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In this series, we have been emphasizing the gospel of free forgiveness, and we have also noted that God is the kind of Father we want to become. This means that perfect love casts out fear—we are liberated by the blood of Christ to a life of imitation. Always remember that being precedes doing, and that what we are called to believe (really believe) is the foundation of what we are called to do. A Christian pulpit must always proclaim Jesus, but also always remember that Jesus has hands and feet. Not only that, but they are pierced hands and feet, sacrificial hands and feet. We are called to imitate Him. In that spirit then, as we come now to the conclusion . . .
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged” (Col. 3:21).
Summary of the Text
Putting these two texts together, we see two basic realities. The first is that fathers are called to not provoke their children to anger because that would result in the children being discouraged in their Christian walk. Christian fathers can have that effect. The second is that fathers are to provide a life of nurture and admonition, which consists of a full and robust Christian upbringing.
Twenty-One Words for Fathers
As we consider 21 principles for fathers to remember, you will see that we have touched on some of them already. But here they all are in one place. These are the mechanics of fatherhood . . .
- Love Jesus Christ, and express that love by worshiping His Father in the power of the Spirit, and do this as a gathered family on the Lord’s Day. Worship is a big deal. God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30).
- Love your children by loving their mother. Love their mother by loving her children. This is the central way the gospel will be proclaimed in your home (Eph. 5:25).
- Teach them to love the standard, which is not the same thing as merely requiring them to conform to the standard (for a time). This is a function of heart loyalty (Prov. 23:26), and you teach them to love the standard (and to be loyal to you) by loving the standard yourself (and being loyal to them).
- Your garden of yes should have a tree of no in it, and not the other way around (Gen. 2:16). God is not a skinflint, and you should not paint Him as being one. In Christ, all the promises are yes and amen (2 Cor. 1:20). Resemble the God you serve.
- Give them the Torah, not the Talmud (Matt. 22:40). The law of God is simple to understand, and can be easily summarized. If your house rules are convoluted and Byzantine, then you have a problem. I well remember my father’s summary of what was expected of us—“no disobedience, no lying, and no disrespecting your mother.” See? Life is good.
- Acknowledge your children all need to be converted (Eph. 2:3), but do not do this with unequal weights and measures. If you apply impossible standards to your children, you are causing them to stumble. Beware of millstones as you bring them to Christ (Matt. 18:6).
- Listen to them. They are people. It is possible to converse with them (Prov. 18:13).
- Their food, shelter, and clothing take precedence over your toys (Ex. 21:10).
- Remember their frame (Ps. 103:14). Don’t skip naps, keep them up until 11:30, withhold a real dinner, and then paddle them for falling apart. Someone should paddle you for pulling them apart.
- Eat together and not just as refueling measure. This is how families become companions. The liberality that results in table fellowship is a big deal in Scripture (Prov. 11:25), so why withhold it from your family? If half your meals are eaten over the sink, then take stock of your situation.
- Respect your sons and love your daughters (Eph. 5: 33, 25). They are different, and those differences should be honored. This obviously does not mean you don’t have to love your sons or respect your daughters, but it does tell you which way to lean.
- Tell stories together. Listen to stories together. The gospel is a story (1 Cor. 15:3ff), and we come to know one another truly as we come to know the genre. By telling stories you come to realize that you are in one.
- Provide your children with a Christian education (Eph. 6:4). And it must be a true education, filled with life and laughter. The classroom is not a cauldron (Dt. 14:21).
- You should want a home full of Scripture, a home full of joy, a home full of music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Godly child-rearing is Spirit-filled, and it cannot be Spirit-filled without becoming a musical.
- Give your children quantity time, and don’t try to sub in the guilt salve of so-called “quality time” (Dt. 6:4-9).
- Discipline should be a gift, not a grabbing. If you are retaliating against your children, then the whole thing isself-serving (Gal. 6:1).
- Discipline should be judicious, and not an occasion for you to jump to conclusions (Prov. 18:17). Sometimes kids can invite the injustice, and they bear the weight of it if they do, but fathers should fight to maintain justice in the home. Playing favorites with your children, incidentally, invites such injustice.
- The pain of discipline should be acute, not chronic. The Bible says that discipline should be painful (Heb. 12:11), but not the pain of a dull ache week after week. Heartache is not discipline.
- The point of discipline is restored fellowship (Heb. 12:11), not retribution. There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is correction, and can cease when correction is accomplished. You don’t make all your children spend the same amount of time in the tub for the sake of “equality.”
- Divided discipline is dangerous. Father and mother are in this together. Scripture requires them to be honored together (Ex. 20:12), and so they should work together. Don’t allow your children to apply the tactic of “divide and conquer.”
- Prepare them for independence (Gen. 2:24). Do not make the mistake of indulging sin when it is little and cute, and then trying to crack down on it later, when things start to look more serious.
And again, remember that Jesus is always the point.