Parenting

Biblical Parenting – Ephesians 4:1-2

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,
with patience,
showing tolerance for one another in love,
being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-2

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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)!

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. When you were growing up, did you see your parents asking each other for forgiveness?
  2. 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?
  3. Have you ever asked your children for forgiveness before?  If yes, how did they respond?  If no, why not?
  4. What is the most difficult aspect of humbling yourself before your children?
  5. What do you need to ask your children for forgiveness for today?
  6. What do you need to ask your spouse for forgiveness for today?
  7. When was a time that you were impatient with your children?  How could you have responded with patience and self-control?
  8. Would your children characterize your family as one that is unified?  Ask them!
  9. Would your children characterize your home as peaceful?  Ask them!
  10. Have you been making every effort to maintain unity and peace in your home?
  11. Have you taken time to pray and ask God to help you apply this verse to your family and your life?

 

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Parenting

Biblical Parenting – 1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves punishment,
and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

As we examine this passage through the lens of Biblical parenting, we can learn four foundational truths that will transform our relationship with our children, but also our relationship with God:

  1. There is no fear in love.
    Fear and love are mutually exclusive.  This is just as true in our relationship with God as it is with our children.  When love is present, fear cannot be found.  When I am fully aware of God’s love for me, I will have no reason to fear.  Likewise, when our children are fully aware of our love for them, they will have no reason to fear.  If there is fear in our hearts or in the hearts of our children, that should be a warning sign that there is either a lack of love or a lack of awareness of that love.
  2. Perfect love casts out fear.
    The love that is referred to in this passage is the Greek word “agape.”  Agape love is a willful delight, goodwill and benevolence towards someone.  While this verse states that perfect love casts out fear, the only one who truly loves perfectly is God Himself because He is love (1 John 4:8).  How can imperfect people possibly love with a perfect love?  In order to answer this question, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word “teleios.”  Teleios – while translated as “perfect” – does not mean flawless, but rather it means a love that is mature, finished and complete. Only God can love with a flawless love, but we can absolutely love our children in a way that is mature and complete.  The result of that kind of love will be that fear will be cast out.  Just as the presence of light makes darkness disappear, the presence of love makes fear disappear.
  3. Fear involves punishment.
    The word translated in this phrase as “involves” is the Greek word “echo.”  Ironically enough, this word is used 648 times in the Bible, but is only translated as “involves” one time.  It means “to have; to possess; to be closely joined to a person or thing.”  Fear is closely joined to punishment.  Punishment is purposefully causing pain (whether physical or emotional) and produces fear within our hearts.  When you think about going to Hell or being punished by God for your sins, how do you feel?  Fear.  When a child is about to be punished with a spanking, what does he feel?  Fear.  However, we do not need to fear punishment anymore because Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin when He laid down His life for His sheep on the cross.  There is NO MORE PUNISHMENT for us!  This is the beauty of the Gospel.  If there is no more punishment for us, then why do we insist upon punishing our children?  What if we interacted with our children based on the truth that all of their punishment for all of their sins has already been satisfied by the blood of Jesus Christ?
  4. The one who fears is not perfected in love.
    Do you fear?  When was the last time you felt afraid?  Think back on that moment.  How differently would that moment have been if you were fully convinced and aware of God’s deep love, care and affection for you?  We do not need to fear anything anymore!  Sickness, poverty, death, the Devil, Hell – Jesus has overcome it all through His blood on the cross!  His love has been perfected for us and in us.  Again, any fear in my heart should be a red flag that I am not living in the reality of the truth that I am fully forgiven and fully loved by God.  Imagine what it would be like to parent from that reality – that my child is fully forgiven and fully loved by God (and by me).

 

I pray that the power of these truths would be evident in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your children.  Within this verse, we see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross.  Because of His sacrifice on our behalf and in our place, God no longer relates to us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10).  Are there consequences for our sin?  Of course.  But there is no longer any punishment for us.

What would it be like to parent your child without punishing them?
Are you worried that they would never obey and just run around wild?

Notice the heart behind this worry – “if there is no punishment for them to fear, they will never obey.”
Again, we see the connection between fear and punishment.

However, God does not want us to obey Him because we fear punishment.  God wants us to obey Him because He loves us, we know that He loves us and because we love Him.  The fact that God loved us enough to pour our punishment out upon His Son, Jesus, on the cross is what motivates us to obey.  We can trust that His perfect love will perfect us.

God wants our obedience to be motivated by love and not fear of punishment!

As parents, we should desire the same for our children.

 

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. What do you fear?
  2. What aspect of God’s love are you doubting in that fear?
  3. Are you obeying God out of love or fear of punishment?
  4. Do your children obey you out or love or fear of punishment?
  5. How does God relate to you now that Jesus has fulfilled all your punishment?
  6. How does it feel to know that because of Jesus, there is no more punishment for you?
  7. What would it be like to parent without punishment?
  8. What concerns do you have about living out the reality of the Gospel that Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross?
  9. What attitudes do you have that cause fear in your children?
  10. What actions do you take that cause fear in your children?
  11. How can you repent of those attitudes/actions?
  12. What could you do instead of punishing your children?  (If you’re not sure, pray about it and check back here soon!)

 

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Parenting

Part 9: Biblical Commands We Don’t Obey

Many people today claim that spanking children is not only recommended in the Bible, but is an explicit command. Nevermind the fact that the only verses that supposedly advocate for spanking are the four from the book of Proverbs, and Proverbs are not commands… Let’s explore together how Jesus responded to the commands of the Old Testament.

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat.
But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him,
“Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.”
But He said to them,
“Have you not read what David did when he became hungry,
he and his companions, how he entered the house of God,
and they ate the consecrated bread,
which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?
“Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath
the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?
“But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.
“But if you had known what this means,
‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’
you would not have condemned the innocent.
(Matthew 12:1-7)

The religious leaders (Pharisees) attempted to subject Jesus to their interpretation of the Biblical command to “keep the Sabbath holy” by refraining from work. However, Jesus allowed his disciples to break the law of the day because He knew that the heart of God is for COMPASSION – not strictly following a set of rules.

Jesus was perfect and never sinned.  So while he may have disobeyed the religious law, he was operating in perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father.

It is essential that we can learn, as Jesus did, to obey our Heavenly Father by accurately interpreting His Word.  How do you decide which “commands” in Scripture to obey and how to apply them to our modern life?

 

 

Other “Commands” We Don’t Obey

Just like Jesus, there are plenty of “commands” in the Bible that we do not obey.  We understand that we are not expected to obey these commands for many reasons:

  1. WRONG GENRE.  They are figurative – not literal.
  2. WRONG CONTEXT.  They are intended for a certain people in a certain time at a certain location within certain cultures and certain contexts that are very different than ours.
  3. WRONG COVENANT. They are a part of the Old Covenant under the law of Moses – not under the New Covenant law of grace.
  4. WRONG APPLICATION. They are intended for a specific people at a specific time – not for every individual in all situations.

Just for fun, let’s read some passages of Scripture with the same hermeneutic that is applied to the “spanking passages.”

 

 

Mistake #1: WRONG GENRE
Interpreting Literally What Is Meant To Be Figurative

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
Proverbs 23:2

I highly doubt that anyone would attempt to claim that the Bible advocates for a command to commit suicide or to put a literal knife to your throat as an alternative to gluttony.  The same people who want to interpret the spanking verses in Proverbs as literal do not apply that same hermeneutic to this verse that is also in Proverbs.

 

Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none,
and anyone who has food should do the same.
Luke 3:11

I am guilty of this one… I have more than two shirts, and I know there are plenty of people in the world who do not have even one shirt. Is it a sin to have two shirts? No.  We are obviously not supposed to read this verse literally, but we should pay attention to the heart of this verse.  We should care for the poor and not be so obsessed with our own material gain that we neglect the welfare of others around the world who are in need. This verse in particular is a little difficult to wrestle with as an American… Our world would be very different indeed if we obeyed this one verse.

 

Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine,
Or with gluttonous eaters of meat;
For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty,
And drowsiness will clothe one with rags.
Proverbs 23:20-21

We are “commanded” in Proverbs to not hang out with alcoholics or gluttons.  Should we get rid of all our fat friends because they are going to be poor? Just as our spanking verses found in the book of Proverbs, we can easily see that these Proverbs are not meant to be interpreted as commands or promises or guarantees. There are alcoholics who are extremely wealthy, just as there are people who do not drink who are struggling with poverty.

 

 

 

Mistake #2: WRONG CONTEXT
Neglecting to identify the differences in culture and customs

“When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.” Deuteronomy 25:11-12

I do not know of any Christian who would advocate for cutting off a wife’s hand for grabbing her husband’s attacker by the “private parts.”  This law was a part of the Law of Moses as a part of their legal system and not intended for us to obey today.

Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Leviticus 19:19

Adios, polyester!

 

All that have not fins and scales in the seas,
and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters,
and of any living thing which is in the waters,
they shall be an abomination unto you.
Leviticus 9:10

So sorry, shrimp eaters. “The Bible says…”

Mistake #3: WRONG COVENANT
Obeying what is no longer meant to be obeyed

Animal Sacrifices
Leviticus 4

Under the Old Covenant, the Jews were expected to worship God through regular, ritual sacrifices.  However, under the New Covenant, Jesus was our perfect sacrifice by which He has “perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).  There is no longer any need to obey the rules and rituals surrounding the animal sacrifices as atonement for sin since Jesus is our perfect atonement.

 

The 10 Commandments
Exodus 20:1-17

I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but the 10 Commandments are a part of the Old Covenant.  God has promised that as believers, his New Covenant has been written “not on tablets of stone but on tablets of [our] human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3).  We are no longer held accountable for our obedience to the 10 Commandments, but we now relate to God through the blood of Jesus Christ and the communion of His Holy Spirit.

Tithing
Genesis 14:20

The first time that tithing is mentioned in Scripture is in Genesis 14:20 when Abraham tithed 10% of the spoils of war – not to God, but to Melchizedech.  The Jews were commanded under the Mosaic law to tithe their crops, animals, and even spices!  However, under the New Covenant, we are no longer obligated to live under the law of tithing.  We see no mention of tithing to the believers in the New Testament, but they are encouraged to give generously.  See: Acts 2:43–47; 4:32–37; 11:27–30; Galatians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1–4; 2 Corinthians 8:1–9:15)

 

Mistake #4: WRONG APPLICATION
Personalizing what is not meant to be personal

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Proverbs 26:4-5

So… which is it?

 

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones,
and kill every woman who has known man intimately.
But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.
Numbers 31:17-18

This was God’s command to His people. But I cannot say that I have heard a sermon preached on this passage in which the pastor tells the congregation that we should also obey this command.  This command is not personal to us, but specific for the Jews at that particular time.

 

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son
who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother,
and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them,
then his father and his mother shall take hold of him
and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,
and they shall say to the elders of his city,
‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious;
he will not obey our voice;
he is a glutton and a drunkard.’
Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.
So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

This passage is extremely interesting to examine in light of the spanking controversy. This is another passage which seems to support corporal punishment for rebellion, but there are some interesting points to identify:

  1. The son is mentioned as being stubborn and rebellious because he will not obey the voice of his parents. The parents have not administered any kind of physical punishment to him.
  2. The parents disciplined him, but he would not listen. Here we see again the connection between discipline and listening. He was disciplined (taught and instructed) by his parents’ words, but he would not listen to them. Listening is NOT obeying. Listening is listening.
  3. The parents take him to the elders of the city. When their son does not respond to the verbal teaching and correction of his parents, the parents again do not administer physical punishment, but instead take him before the elders of the city. This scene is a legal confrontation. In Jewish culture, a person could not be found guilty without the presence of two witnesses. By taking the son before the elders of the city, the parents were serving as witnesses, but it was the elders who found him guilty or not guilty.
  4. The son was a glutton and a drunk. The son they are referencing in this passage is not a small child. He is most likely a na’ar.
  5. The elders of the city were the ones to administer the physical punishment. The parents did not stone their child, the elders of the city did. There is no passage of Scripture in which parents are responsible to carry out the physical punishment of their children.

There are tons of other “commands” in the Bible that we do not obey – nor do we expect others to obey. If we can use proper Biblical hermeneutic through analyzing the genre,  context, covenant and application, then why would we not examine just as closely the four passages found in Proverbs that supposedly advocate for hitting a small child as a means of teaching and instruction in godliness?

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Parenting, spanking

Part 4: How Should We Read The Book of Proverbs?

How should we read/interpret the Books of Poetry in the Bible?

(Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)

If we are going to accurately interpret and apply the four verses from the book of Proverbs used in defense of the practice of spanking, it is important to understand the purpose and intention of the book of Proverbs as a whole.

  1. Who wrote the book of Proverbs? (mostly) King SolomonThe proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: (Proverbs 1:1)
  2. For whom was the book of Proverbs written? King Solomon’s son as preparation for his time as KingHear, my son, your father’s instruction,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching, (Proverbs 1:8)
  3. Why was the book of Proverbs written?To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
    to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
    to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
    Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
    to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:2-6)

Proverbs are WISDOM LITERATURE and are part of the BOOKS OF POETRY in the Bible. As such, they incorporate symbols, metaphors and other figurative literary devices. As “wisdom,” they are NOT commands from the LORD, but rather recorded wise sayings from King Solomon.

Proverbs are:

  • Principles
  • Wise Sayings
  • Memorable
  • Usually figurative
  • Generally true – not necessarily true

Proverbs are NOT:

  • Commands from the LORD
  • Guarantees
  • Promises
  • Usually literal
  • Applicable or true in every circumstance or situation

Other Proverbs Verses We Don’t Read Literally

For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. (Proverbs 4:17)

Are they LITERALLY eating bread of wickedness? Are they LITERALLY drinking wine of violence? No, of course not.

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them. (Proverbs 14:3)

This Proverbs also includes a reference to a “rod.” It is clear that this “rod” is NOT a literal rod but rather a symbol of pride. Or do you think a fool has a LITERAL rod of pride in his mouth?

From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. (Proverbs 18:20)

If we take this Proverbs literally, there is no reason for us to eat since we should be satisfied by our words. Do our mouths literally produce fruit? Obviously not. These Proverbs were not intended to be read literally.

A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense. (Proverbs 12:11)

Do you know any hard workers who do not have plenty of food? As someone who has worked in third world countries for most of my life, some of the hardest working people I know are often those who struggle daily with hunger and providing basic food necessities for their families. This proverb is not a promise.

Put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. (Proverbs 23:2)

If we are going to assume that the verses that supposedly promote spanking are commands from God, than we should also interpret this as a command from God, but I don’t see anyone in church putting a literal knife to their throat for eating too much. Clearly this is verse NOT a command nor is it meant to be read literally.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)

So… which is it?

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

  1. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read literally?
  2. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as commands?
  3. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as promises?
  4. What are some other verses in the book of Proverbs that we should not read as guarantees?
  5. If we know the book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon for his son (who would be the future king), how might this knowledge shape our understanding of the four “spanking verses”?
  6. If we know the book of Proverbs is almost always meant to be read figuratively and not literally, how might this knowledge impact our understanding of the four “spanking verses”?

Since we know we are to read the book of Proverbs as a figurative book and we are to read the word “rod” as a figurative rod, let’s dive deeper into the four verses that people use to support spanking in order to understand their true meaning and application.

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