As Paul is describing how the gospel should shape families. We’ve seen how what he said about wives and husbands. In this post, we want to see what he says about children.
The Gospel-Shaped Family Will Be Seen in Obedient Children
Colossians 3: 20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Not real difficult to miss the point here, is it? If you’re a child, you are commanded to obey your parents. But that is the very heart of the problem isn’t it? It’s not only an innate response as sinners to rebel against authority, it’s the very thing that is celebrated in our culture. From music to movies, from t-shirts to bumper stickers we are told to “Question Authority.” No one wants someone else to tell them what to do.
That is truly the culture we live in. And yet, despite what the culture says, God says, don’t question authority, obey it. Children, obey your parents. Why? Because it is pleasing to the Lord. To do disobey is seen as great sin in the Bible. Consider just give you two examples from some of Paul’s other letters.
First, in Romans 1:28-32, Paul is describing the fall of humanity into sin and the visible effects of that sin in our lives. He says, “since [wicked people] did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
What’s stuck right in the middle of all this wickedness is the example of those who are “disobedient to parents.” Let’s be honest, that’s a bit shocking isn’t it? We just don’t think of that in the same category as murder and evil, do we? But Paul did. And if Paul did, then God does. Then in 2 Timothy 3, Paul is telling Timothy, ‘You are going to minister in a day and age where everything falls apart. In the culture and in church, “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (3:2-4).
Again—what’s right in the middle of all this sin? “Disobedient to parents.” Why is this such a big deal? But Paul sees something many can’t see today. Namely, that a person who can easily disobey parents—violating and disrespecting their authority as parents—is, in fact, a person who is capable of the most drastic spiritual error and who is in grave spiritual danger. For if they rebel against their parents, it’s not small step to rebel against God.
Having obedient children isn’t about being embarrassed by their bad behavior. Both children and parents need to understand that. This isn’t just a concern for an external moralism from our children. This kind of disobedience is reflective of a spiritual problem that sends one on the course of destruction. This is so serious because by obeying parents, Christian children are displaying obedience to Christ himself. We cannot say Christ is Lord, and live lives of perverse and continual disobedience to our parents. It is part of our Christian life to live in obedience to our parents like any other authority.
So, you might be thinking, does this mean that children who aren’t Christians don’t have to obey their parents? Nope. It doesn’t mean that at all. In fact, in the Romans passage, Paul is thinking about non-Christian families. He’s thinking about all the families of humanity. And he sees disobedient children as being a huge sin. Nevertheless, there is a special obligation on Christian children to obey their parents for they know their obedience is pleasing to the Lord.
So, what then are we so say about this to our young people? Something like this: “Ultimately, you have to make a choice. You can either follow the world, disobey your parents as a slap in God’s face, and continue on a path of life that will ultimately cause you to end up in sin up to your eyeballs and miserable in this life. That’s the best case scenario. At worst, that kind of life will lead right to hell itself. The choice you have is this: call out to God for help. You can ask him to help you look to Christ for forgiveness. You can him to empower you with his Spirit to obey your parents, to resist the foolish advice of your friends, and live in way that is pleasing to God. One road is broad and used by many, it may be easy for a while, but it ultimately leads to death. Take the other road—the one that is narrow and less traveled; the one that may be more difficult, but always leads to life with God.
It doesn’t matter how bad your rebellion has been, God stand ready to forgive you! Like the father of the prodigal son, God is waiting with the royal robe of the righteousness of Christ, and the ring of his adopting love. God is waiting to forgive you and a rejoice in your repentance. And parents, you should too. That’s the example for you when dealing with disobedient children. Yes, expect obedience and discipline when it doesn’t happen, but be ready to forgive they repent.”
On a very practical level, what will that obedience to parents look like? Teachers at Covenant Life Church well summarized it in three words: immediately, completely, and joyfully. When a parent tells a child to do something this is how they should do it. Immediately; that means they do it the first time they are asked. Second, they should obey completely. That means they do everything they are told (not just half of it). Third, they should do it joyfully. This means when they obey, without whining or complaining about it, or giving a sassy response.
If children live in this way towards their parents, it means they have been shaped by the gospel of Christ. And even when they don’t live this way, the gospel gives us hope for change so that they can live this way–a way that glorifies God.