Having children may be doing what comes naturally, but raising children is another matter altogether. Parenting doesn’t really come with a set of instructions. For most parents, it’s like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle without having a picture on the front of the box at which to look. For Christian parents, the bar is set even higher because of their desire to raise children that love and follow Jesus. At least, for these parents, there is the wisdom and guidance that comes from the Bible. As a matter of fact, the Bible is the first place I looked as I began to prepare for this article. I wanted to refresh my mind on the major Biblical passages that spoke to the subject of parenting, but what I discovered was remarkable – something I had not seen before in all my years of study.
My discovery was two-fold. First, I was surprised at how little the Bible had to say specifically on the subject of parenting! Some claim there are 17 passages that address the subject; my findings were closer to 10. That is not to say that the Bible is void of wisdom and instruction on child rearing. Transforming babes in Christ to spiritually mature saints and raising children into responsible adults is very similar with many parallels. The Bible, of course, is filled with instruction for growing new Christians and the carry over application to child rearing is clear, relevant and extremely valuable. Many of the articles I have read by experts on parenting used these passages to make their points.
My second discovery was that the passages that do speak directly to parenting were divided equally among the subjects of discipline and instruction. But what I saw for the first time was that all of these passages pointed to one thing: obedience! The reason for discipline and instruction is that the child might learn to obey! The New Testament reinforces this with the single command “children obey your parents” that is given in Eph. 6:1 and Col. 3:20. This is the only command to children in the New Testament.
My studies in spiritual formation have convinced me that all formation in Christlikeness is oriented toward explicit easy obedience. The transformation of the heart, by grace, into a state of obedience allows the disciple to willingly obey the “all things” commanded by our Lord. Furthermore, a yielded heart is the inner condition that allows the Holy Spirit to enable the outer life of the individual to naturally express the character and teachings of Jesus.
The same is true in raising children! The formation of character through discipline and instruction is for the purpose of obedience. Once a child understands that he must obey and that he must do so with a willing attitude, then you scarcely have to teach him anything else! Once he knows he must obey, you can simply “ask” him to do whatever it is that you need or want him to do and he will do it. When a child has learned to obey willingly, then your discipline will be cut to a minimum and you can spend the vast majority of your time teaching, nurturing and forming that little one into the kind of man or woman you want them to be! So children, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right!”