Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord,
implore you to walk in a manner
worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness,
showing tolerance for one another in love,
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.
Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Ephesus around 60 AD, but the truths that it contains are invaluable treasures for us as Christians today. Let’s examine these verses from Ephesians chapter 4 through the lens of its implications for us as parents.
The word translated as “implore” in this passage is the Greek word “parakaleo.” It means “to beg, to encourage, to teach or instruct.” Paul is literally begging believers to live in a way that will honor God. While it is important that we live honorably before the world, it is often our biggest struggle to truly live in a way that honors God with those in our own homes.
We have been called by God to follow in the example of Jesus. He gave His life for us so that we could live for Him. How did Jesus live? How can we reflect the attitudes and actions of Jesus before our children? Paul gives four specific ways that we can live in a way that is worthy of the calling we have received:
- With all humility and gentleness
How can we show humility in our parenting? One of the easiest (and ironically, most difficult) ways to show humility is through asking our children for forgiveness. When we can take responsibility for our own sinfulness, we are modeling for our children that asking and granting forgiveness is a normal part of our human existence. Everyone sins. Everyone makes mistakes. I can humble myself and ask my child to forgive me when I am angry, impatient, rude, yelling, etc.The word “humility” in this passage is the Greek word “tapeinophrosune.” It literally means “a deep sense of one’s (moral) littleness.” While we may be physically bigger than our children, it is definitely a sanctifying experience for us to consider ourselves as lowly and be acutely aware of our own “littleness” before our little ones. While this concept may be the exact opposite of what we have seen and experienced, we can look to the example of Jesus who humbled himself by coming as a man and dying for sinful men (Philippians 2:8).Notice that our humility is also connected to our gentleness. These two traits work together. We cannot be gentle without being humble, nor can we be humble without being gentle. How different would our relationship be with our children if we consistently modeled for them these two traits: humility and gentleness.
- With patience
The word “patience” is the Greek word “makrothumia.” It means “endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, long-suffering, and slowness in avenging wrongs.” What would it look like to consistently model for my children this kind of patience?Forbearance is not a word we typically use in our daily life. It means “abstaining from the enforcement of a right.” In essence, forbearance is self-control. Whey my son is rolling around in the mud, what would it look like to abstain from enforcing my “right” to yell? When my daughter is taking foreverrrrrrrrrr to put on her shoes, what would it look like to demonstrate “long-suffering” patience? When my children are arguing for the thousandth time today, what would it look like to demonstrate self-control?
- Showing tolerance for one another in love
Our postmodern society is obsessed with the concept of tolerance, and most Christians vehemently fight against the idea that we are to tolerate things, ideas and people that we deem to be sinful. It is important that we can understand what this verse means when it says we are to “show tolerance.”
This phrase is actually summed up in one Greek word, “anechomai,” which means “to hold one’s self erect and firm; to bear; to endure.” This word is even used to describe Christians who had to endure persecution. Let’s be honest, at times, parenting can feel like enduring persecution!We are not called to tolerate sin or sinfulness, but we are called to endure difficulty with humility, gentleness and patience. We are called to bear the burdens of another in love.
- Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
Be diligent. This word in Greek is “spoudazo” and means “to make haste; to exert one’s self; eager; to make every effort.” Parents, we are commanded by God to eagerly make every effort to preserve unity and peace in homes.
This does not mean that our families will always be unified and peaceful. In reality, the presence of this command is proof that we should expect times where there is a lack of unity and peace. If we always had unity and peace, we would not need a command to make every effort to preserve unity and peace.
This is going to take work. This is going to take effort. It is not easy to fight our sinful nature to respond to our children with humility, gentleness, tolerance, and diligence. In fact, it is utterly impossible to obey this verse apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Praise God that He promised to finished the good work that He started in us (Philippians 1:6)!
- When you were growing up, did you see your parents asking each other for forgiveness?
- When you were growing up, did your parents ever ask you for forgiveness? If yes, how did you respond? If no, what would that have been like for you if they had been humble enough to ask for your forgiveness?
- Have you ever asked your children for forgiveness before? If yes, how did they respond? If no, why not?
- What is the most difficult aspect of humbling yourself before your children?
- What do you need to ask your children for forgiveness for today?
- What do you need to ask your spouse for forgiveness for today?
- When was a time that you were impatient with your children? How could you have responded with patience and self-control?
- Would your children characterize your family as one that is unified? Ask them!
- Would your children characterize your home as peaceful? Ask them!
- Have you been making every effort to maintain unity and peace in your home?
- Have you taken time to pray and ask God to help you apply this verse to your family and your life?