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Doing God a Favor

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph. 6:4, RSV.

The following fact is both good news and bad news! Almost everything our children will come to believe about God will be powerfully shaped by what they see in their parents. And most of a child’s feelings about God will be formed when parents are fulfilling what some regard as our most Godlike responsibility: teaching them to obey.

Unfortunately, we as parents don’t get any children to practice on. We have to make all our parenting mistakes, all our test runs and learning labs, on real children—even as our parents learned so much by watching what happened to us when they made some blunders.

Quite likely the apostle Paul had this in mind when he cautioned fathers about making their children angry. But let’s face it—it’s almost a given that when fatherly authority comes head-to-head against the high energy and freewheeling curiosity of youth, someone’s going to get angry. Dad has to say no long before the children can understand why—which doesn’t prevent a three-foot-tall challenge to adult dignity from insisting “Why?” At this point, anger is often just a blink away.

We face no more delicate task than that of helping human beings, who sense that they are free moral agents, learn to live within the boundaries of reality. When parents believe that they can accomplish this by their power, by their ability to “make them obey” through the threat of pain or physical force, they not only make their children angry, but also give God a black eye.

Though we use big Latin words such as “omnipotent” and draw images from notions of royalty such as “King of kings” to celebrate God’s great dignity, our God simply does not stoop to the use of power and force to win the free, thoughtful loyalty of His friends—His created beings! Rather, He helps us understand the built-in benefits of choosing to live by His principles. And who can be angry about that?

Are you giving God a black eye by the way you treat your children and others?

Used by permission of Health Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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