by Ken Weliever
In a 2014 sermon, Steve Malone asked “What do the following have in common?”
- 90% of homeless and runaway children
- 63% of youth who commit suicide
- 80% of all rapists
- 85% of children with behavioral problems
- 71% of all high school dropouts
- 75% of all teens in chemical abuse centers
- 85% of all youth in prison
- 70% of all girls who become pregnant as teens
Steve says “they all come from homes without a dad.”
While I haven’t tried to verify the source or the veracity of these statistics, anecdotal, circumstantial, and testimonial evidence suggest a close correlation.
Regardless, common sense, empirical evidence, and inspired Scripture affirm the father’s crucial role in the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development of his children. From the pen of the apostle Paul is this exhortation.
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1-4, ESV).
The text begins with four reasons why children ought to honor and obey their parents.
- Obedience begins with our relationship “in the Lord.” This expression, “in the Lord,” is used by Paul 45 times in his epistles. It speaks to kinship, relationship, responsibility, and accountability. It begins early in a child’s teaching and continues into adolescence and adulthood. Families built and based on what God says generally minimize their problems and maximize their success.
- Obedience is right. Since the home is ordered, ordained, and arranged by God, He had the right to direct it. Disobedience is contrary to God’s divine and the natural order of things.
- Obedience is commanded. Paul cites the 5th commandment from the Old Law and applies it to Christians. By implication, obedience is a means of showing honor, respect, and deference to ones’ parents, who’ve been divinely placed in a position of authority and leadership in the home.
- Obedience produces blessings. God rewards and enriches obedience. Disobedience damages and disgraces those to disregard God’s command.
While these duties are the responsibility of the child, there’s a flip side to this coin. The role of the parent. And especially, the father, who’s mandated to be the head of his home.
Children will never learn the value and importance of obedience unless they are expected and instructed to obey. The father’s responsibility to his children is described with two important words.
- Discipline. Also rendered “nurture” or “training” in other translations, it refers to “the whole training and education of children.” It is teaching that “aims to increase virtue.” And it is based “in the Lord.” As He directs and desires.
- Instruction. Also translated as “admonition,” this speaks to both instruction and warning.
Together these words remind fathers there is a positive and negative aspect of parenting. Discipline is both instructive and corrective. It is aimed at the best interest of the child. Dr. Paul Faulkner put it this way: “Without discipline love is incomplete: without love discipline is irrelevant.”
Thus, fathers are cautioned that discipline must not be harsh and unloving, either exasperating or angering their children. Josh McDowell was right when he wrote, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
In his classic book, Dare to Discipline, James Dobson, observed: “Children thrive best in an atmosphere of genuine love, undergirded by reasonable, consistent discipline.”
While mothers and fathers work together in raising their children, it’s clear that God expects the father to be a leader in parenting. An absentee dad is not a Christ-like dad.
This calls for fathers to pray for wisdom, seek Biblical counsel, and understand the needs of their children. Many a child has suffered from a “broken spirit” by an overbearing, demanding, and austere father who “cracks the whip,” and walks around like a drill sergeant demanding compliance.
Fathers need to realize that times, customs, and culture has changed since they were kids. Not everything new is bad. Never say “no,” when you can say “yes.” And don’t underestimate the power of praise and the need your children have for encouragement.
Finally, as the prolific author anonymous advised “Be the parent today that you want your kids to remember tomorrow.”