers and conversations together.
As a father, I really like the import of the fifth commandment. Admittedly, I am often tempted to invoke it before my children with an attitude of self-justification, rather than with pure motives. I can selfishly bristle at challenges to my authority.
Of course, children who know their scriptures may be tempted to do the same thing with Paul’s injunction to fathers: “Don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We can probably all remember being 14 years old and knowing basically everything, and bristling at any parental critique. If you’ve got kids of your own, you know that the same “I’ll do it my way” attitude shows up in their earliest years. It’s as if children are made of the same stuff their parents are, struggling with the same sin.
We all like to put ourselves at the center of life and expect others to bow to our whims. But in Ephesians, both commands are the same and should cut us to the quick and unseat our self-inclined hearts. Both parents and children are called into obedience to Christ. Why should children obey their parents? Because it is right. How are they to obey? In the Lord. How are parents to raise their children? In the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In each case, the central figure is not the parent or the child, but the Lord Himself. God does not call parents to mere child-pleasing. He does not call children to mere parent-pleasing. He calls both to be God-pleasing.
This should come as both a conviction and a relief to all of us. Parents, the duties and success of your parenting are not about you; your human will is not the final law. You also can take yourself out of the center, letting go of the frustrations and failures of your own work. Fix the work of your parenting in Christ alone. Turn your children’s eyes toward His law. Set before them the hope they have in Him.
In the same way, the duties and obedience of childhood are about God. Children must be led to desire God’s will and to trust His wisdom rather than their own. Frustrations and shortcomings can be handed over to the God who cares for them far more than their own parents ever could. When taught to fix their hearts on Christ Jesus, their gaze moves to obeying His law, which will result in honoring their parents as well. Parents and children alike struggle with the same sin of self-worship. But in the end, God calls us to the same thing He always calls us to: the love of Christ.
Written by Caleb Faires