Firm but fair…

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Scripture: Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Observation: Here the apostle Paul gives guidance for the family. V.1-3 simply affirms the fifth commandment for all people to honor their father and mother. But then there’s v. 4 bringing a word of caution to fathers to not go over-board in discipline.

Application: As a father to teenage children I can assure you I have made my children angry from time to time. All parents do this when we put limits and boundaries on our children – which they would rather not have. I don’t think this is what Paul is getting at. Discipline can reach a point where it is over-the-top. Oppressive. Stifling. Life-taking rather than life-giving.

The second half of v.4 is particularly helpful “…but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”. We read in the gospels how our Lord Jesus is patient and merciful, particularly when it comes to those who don’t have much power or authority – like children. Jesus is firm, but fair. His discipline comes on top of a great deal of love for his disciples. It corrects bad behavior while affirming the value of the person. As a parent, that’s a good word for me today. How about you?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, children are a great responsibility you give to parents – and uncles/aunts, older cousins, family friends, neighbors. We know you don’t have to be a blood parent to raise “children”. For all of us who invest ourselves in young people, give us grace to reflect your form of parenting – firm but fair. And most of all, life-giving. We ask this in your precious name. Amen.

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