I think of cutting sugar cookies.
“See,” I tell my kids, “this is how. Copy me. Roll the dough like this. Just use some firm pressure to cut through the dough, and then scoop the shapes onto the pan.”
I try not to make more work than necessary. I cut the cookies close to each other so that the dough doesn’t need a lot of re-rolling. It gets warm and sticky if I work it too much. The dough will have to be refrigerated before I can cut a firm shape for baking.
Paul tells fathers (a word used for either parent, so Moms, you too!) not to provoke their children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (verse 4)
Historians tell us that pagan societies such as the Greeks and Romans who Paul addressed were ruled by the fathers with a very strong arm. Children did not have rights like kids in our society. Excessive discipline was often used. Many girls and “weak” babies were taken into the trash and dung hills or caves, because they were not wanted, and abandoned to die. The early Church was full of these children who were rescued by Christian families who adopted the orphans as their own.
These facts can help us understand Paul’s warning and encouragement to families to bring children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The Bible uses different words depending on translations, but I try to give myself guides by differentiating between discipline and punishment in this way…
Punishment can be excessive. It is often doled out harshly as a knee-jerk reaction to behavior that makes us angry! It can push children’s hearts away from the humble stance they need to have to submit their lives to the Lord.
In scripture, I see punishment as being reserved for those who do not respond to grace and forgiveness, but continue to willfully sin. A child can be trained into behavior that conforms to expectations through harsh parenting, but that is like overworking the cookie dough. It’s not moldable. It makes a mess. If their hearts don’t belong to us, they will grow up and rebel.
I see discipline as training with consequences, but it focuses more on teaching them what the Lord desires. There is something powerful about sitting down with a child and plainly showing them in the Bible what the Lord says about sin. Don’t candy coat it. Sin is ugly. Say it like the Lord says it, and then they understand that you are not the ultimate authority. God is.
The heart posture of our children is the goal. We don’t want our children to obey only out of fear, but love. It can be a fine line, but if their heart is right, their behavior will follow. It’s not performance, it is paracclesia.
Ecclesia is a word that refers to the church. It’s the assembly of believers. Para has to do with coming alongside. I have heard the word Paracclesia used to describe the way the Holy Spirit comes alongside us in fellowship and gives us power to live Godly lives. We discipline and train our children in love to prepare them to learn to live in cooperation with God.
When my daughter Lilly was three or four, she told me a lie. She was number three of four daughters at the time. She knew she had done wrong. I took her into my bedroom and put her on my lap with the Bible. I read to her Proverbs 12:22 which says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” I explained to her that lying is a sin, and that God hates sin. An abomination is something so bad that God hates it. God hates lies! Her little eyes got so big and her face was solemn. She let me know she understood and she was sorry. Lilly and I prayed together to tell God she was sorry she had lied and to ask Him for strength to always tell the truth. When she got up and headed out of the bedroom, she immediately went out into the main room and exclaimed to her sisters, “Girls! Did you know that God hates lying!?! It’s an abomination!”
It isn’t about me. As a mom, I constantly have to get over being personally offended by my children when they do not obey. (I forget. I am preaching to myself!) Romans 2:4 says that God’s kindness leads us to repentance. When I make it about God, and my children understand the why, they more readily develop the desire to please Him. I have never known Lilly to tell another lie. She is seventeen today, and the cry of her heart is to be a delight to the Lord.
Lastly, in verses 1-3, Paul writes to the children and tells them to obey their parents. He also tells them to honor their parents. We tend to listen to those we hold in high esteem. 🙂 “So that it may go well with you and you may live long.” Following God’s standards for living is wisdom that leads many into a longer life, but more than that, it leads to eternal life. Trust Jesus for your salvation, and His inheritance is your inheritance.
God is a good Father.
We know that training children is not as simple as cutting cookies. Every child is different, and our own sin nature so often crops up and tries to get in the way; but we know that with your help, we can teach them who you are and how much you love them. With your help, we can teach them how you desire for us to live. Please give us hearts that love them like you do. Give us wisdom and understanding to meet them in their need. Holy Spirit, remind us that it is not about us as parents. Help us to remember it is about You, and leading our children to not just look like you on the outside, but become like you on the inside. Make us like you. Redeem our mistakes. Teach us what we need to learn in order to teach them what they need to understand. Thank you so much for coming alongside us and being our guide. In Jesus name, Amen.