Family Bible Study for May 16: Nurturing Family Relationships : Friday, April 30, 2004
April 30 2004 by Vic Ramsey

Family Bible Study for May 16: Nurturing Family Relationships : Friday, April 30, 2004
Friday, April 30, 2004

Family Bible Study for May 16: Nurturing Family Relationships

By Vic Ramsey
Ephesians 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:1-8

James Dobson, in his books, Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child, argues that our relationship with God and our relationship with our parents run on parallel tracks.

Children need to know from their parents, just as we need to know from God, two things above all else: that we are loved beyond our comprehension, and that it matters how we live.


Ephesians 6:1-3

We must assume that these "children" were old enough to hear Paul's letter read in the congregational meeting, and old enough to be held accountable for their behavior.

The phrase "in the Lord" does not mean that the parents in question were necessarily Christian. Many who heard the letter were undoubtedly the grown children of unbelievers. On the contrary, "in the Lord" means that obedience to parents is also an expression of Christian discipleship.

Paul asserts that obedience to parents is "right." He means that a child's deference to parental authority is grounded in a universal truth, grounded in natural law.

A family is not a democracy - parents unite to exercise authority over their children. That authority is not unlimited. It is exercised on behalf of the children and in their best interests. But it is authority, nonetheless.

Paul concludes the instruction to children by quoting the 5th commandment. We tend to place this commandment in the "second table," along with others about social relationships. Properly, however, the commandment belongs in the "first table." It is a commandment about how we relate to God. After all, a child's first picture of God is his parents.


Ephesians 6:4

Paul addresses "fathers" because in Paul's world the raising of children was exclusively a father's responsibility. The mother would no doubt be involved in this task, especially when the children were very young. But, if children turned out badly, the father alone would be held responsible.

Paul's instruction not to "stir up anger" (HCSB) or "exasperate" (NIV) refers to deep-seated resentment resulting from parental abuse or neglect. What causes such resentment?

  • Overbearing harshness and rigid control - prevents a child from developing independent judgment and confidence, and may crush a child's spirit.
  • Inconsistency - leaves a child not knowing what to do, or when.
  • Neglect and indifference - "teaches" the child that he or she is not important enough to care about.
  • In contrast, Paul says that parents should raise their children in the "training and instruction of the Lord." "Discipline" is often seen exclusively in terms of punishment, but Paul reminds us that the goal of discipline, like the meaning of the word, is education. If it doesn't teach, it's not discipline.


    1 Timothy 5:1-2

    Here Paul extends the image of the household to include the church family. Paul's instruction to Timothy is to treat each age group, and each gender, with the respect and propriety that each is due.

    Paul is especially concerned that Timothy treat young women "as sisters, with absolute purity." Paul knows, and, sadly, so do we, that nothing hinders the work of the church as ministerial misconduct.


    1 Timothy 5:3-8

    As parents age, it falls to children and grandchildren to care for them. This, too, is part of "honoring our parents."

    Often, as parents grow older, they resist decisions that may be in their best interest - when to stop driving, employ household help, etc. In those cases involving memory loss and mental confusion, a child may be confronted with the choice between what a parent wants and what a parent needs. Taking care of an aging parent, and making that parent happy, are not necessarily the same things.

    Nothing in Paul's letter to Timothy requires that children care for their aged parents in their own home. In our own day, the technical demands of skilled nursing care often require that elderly parents move to institutional settings. A retirement community or a nursing home might be the proper instrument of a child's care for his or her parents, but it must never be used as a substitute.

    Nothing is sadder, or more unchristian, than forgotten parents, languishing alone in a nursing home.

    4/30/2004 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments

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