Better Relationships (Parenting)
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contains instructions for particular groups of people within Christian families as to how they should treat other members of their household. Since they are similar to legal or moral codes of conduct, these texts are often called “household codes.” Most people in the Roman Empire in the first century took it for granted that a pater familias (a “father of the family”) had absolute authority and control over his household. Thus, the non-Christian examples of such household codes usually just indicate how slaves, children, or wives should act toward their masters, fathers, or husbands, respectively. They rarely tell the men how they should treat the slaves, children, or wives who are members of their household. Paul’s household codes are significantly different in that they do not give absolute power to men, but instead require a high degree of responsibility and mutual respect between all members of Christian families.Parents and Children
Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honour your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honour your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. [Eph 6:1-4. NLT]
Paul gives some clear instructions for children and for parents as to how best they can relate together. In today’s message we won’t be able to cover every aspect of the parenting relationship or every age/stage of parenting. We will focus primarily on the parent/teenager-young adult relationship and how this relationship outworks itself in our culture.
For parents, Paul focuses on the need for us to not frustrate or exasperate our children as we raise them. How do we not do this? Here are a few insights we gleaned from our panel of youth workers from Tabor Bible College’s Year in the Son program:
Sample Discussion Question
- Two of the biggest questions that young people what to know is do they have what it takes and whether they are good enough or not. These are questions of identity. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t help a lot in answering these questions adequately. It offers them ego without character, freedom without restraint, and boundless horizons without mentoring and direction. No wonder so many of today’s youth are out of control. As parents we need to try to delve deeper into this identity crisis and the looming depression epidemic that comes with it. So often, young people create their identity from what the media tells them. We need to help them find who they are in Christ and as part of a family and church community. In contrast to our world’s hyper-reality we can offer our teenagers love – a love that comes alongside, that listens, that calls them to the abundance life offering by Jesus to those who choose to die to selfishness and follow him.
- It takes a village to raise a child. No one should switch off when we talk about parenting because when you are part of a community you accept responsibility to be present for the younger generation. Maturity is the ability to look past our needs and desires, and to live a shared life. Teenagers and young people benefit greatly from the involvement of others from the church community who take an interest in them, even through their failures and mistakes. In contrast, great damage can be done when criticism is made by those who have no direct involvement in their lives.
- Unfortunately, this young generation of today that has everything often does not have the presence of caring, attentive adults. This lack of a strong support structure results in them feeling abandoned. We can change that. Genuine community is where the church can shine. After all, people will know Jesus by the way we love one another – by the way we are involved in the lives of each other and our children. Unconditional love is the greatest gift we can offer as parents and a community of Christ. Take time to (a) notice young people, (b) be interested in them, and (c) seek to understand them and their world.
- Learn to handle situations where trust has been broken. As our children grow older we give them more and more freedom. As we do so, it is inevitable that our trust will be broken. They will fail us and they will make mistakes. Negotiating these times can be difficult and even painful. When trust is broken, there are inevitable consequences. However, we must seek to keep relationally and emotionally connected. Our young people need to know that whatever they do, we will continue to love them. We must determine to work through any poor choices they make. The relationship is always more important than any issue at stake.
- We must also journey with our young people as they transition from a socialised faith (where they are told what to believe) to discovering God for themselves. This takes time and it is not a risk-free process.
- No family is perfect, nor is any parent. Parenting is not easy. Obedience and honour from children makes the task more pleasant. Understanding, listening and involvement from parents enable children to form a healthy identity and world-view. The family environment creates some of our most joyous and pleasant memories while it can also be the place of some of our deepest pain and heartaches. As followers of Christ, we should seek to be parents who genuinely love their children and children who genuinely love and respect their parents. As we grow up, we in turn need to love and affirm our parents, letting them know, “You have done well by me!”
- For those with broken or strained relationships, we pray for forgiveness to flow and for wisdom to rebuild those relationships over time. May God’s grace enable us to create families that are places of love and support for each person.
- Read Ephesians 6:1-4. What insights can we glean for parent/children relationships today from Paul’s instructions?
- What are some of the fondest memories of your family growing up?
- What painful memories do you have of growing up in your family and how did these affect you?
- Have those who grew up in Christian homes share. What were some of the keys to you finding and building a faith in God of your own? What were some things that your parents did that helped?
- Have those who grew up in non-Christian homes share. What good things did you glean from your parents? How did your background become part of your journey to finding faith?
- What are the biggest challenges of parenting young children?
- How can we relate to and support teenagers on their spiritual journey?
- Discuss “youth culture.” What is different for this generation than for the generation say fifty years ago? What unique challenge do our young people face today?
- Have those with grown children share. What lessons can you share from your role as a parent?
- Discuss the concept that “it takes a village to raise a child.” How can the church community provide better support to parents of children at all stages?
- How can the LifeGroup help in the task of parenting?
- In what ways can we continue to honour and show appreciation to our parents today, no matter how imperfect they may have been?