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How can I grow up when you treat me like a little kid?
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor
your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise),
 that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them
up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I wasn't fast enough to run
track when I was in High School. It's not that I didn't try to run fast,
I always ran hard, it is just that I ran a long time in the same place.
My football coach asked me to be the equipment manager for the track team
my freshman year. And since many of my friends were on the track squad,
I agreed. My job was to make sure the team had all their supplies, run
errands for the players and do things like tape their ankles and rub lineament
into their sore muscles. Basically, I was a gopher. Not exactly a glamour
I didn't enjoy parts of the
job, which explains why I didn't do it more than a year, but I did learn
to appreciate the grace, strength, quickness and agility of the track and
field athletes. I still marvel at pole vaulting. How do they do it? How
do they throw their body higher than a roof top with nothing but a flimsy
Long distance runners have
always fascinated me. How do they do it? What discipline. They spend hours
in solitude, pushing their bodies beyond its limitations to run a little
Primarily, track and field
events gauge individual achievement, that is, except for the relay runners.
Four runners, run a leg of the race, handing off a baton to the next runner,
until the anchor leg completes the race for the team. All of the runners
are fast. In many instances, the difference between winning and losing
is in how well the baton is passed from one runner to the next.
Relay teams practice handing
off the baton daily. Giving the baton is easy. The runner can see the person
in front of them and can place it in their hand, but grabbing the baton
is a different story-it isn't always so easy. The runners of the second
leg watch as their teammates approach and begin running when their teammates
reaches a mark. Because the handoff must occur within a predetermined range,
they can't start too early, and because they want to be at full speed when
they get the baton, they can't start too late. Timing is everything. There
is a zone where the handoff can occur, it can't happen too early or too
late, it must take place "in the handoff zone."
The critical years in the
parent/child relationship occur "in the handoff zone." There is a time
when the children begin to run to pick up speed so they can begin their
turn around the track. The parents are still holding the baton, they are
still the runners in charge, but they are running with a purpose-to hand
off the baton.
Now, I'm the first to admit
that I love my children so much, that I'd be happy for them to stay young
and dependant upon me for the rest of my life. There is a part of me that
doesn't want them to grow up. But, there's another part of me that loves
them so much that I want them to have their turn around the track, and
I want them to finish well!
Our text today, Ephesians
6:1-4 gives instruction for how the parent and child should behave while
they are running "in the handoff zone." To the children, Paul gives two
pieces of advise. First, he tells you to obey your parents. His only justification
for the command is that it is the right thing to do.
Why is it right? It is right
because your parents have your best interest in mind. To stick with our
analogy, they don't want you to step outside of the lane and be disqualified.
They don't tell you what to do to be mean, they tell you what to do to
Remember, this isn't your
parent's first race. They were in the lane before, when their parents handed
off to them. Your parents use their past experience as a point of reference
to guide you.
Another reason it is right
is because God ordained it that way. He set your parents in authority over
you and when you disobey them, you are sinning against God. For some, sneaking
around and being disobedient is an enticing game, but it always results
in pain for you and your family.
The second thing Paul instructs
you to do is "Honor your father and mother." It is a reference to the fifth
commandment. The meaning of the word honor is quite complex. In the Ten
Commandments, it is clear that it has financial ramifications as does our
word "honorarium." In the ancient near east, the only means of support
an aged parent would have is from their children. That's why the command
has a promise. To paraphrase, "your children are more likely to provide
for you if you will provide for your parents."
But it is clear that honor
in this text has other meanings too. William Barclay explains it like this,
"The only way to honour parents is to obey them, to respect them, and never
to cause them pain." (Barclay, p. 210)
If you want to have a smooth
handoff, obey your parents, (we've already talked about that). You also
will need to show them due respect. The only time I remember my father
slapping me was a time I spoke with disrespect to my mother. I do not allow
my children to speak to me or my wife with "the wrong tone of voice." Much
of our problems in society today is that we have parents wanting to be
their children's "friend" instead of their parent. My children can have
other friends, but I'm the only chance they get to have a father. To continue
with Barclay's explanation, children should not bring pain on their parents
if they can avoid it.
Children, your job is to
obey and honor. But Paul doesn't stop here, he gives instruction to the
parents too, specifically to the fathers. In verse 4, he said, "And, fathers,
do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline
and instruction of the Lord."
Paul instructs the fathers
not to do something and then to do something. We are not to provoke our
children to anger-to discourage them or to have such a critical nature
that we crush their spirit. And second, we are to "bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord."
But it isn't always so cut
and dried is it? It is hard to keep from crushing their spirits at times.
How do we know when it is time to ease up and when to tighten our grip?
I mean, when we see our children running from us, we don't always know
if they running under our authority or away from our authority.
If they run from our authority,
we've got to be willing to exercise discipline and control. Even if it
means pulling them out of the race for a time.
If all they are doing is
beginning to run to facilitate a smooth handoff, then it is wrong to break
their stride and hamper their initiative. In this case, they are running
under our authority. That's why Paul said, "do not provoke your children
to anger." We've got to let them grow up, and if we don't, we will hamper
A compassionate man once
noticed an emperor moth struggling to emerge through a small hole in its
cocoon and decided to assist it. He took a pair of scissors and snipped
off the cocoon. The moth emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and
small, shriveled wings. The little moth spent the rest of its life crawling
around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
Later the man learned the struggle required for the moth to get through
the tiny opening was God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the moth
into its wings so that it would be ready for flight. By depriving the moth
of a struggle, he deprived the moth of health. (From FreshIllustrations
The struggle was necessary.
A father must allow his children to run "under his authority." Especially
when he is tempted to carry the child.
I am nostalgic about the
time I ran next to my father. I pray daily that I may run well next to
my sons, and I look forward to the time when I stand on the sidelines and
watch my sons, hand off to theirs. And I pray for our congregation, that
we may each run the race in such a manner that it brings honor to God.