Last Sunday I gave a talk on family relationships and education at ICF Delft. Here is a summary of the main points of the talk.
What is your longing for your children? What is your concern as a parent? (the audience responded) Know Jesus as savior and follow him as Lord. But since only God can do this, what is your part as a parent?
The apostle Paul says “Who is sufficient for these things?”
Illustration: my mother went to the pastor in tears and said ‘I have the feeling that I am losing my son’. Only God is sufficient. However, he gave us parents the responsibility of godly upbringing. With godly upbringing, we mean ‘upbringing’ that is pleasing to God and focused on the Bible.
Here are some important points related to our theme.
- In everything we are involved with it is good to ask the question of “why?” am I doing this or that? What is the purpose?
- Upbringing, therefore, has a purpose. The purpose is to do all things “In the Lord” as Ephesians 6:1-4 clearly mentions. In the ways of the Lord. With the purpose to know, love and obey God. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus
- Great example. Monica, Augustine’s mother was a weeping mother. Think about the people who have prayed for you, and here you are today worshiping God. A weeping brother – my brother and parents were praying that I might show some interest in knowing God. Prayer helps us focus on God and seek his wisdom and love in family relationships. God is a relational God and our children should see this love relationship demonstrated in our relationships in the family. This leads us directly to the second point which has to do with “attitude.”
- In the spirit of Psalms 127:1-2 (NIV) “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Our human efforts are not enough without trust in the Lord. The question is how to do our part and find rest without being stressed out. The answer we find in this Psalm is “depend on God.” Trust Him in every step. Be aware that you desperately need God in bringing up your children. Therefore Paul mentions “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” in Ephesians 5:18. This phrase precedes the long section in this epistle that mentions family relationships.
- An attitude that is teachable. You will make some mistakes. Therefore you need an attitude of humility Ephesians 4:2. You will make some mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up all the time. Or don’t ignore humbling yourself.
- Authenticity: Bring them up by ‘modeling’ a love relationship with your spouse and with the children. The context of Ephesians 6:4 teaches about the mutual love expected between husband and wife. Love and respect.
- Someone said, “give your children YOU”. Make any adjustments necessary so you have enough time, energy and space to focus on your children. Make sure that the relationships are growing and that you are building trust with each other.
- To the question “Kids what would you like to say to parents?” one of my kids said jokingly, “Don’t shout! Don’t put us at school! Don’t punish us! Don’t put us to early to bed! Gives us lots of candies!” This was funny of course and we laughed together. But it brought home to me that we need lots of good and fun moments. Everything has to be done in a context of good loving relationships.
- Therefore let us remember the context of Ephesians 6:1-4 it is a continuation of 5:18 with being filled with the Spirit of God and placed between 6:10-18 which is a spiritual clash with the devil. In all these areas the devil tries to hit you. You have to be vigilant, watchful and then resist his schemes and attacks. But above all, you have to be filled with the Spirit continuously.
- Not by being harsh. Meaning of μη παροργίζετε To Anger. Exasperate: irritate intensely, infuriate (make extremely angry and impatient).
- How not to discipline our children: not capriciously. Not without listening and understanding. Not unreasonably. They are entrusted to us, they belong to God, as everything else. Not so that they may reach the goals we have for them. Also, not with pressure.
- (NIV ZSB Notes) Parents (see NIV text note), especially fathers, should not be unnecessarily harsh or domineering (Col 3:21). Colossians 3:21 (ESV) Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. (NA28) ἐρεθίζετε means to stir up, provoke, arouse; embitter, provoke, irritate. (NA28) ἀθυμῶσιν means to be discouraged, lose heart.
- But by good training and instruction Meaning of ‘bring them up’. Meaning of ἐκτρέφετε (imperative) to feed, nourish; to bring up, rear (children). (MED) ἐκτρέφω ektrephō promote health and strength, Eph. 5:29; to bring up, educate, Eph. 6:4*
- Upbringing. How to bring up our children: with gentleness and firmness. We do need to set a standard, communicate it with words and actions. Also, help the face the reality of their decisions. There are some consequences. Above all by giving the example.
- (NA28) ἐκτρέφετε αὐτὰ ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ νουθεσίᾳ κυρίου Here is the firmness, but in the Lord. (NA28) ἐν παιδείᾳ discipline, training (NA28) νουθεσίᾳ warning, admonition; instruction.
- Your example: you may react in anger and insist they should not react with anger. Well, humble yourself and let them see that you are sincere and open about your mistakes.
- Bible reading and prayer.
- How often? Deuteronomy 6:4-9 can help us. But also in moments that the whole family can gather around the word of God. We practice this once a week in our family and it has helped us grow closer to each other and to God. We usually read a whole book of the Bible, one chapter each time we meet. The gospels and acts are a good starting point.
- We are also using more often lately the New Catechism. It is a good way to learn the basics of the Christian faith.
- A misunderstood verse on ‘training’ Proverbs 22:6 Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This is not a good translation. The word “Should” should not be there. It is rather “Train a child in the ways of his, and even if they are old they will not turn from it.” (my paraphrase). If you will not train your child then it will continue in “his own ways” even when it is old. It is not a promise then but a warning. The warning is that if you will not train your child then it will continue in ‘his’ own way.
What will be the result of this kind of upbringing?
- No automatic conversion. It takes regeneration, new life. Only God can do this. Samuel in the Old Testament was a good example of a godly man. However, his children were not like him, 1 Samuel 8.
- You are growing and maturing, not only your children. You are living out the new life God has given you with those next to you. You are walking in love and truth. You are pleasing God in this way. Your children can see the transformation that is taking place in your life. You are in need of God’s grace daily. Let them see it. Be open with them. Share some of your struggles, as much as it is appropriate of course.
- You help the children understand reality, be in touch with reality. They are better prepared to face reality outside the home. They have a better chance to understand, love and follow God.