Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 12/12/99
Last week we looked at the Importance of this passage--it is the first place where the rubber of submission to God's delegated authority meets the road of human experience, and hence crucial for all the rest--and the Emphasis of it--that all are to honor their parents, obedience is the form this honor takes for children, and the transfer of authority comes with the transfer of responsibility in leaving and cleaving, which sets up a new family unit. Today we want to think for awhile about the Implementation of the Commandment, first for children, and then for their parents.
Children need to remember that obediance needs to be immediate and cheerful, not grudging and complaining and after one has been threatened with bodily harm. Otherwise, while our body may technically have obeyed, our heart is giving expression to as much of the spirit of rebellion as it thinks it can get away with. God will not be fooled by such "obediance," and parents should not put up with it as the best they think they can get either. Children should also respect their parents (and other elders). I've noticed that Northerners tend to express surprise at the fact that at least some Southern children are still taught to say "Yes Sir" and Yes Ma'am," customs that have apparently fallen by the wayside in the more barbaric and less civilized portions of the country. While such expressions can be meaningless, they do not have to be. They can help us communicate a proper respect which is dying out, but should not be allowed to die out in the Church. Finally, kids, be patient with your parents. I know they are old fashioned and out of it, that they tend to lecture, etc.; but they also love you, want the best for you, have learned some lessons the hard way that could benefit you, and (most importantly) have been charged by God with the responsibility of being your leaders until you are on your own. So listen to them anyway, and just let their annoying mannerisms pass. And then submit as unto the Lord--for that is exactly whom you are submitting to in them.
Parents need to understand that submission is hard for kids, does not come natural to them. They, being fallen Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve like us, are rebels at heart, and even after they are saved have to unlearn that tendency to rebellion. So we need to be the kind to people they find it easy to respect and obey--we must not, in other words, make that job any harder than it already is. Therefore, we must first cultivate our own walk with the Lord, including commitment to His Church. We should not only lead in family devotions, but our kids should see us reading our Bibles and praying as a real part of our own lives. Then, we must discipline from principle and not from anger. I know we all start out to do that, but here is real life: the greatest obstacle to principled discipline is sheer laziness. We have just finally sat down in our easy chair and do not want to get back up. So an unacceptable behavior is ignored simply because it is not irritating enough to overcome our inertia. But if the kid gets away with 1 on the scale of parental irritation, he will naturally be curious about whether he can get away with 2--then 3--etc. We then finally respond when we have been driven to anger. The punishment is not undeserved, but unfortunately the kid has not learned to take responsibility for right behavior, but rather that today Mom or Dad finally got angry at 6.7 on the scale. They are not above making a game of seeing how far they can push that scale before the wrath descends. But this is a game we must never consent to play. Set reasonable rules and inforce them always--whether it is convenient or not. Most importantly, do not be intimidated by the lack of standards in the world around us. Your kids will not be permanently damaged by being held to a higher standard than any of their peers. On the contrary, if they are allowed to grow up without guidance and discipline, they will make shipwreck of their lives in a hurry. They will respect your standards if they are well thought out, if you are unified on them, and if you live by them yourselves.
Our ultimate goal is to walk worthily of our calling in the Church. But the Apostle will understood how crucial the home is for this happening. May God of His grace help us to lay a good foundation there, for the glory of His Son. Amen.
Here endeth the lesson.