If we are to make disciples, then the family is the garden where children grow to become disciples and parents can cultivate their relationship with Christ. One of the reasons for marriage and family is God’s desire to produce godly offspring [Mal. 2:15]. Yet, in a culture that is opposed to a Christian worldview, raising children to know and love the Lord is a difficult challenge. The local church should support parents in this noble calling, but parents cannot delegate this responsibility to the church, a Christian school, a youth center, or any other surrogate. When a parent is following the Lord, and raises a child to do likewise, the parent can rejoice. The parent has arguably accomplished the most important role of successful parenting. And both parent and child have ample reason to believe that they are truly Jesus’ disciples.

I recently watched an adorable video of a very young boy learning a memory verse as his mom encouraged him to repeat Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a Child s born …” I’ve known the mom since she was ten years old, and I’ve been blessed to watch her grow to become a lovely godly woman. Yet, there are times that she wonders, “Am I being a good mom?”

In reality, she is a great mom. She is loving, consistent, godly, compassionate, patient and more. The truth is that all of us parents wonder if we are being good parents. All of us wonder, “Was I too selfish, too harsh, too insensitive, too impatient? Was I not enough like Jesus?” Our kids, like their parents, are imperfect, so we doubt whether we’ve been good parents. We do the best with what we know and as we know better, we should do better.

Our kids, like their parents, are imperfect, so we doubt whether we’ve been good parents.

When my boys were small I remember one day when their room was a mess, and I told them, “Start cleaning and I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.” When I returned, not only had they not started to clean but also the room was even a bigger mess as more toys and stuff were on the floor. Again, I instructed them to clean, and told them I’d be back to check on the progress. This scenario repeated three times, and each time there was no progress and I became more frustrated and angry. Finally, I kicked the door with my right foot, and my shoe went right through the hollow door creating a small hole. As you can imagine, my sons were now very motivated and determined to clean their room, but I felt that I was a horrible parent. When I returned to their room, not only was it clean but also they had taken a poster of Jesus and covered the hole in the door. Moral of the story, Jesus covers a multitude of parenting shortcomings.

…Jesus covers a multitude of parenting shortcomings.

The Bible is not organized as a handbook for parenting, but it has much to say on the subject [100s of verses]. Nevertheless, in only four verses in Ephesians 6:1-4 we have a blueprint to build a family of disciples. Preliminary, it appears that although the children are addressed first, it is the parents’ responsibility as a mentor to disciple and develop the right actions and attitudes.

…it is the parents’ responsibility as a mentor to disciple and develop the right actions and attitudes.

Obedience and honor are the marks of a child who is a disciple of Jesus. Parents are to mentor their child to obey their parent(s) so that they are able to obey God. A child that is submitted to Christ will likewise obey her parents. The actions of obedience are right, because they reveal that the child understands submission to God-ordained authority. The attitude of honor from a child to her parent reflects that she honors God.

From a Hebrew perspective the commandment to honor mother and father [Ex. 20:12] is listed as the fifth of ten commandments and is generally seen as primarily a duty to God, and then to man (parents). Children are encouraged to yield to God and parents with the promise of a blessed life and the knowledge that it is right.  As long as a child is living in her parents’ home she is to be submitted to authority such that she obeys. Adult children who leave the parents’ home are not required to obey, but continue to display the attitude of honor to parents.

Equipping and encouragement are the marks of a parent who is a disciple of Jesus. Parents must be careful in their training not to provoke their children to wrath.  Unreasonable expectations, discouraging words, and harsh discipline are to be avoided.

As an aside, we should understand what a radical concept this represents in the ancient world. In the Greco-Roman world a father had absolute authority over every aspect of a child’s life, including authority to punish by death. So, the practice of being sensitive to a child’s feelings and exercising restraint reflects Christ-like compassion and self-control.

A parent’s affirmative duty is to bring their children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Generally, a father is called to be the primary source of training, but both parents share in the responsibility. This calls for teaching Bible doctrine, talking about God and His word regularly, prayer, and being an example of a disciple. A parent is to lovingly encourage, equip, and ensure corrective discipline. Thus a parent who disciples or disciplines a child under God’s control has assurance that they themselves are a disciple, and that they have helped their child to become a disciple as well.

Five family building best practices to consider:

1. Consistent love for God: Your child needs to know that you love God. Your children discover very early in life what you care about and what you love. If you have a genuine love for God they will know it.

2. Consistent love for your spouse: Your kids need to know that you love your spouse even more than you love them. When a parent has more affection for their child than their spouse it destabilizes the home. When a child knows that her parents love one another more than any other it provides security.

3. Consistent presence: Your very presence is a sign of caring. Learning what each child likes to do and spending one-on-one time to do their thing is critically important to building family. Occasionally, make time for each child to have a special day with you. Spend time playing together and creating memories.

4. Consistent expressions of affirmation: Regardless of their age, children should receive consistent affirmation. Communicate love and value. Give lots of hugs, and tell them, “I love you often.” Tell them that they have the right stuff, and be encouraging and warm. Avoid performance focused shame and discouragement.

5. Consistent discipline: don’t discipline when you are angry and out-of-control. Ideally, be under God’s control, and consider how you would want God to discipline you. Be consistent with discipline and follow-through.

Lifework:

1. Review this lesson with your spouse and children (assuming they are old enough to understand).

2. Where would you like to grow as a parent? If your kids are older, ask them for some feedback on your parenting, and how they would like to see things change in the home. Ask your spouse too.

3. Celebrate the progress that you are making in building a family and keep building. All buildings require regular maintenance and improvements. So keep up the good work!

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