What would you say is the most significant foundation verse for parents bearing the primary responsibility for the spiritual training of their children?
I’d say it is Ephesians 6:4 – and I’d say that because of one word in the verse:
This is the fourth significant word that must impact children’s ministry. Here’s why…
This instruction is fourth in a series of six commands given by God through Paul concerning human relationships. They are in pairs, and each pair is reciprocal:
First, the commands concerning marriage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands (Ephesians 5:22), then “Husbands, love your wives (verse 25).
Second, the commands concerning family: “Children, obey your parents (6:1) and then, this one – “Fathers…bring them up” (6:4).
Third, the commands concerning employment: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters (6:5), and then the command to masters in verse 9.
This fourth command is unique, because it breaks the pattern of reciprocality: rather than being a command to parents (the word in 6:1), it is a command to fathers. I’m sure mothers aren’t excluded by this language, but God has a reason why fathers are targets specificially. But then we come to the language of the command itself: “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
This word is so significant because of its voice. Remember the “voices” from high school grammar? Active and passive? The Greek language also has them. And here–in this command–the voice is active: “Fathers, …bring them up.”
The first time I understood this I was overwhelmed with deep conviction, because I had been treating it as a passive command. I knew it was a command, and I thought I was obeying it, but I was obeying it as if it were stated, “Fathers, …have them brought up.” That’s passive voice! And that was what I was doing. No dad was more sincere than I was in wanting my kids to grow up to follow God–but while I was busy ministering to everyone else’s kids, I was having my kids brought up – by a Christian school, by our church, and by Diane, my wife. I wasn’t as active as I should have been in bringing them upmyself.
I failed to understand the command.
How many of the parents in your ministry fail to understand this command? Are theyhaving them brought up – by YOU? Are they delegating their responsibility to you? If so, what are you doing about it in return? Are you accepting their delegation and not challenging their thinking? Maybe you feel, “I’ve BEEN challenging their thinking, and they’re just not getting it!”
Don’t weary of the battle; let me encourage you–continue to fight. Do it with grace and love, of course, but don’t stop–parents taking the lead is God’s way.
The single, active command, “Bring” — addressed to fathers — makes that perfectly clear.