Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
One might read Paul’s words to Christian children in Ephesians 6:1-3, particularly his exhortation to obey their parents, and wonder if the Christian home is a cold and harsh place for kids. Nothing could be further from the truth, for as the mind of Christ fills His church, fathers and mothers grow to become more like Jesus. Jesus raised His disciples with an unmatched tenderness and grace. This grace is to find its way into the Christian home, so Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.”
The believing father is a thermostat, able to change the temperature of the home environment. He has the ability, given him from God, to create a rigid and stress-filled atmosphere or one that is relaxed and joy-filled. Christian fathers are to be a refuge for their children. It is clear, Paul does not envision a home with brutality or a militaristic discipline, but one that looks as if Christ Himself is leading it.
Grace and Refuge
Fathers are not to exasperate their children, setting expectations that no child could live up to, but are to establish a grace tone in the home. They are to repent of sin, confess their shortcomings, and ask for forgiveness. When they are used by God to help their children confront sin, they do so with mercy and the gospel, showing their children of the need for God’s cleansing and Spirit to overcome the temptations which are common to all of us. They do not condescend, but, like Christ, lower themselves to serve.
Christian fathers are to be a refuge for their children, for children are safe with a father who fears the Lord. Fathers who think they are a god, or who run from God, or who think they do not need the grace of God, are a danger to children. However, Christian fathers know the Lord and have a deep respect for Him.
Believing fathers, knowing their negative potential of discouraging their children, instead set out to encourage their charges. They focus on walking with God, knowing that children are blessed to follow someone who walks in their integrity (Proverbs 20:7). To that end, they read their Bibles, apologize for sin, and lead their families into faithful church involvement. They focus on delighting in their children, knowing that even God reproves those He loves, “as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). To that end, they listen to their children, refuse to play favorites, and spend time enjoying their kids. They focus on the realistic discipline of their children, knowing how God has patiently trained and raised them. To that end, they remove anger, excess, and over-protectionism from their correction and training, replacing it with kindness and temperance.
Nurture, Train, Teach, Empower
As fathers focus on the atmosphere of their parenting, they nurture (bring them up), train (discipline), and teach the word of God (instruction of the Lord) to their children. They see a constant opportunity to communicate to their children what God teaches about every area of life. Like ancient Israelites, they take the commission to talk of God when sitting in their home, traveling around town, before bedtime, and in the morning when the family arises seriously (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Children need to learn about sex and money and relationships and stewardship and work and church, so Christian fathers take the responsibility seriously and open their mouths to teach their young ones how to view and operate in the world. They teach their children about God.
The power of fathers is well known, to build up, but also to destroy. The believing father knows his influence is massive, so he works hard to encourage and develop the children God has entrusted to his care. Christ has been there for him, so the believing dad is there for his children.