Two Dimensions of Obedience

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

One of the first character qualities that needs to be taught is obedience. Children need to be taught the meaning of the word, “No.” They need to be taught from an early age how to respond to the voice of their parents.

There are two characteristics necessary for obedience to take place. First, there is a time dimension – it must be immediate. If you have to keep telling your children over and over again to do something, then you’re really training them for disobedience.

Second, there is an attitude dimension – it must be honoring. If the child follows the instruction but he does it with a rotten attitude, then it’s not obedience. If he gripes, complains or rolls his eyes, it’s really disobedience.

Disobedience, however, is not a licence for the parent to lash out in anger. Anger is never appropriate and will never accomplish God’s righteous purposes (James 1:20). The parent who disciplines in anger is out of control and is sowing the seeds of bitterness and rebellion in the heart of that child. Scripture gives the stark warning that “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2).

The phrase “in the Lord” means that a child should always obey his parents unless they ask him to do something which violates God’s Word. As Christians, we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).

Paul says, “…for this is right” – this is righteous! This is Christ-like! This is exactly what Jesus would do. We know that from Luke 2:51 where it says that Jesus went down with His parents “to Nazareth, and was subject unto them…”

Paul says, “ Honor your father and mother…that it may be well with you…” Do you know anyone and things don’t seem to be going well for them? Many times it can be traced back to a violation of this Biblical principle of authority. This is true not just for young people but for adults as well. If someone comes to me for counsel and tells me things aren’t going well for them, the first question I ask is “What is your relationship like with your parents – what is your attitude toward authority?”

Children learn just as much by example as they do by instruction. Ultimately, how we respond to the Lord and to the authorities that He has placed over us will be mirrored by our children. When they are disrespectful or slow to obey, or grumble about what they have to do – are they mimicking our own response and attitude toward authority? First, we need to correct our own heart attitudes and then we will be in a position to correct those same attitudes in our children.

Morris Hull
Home Life Ministries