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Jan 21, 2018

Raising Parents

Passage: Colossians 3:20-21

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Keywords: children, listening, parenting, blessings of obedience, encouragement parents, discouraging parents

Summary:

Raising parents can be hard work! Yet that is what God calls children and young people to do even as He calls parents to raise children in a godly way. This message looks at how both sides of the parenting coin can come under the blessing of Christ in their roles as children and parents. It examines what we should and shouldn't do in order to fulfill God's call in these two most important roles in life.

Detail:

Raising Parents

Colossians 3:20-21

January 21, 2018

INTRO:  The Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, who was King of England for less than 1 year in 1936 and then abdicated the throne to marry an American divorcee, once remarked, “The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.”  [Cited by Warren Wiersbe, Listening to the Giants, Baker, p. 253]

            If you’re ever around me when kids and their parents are together, you may have heard me ask the kids, “How’s it going raising your parents?” Really, raising parents is probably THE most demanding responsibility a kid has during their entire childhood.  Before you discount it, just think about how tough it is:

  • With the least amount of experience you’ll ever have in life you have to be smarter than your parents…not just from time to time about a few things. No, in every category of life…ALL the time!  Whether brushing your teeth or spending money or learning to drive, you have to at least project that you know exactly what you are doing…ALL THE TIME. Talk about exhausting! 
  • As kids, you far outstrip your parents in energy and yet… you have to take naps and go to bed long before they do…for at least the first decade of your life. I mean, that’s 100% of your LIFE by then! Life is SO messed up today!
  • During the most taxing toddler years, it’s really tough to teach adults to be… bi-lingual. Especially if they’re Americans.  Be patient.  Eventually most of them will learn baby talk.
  • Teenagers, the adolescent years will really test your patience! You’ll be tempted to give up…but don’t!  If you can make it to 21 or 22 and manage to save up enough retirement to move out on your own, you will be utterly amazed how smart dear old mummy and daddy actually become once you leave home!

Just remember, these stressful years of childhood will be gone before you know it, in the blink of an eye.  So, enjoy what little you’ve got left of them. Pretty soon you’ll be able to relax, have your own kids and finally hand off this terribly taxing job of raising parents to the next generation of geniuses!

            Thankfully, God has given both kids and parents some basic instructions about raising parents and being kids.  We are in once such passage today.  I recognize that most of us are not currently parents of at-home children or children still living at home.  But that does not mean today’s passage isn’t for us.  It is for a couple of reasons:

1.) If we are seeking to be obedient to Christ’s call on our lives to “Go and make disciples,” then we will constantly be in a role of spiritual parenting of someone.  While we may have done it just once or a hundred times, each new follower of Christ is unique and this passage still has things to say to us.

2.)  All of us have parent-child baggage to deal with.  None of us has either parented perfectly or “raised parents” perfectly.  We all have done things in family dynamics that, if we’re open to the Holy Spirit to convict us of wrong, can still be used to draw us closer to Christ and help us grow to be more like Him.

3.) Our Heavenly Father is still parenting us all.  So we are all still children in need of learning to walk in obedience to our Father as this passage calls children to do the same towards earthly parents in obedience to Christ.

Now, on the surface, these biblical instructions about raising parents and children seem pretty simple.  They’re not long at all.  In fact, they are just consistently ONE positive thing for kids to DO and ONE negative thing for parents to AVOID.  Paul starts with the kids, so that’s where we’ll begin today.

Colossians 3:20—Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

The parallel passage in Ephesians 6:1-3 is a little longer but says basically the same thing.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 

Q:  So, what is the 1 positive command required of children? 

“Obey your parents in everything….”

“Obey your parents in the Lord….”

The first part of the command is absolutely identical:  “Obey your parents….”  The term here is a compound word in the Greek that comes from two different words--“listen” and “under.”  It doesn’t have the aspect of voluntary choice that the word “submission” has which Paul used in speaking to wives relating to their husbands.  It’s a more absolute command.  The idea is to “listen to your parents…really listen to what they say AND DO IT!” 

POINT #1:  God’s blessing on your life as children begins with listening.  Children must develop the practice of listening to their parents IF they are to hope to experience the blessing of obedience. 

            This is why parents sometimes have to go through a period with their young children when they give them an instruction and then, before the child does anything, they require that they tell them exactly what it was that the parent instructed them to do.  This is more difficult than you might imagine. 

ILL:  One of our boys (who shall remain unnamed…you’ve got a 20% chance of being right with a random guess), could be given one simple instruction like, “Please put your mug in the dishwasher when you are finished,” and before 30 seconds had elapsed, he would set his mug down on the counter and walk out of the room.  I would stop him in mid-stride and ask, “Son, what did I just say?”  And he would literally…and very honestly… stop, look at me with a blank stare…and not have a clue! 

So after a while, I began to catch on to this little drill:

  • Dad gives a command.
  • Son pretends to listen to said command.
  • Dad thinks son has heard his command and goes on to the next adult task on his unending “To Do List.”
  • Son totally blows off dad’s command…or so it seemed.
  • Dad gets mad.

But after far too many of those reruns, my extremely high I.Q. finally kicked in and I said to myself, “Self, this isn’t working.  How about asking him to repeat the command verbally and immediately?” 

Lo and behold, I found that the drill changed:

  • Dad gave a command.
  • Son pretended to listen to said command.
  • Dad asked son to repeat the command.
  • Son asked Dad to repeat the command…again! J
  • Dad repeated the command.
  • Son restated the repeated the command.
  • Dad hung around long enough to observe obedience.
  • Son actually obeyed.
  • Nobody got mad!

It was truly a problem of not listening.  Obedience begins with listening.  Disobedience begins with not listening. 

            If you have trouble getting kids to respond verbally, may I suggest that you use a modified version of the “talking stick” exercise?  Sometimes adding a tactile element works better for some people (parents and/or kids).  It will also slow down the back and forth arguing…and teach everyone to listen better and speak less. 

            But the second part of this compound word must also be attached to the listening part:  “UNDER.”  To “listen under” is to listen with a heart to obey.  (We’ll get to the reasons why kids should do that in a moment.) 

            Really, life couldn’t be simpler for the first decade or two of life.  Kids have just ONE job—obeying parents.  We all look at Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden and think, “Wow, couldn’t they just have kept that ONE SIMPLE COMMAND?” 

            Kids, I know it feels many times like your parents are giving you 100 different commands in a day.  But really, you only have 1 command from your Heavenly Father:  obey your parents.  You’ll be amazed how much happier your parents will be!  They may become so happy that you may be tempted to think they are doing drugs or something!  Don’t ask them; just enjoy it!  J  There is this weird dynamic that happens when children obey parents:  parents discover happiness.  It’s weird, but trust me on this one. 

You can even experiment with this if you want.  Take 3 days and decide you are going to do absolutely everything your parents ask you to do, when they ask you to, how they ask you to and with a positive attitude.  Just 3 days! (More than that might be addictive, so be sure to stop after 3 days.)

Then, do an honest psychoanalysis of your parents:

  • Were there fewer arguments with them?
  • Did they appear to be happier than normal?
  • Did you feel less stress?

Raising parents really can be enjoyable…but you’ve got to be smart about it! 

OBEY your parents “in everything” (Col. 3), “in the Lord” (Eph. 6).  Here is the only qualifier you will find to this command.

Paul says that such obedience is “pleasing in [lit.] the Lord.” This means that if you believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, even if it’s hard to obey your parents, you can do it for the Lord and know that He is pleased with you.

Even if your parents don’t ever seem pleased with you, the Lord is pleased if you obey them in obedience to Him. This means obeying with the same attitude you would want to have if it was Jesus himself asking you to do something—cheerfully, not grudgingly. This is why obedience to parents is almost always an indicator of a child’s relationship with Christ.  It’s impossible to have a child or teenager who is living surrendered to Christ and is constantly fighting their parents. 

But to walk with Jesus as a kid or teenager means doing as they ask.  That heart of obeying them as if they were Jesus probably isn’t going to stop there.  It will eventually lead you to be looking for opportunities to serve your parents.  Maybe that is by being helpful around the house—noticing things that need to be picked up or cleaned or taken care of and just doing it because you love serving Christ. It will probably mean telling your parents that you’re thankful for them and specific things they do for you. Yes, this is radically countercultural! It’s going against your peers, friends and entire me-centered, personal-rights culture.  But it is pleasing in the Lord…and to your parents …and ultimately it will actually make life a lot happier and more enjoyable for you.

ILL:  Story of asking my children around the dinner table why they as P.K.s didn’t feel the need to rebel against us as parents.  I think it was Andrew who said, “We spend all day at school rebelling and fighting against the culture of our peers.  Why would we want to come home and do the same thing?” 

Kids, you want to rebel? Go ahead!  Rebel against what God calls you to rebel against.  You will have more than enough of “rebellion” just standing up to and against your culture, your peers and this world.  Home is meant to be a place of peace, refuge, safety, love and warmth, a refuge from the counter-cultural rebellion you will have to do all day long if you love God. 

One more observation about this qualifier “in everything” “in the Lord.”  As in marriage where a wife is called to follow her husband “as the church submits to Christ,” God is not asking you to do or engage in anything He clearly calls sin. 

ILL:  News feed article this week about a dad who hired strippers for his 12 year old’s birthday.  That’s immoral and damaging.  That kid had every right to walk out of that party and go somewhere safe. 

            Sadly, too much abuse takes place in “Christian” homes too.  Statistics vary and may not be completely accurate, but I’ve read that as many as one-fourth of girls and one-fifth of boys are sexually abused before age 16, often by a family member. When the abuser is a parent or relative (most often it’s a male), the child usually submits and keeps silent out of fear. 

This is not, sadly, a new problem.  Over 30 years ago Christianity Today (2/15/85, pp. 32-34) ran an article that quoted a woman who had been sexually abused by her father an average of two times a week from the time she was three until she was 13. Her mother found out and the family disintegrated. Her dad was a Boy Scout leader and a choir member, active in a church.

This woman went on to a small Christian liberal arts college where she asked all 247 female students to respond to a survey. Of the 96 who responded, more than half said they had been abused as children. Even if none of the ones who did not respond were abused, that’s about 20 percent! Almost all of these students had been reared in Christian homes.

Of her own experience, this woman says, “I did not like what he was doing. I felt it was wrong, but I feared him. I was taught to honor, trust, and obey my parents….” Her father told her to trust him and assured her that what he was doing was okay.

Let me say emphatically: Submitting to sexual abuse is never okay! If you’re a child and an adult is doing things to you that you know are wrong, then God does not want you to keep silent and obey the adult. Tell an adult you trust, such as one of the pastors or youth leaders, and we will get you the help you need. If a parent is doing something to you that displeases God, then you need to do what God wants, not what your parent wants. It’s not okay. It needs to stop immediately and you need to get help for yourself. Obeying your parents “in all things” does not include submitting to immoral, abusive behavior.

And in today’s world, parents, kids need to know at an early age that you are there to protect them against anyone who would abuse healthy boundaries, no matter WHO the person is and no matter WHAT they are telling them. And if we are aware of this kind of abuse anywhere, as servants of Christ, we must take action. 

So now let’s go to the second verse. 

Colossians 3:21—Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Both these verses start with a prohibition, a negative:  DON’T do this—Don’t embitter…don’t exasperate your children. 

            Before I get into the text and specifics here, let me acknowledge a very sad reality when it comes to the actual landscape of “Christian” homes in America.  At the Fatherhood Conference yesterday at Valley Real Life, one of the statistics shared was that 80% of children raised in the American church today will not stay “churched” after they leave home.  They will stop attending church.  They will stop believing what their parents believe, etc. 

            It is probably beyond the scope of this morning to dive into the various reasons for that.  There is certainly plenty about “church”…and probably even us here as a church …that Millennials find irrelevant, odd, weird, meaningless, not meaningful to them, etc. Much of what we do as American churches is truly more cultural than biblically spiritual. 

EX:  Just HOW we structure a worship service is growing increasingly less attractive to many Millennials…and I hope that will change as we draw in younger leadership in the next few years here at Mosaic.  It has to if we are truly following Christ.

            But the other side of that coin, I think, has to do with our youth not growing up with a sufficiently personal, sufficiently transformational, sufficiently soul/heart changing experience and relationship with Christ so that, while they may reject American “church”, they do not want to live without some genuine gathering of like-hearted Christ-followers week after week after week. 

It is the danger of 2nd and 3rd and 4th generational Christianity that every generation has faced.  It is something that every one of us who have children and grandchildren must make a serious matter of prayer and constant self-examination under God.  It is one of the reasons we MUST be having fresh experiences with Christ that really transform us as adult parents.  Unless our families see at close range that Christ is real to us, really changing us no matter what our age, they will not be drawn to Him.  All they will see is religious tradition…and probably hypocrisy. 

STOP:  I’m tempted to stop right here and open it up for discussion and sharing of your thoughts about this, especially from those of you who are Millennials.

            So let’s go back to the text. “Embitter” here in Colossians 3 means to provoke (ESV, NKJV) or stir up, often to anger to a fight. It means to make someone resentful or to be quarrelsome.  The only other time it’s used in the New Testament, Paul uses it positively to tell the Corinthians how their zeal to give had stirred up other Christians to follow their example (2 Cor. 9:2). So it has the idea of motivating/moving someone to action, either positively to good deeds (like giving) or negatively to anger or discouragement.

            Of course, this is directed to both mothers and fathers though Paul specifically says, “fathers.”  Dads, as leaders in our homes, we have a special responsibility to monitor and regulate the “discouragement quotient” in our homes. 

I think that, in general, dads may tend to be harsher or more demanding and possibly more discouraging towards children.  But that’s a generalization.  Both parents need to work hard at muting tendencies we have to discourage our children and to work harder at amplify the possibilities for encouragement. 

EXERCISE:

Q:  Make 2 lists on your notes page:  On one side put the word “Discouraging to Children.”  On the other side put, “Encouraging to Children.”  Now work together and come up with at least 5 parental behaviors under each column. 

NEXT:  After each of those behaviors write out one thing that that kind of parental behavior does to children, either negatively (discouraging) or positively (encouraging).  Ask, “What does that kind of parenting style lead to?” 

[Share ideas.]

Discouraging:

  1. Harshness/gruffness: How many of us grew up under that parenting style?  What does that do to you? 
  2. Perfectionistic expectations: How many of us grew up under that parenting style?  What does that do to you? 
  3. Emotional/physical distance: little time, little touch. How many of us grew up under that parenting style?  What does that do to you? 
  4. Extremes in discipline: Over-lenient/over-strict.  Parents must balance each other in this.  But if you must err, err on the side of strictness.  That doesn’t mean anger or grouchiness or rigidity or harshness.  Exercising discipline at the earliest ages can be done with love, gentleness, firmness and respect. 

ILL:  Dr. Stanley Coopersmith, a professor at Univ. of Calif., surveyed some 1,738 normal middle-class boys and their families, beginning in the preadolescent period and following them through to young manhood.  After determining the boys with the best self-esteem, he then compared their homes and childhood influences with those of the boys having a lower sense of self-esteem.  He found 3 important characteristics which distinguished them:

a.)  The high-esteem children were clearly more loved and appreciated at home than were the low-esteem boys.  The parental love was deep and genuine, not just an empty display of words.  The boys knew they were the object of pride and interest, increasing their own sense of self-worth. 

b.) The high-esteem group came from homes where parents had been significantly more strict in their approach to discipline.  By contrast, the parents of the low-esteem group had created insecurity and dependence by their permissiveness.  Furthermore, the most successful and independent young men during the latter period of the study were found to have come from homes that demanded strict[er] accountability and responsibility.  And as could have been predicted, the family ties remained strongest, not in the wishy-washy homes—but in the homes where discipline and self-control had been a way of life.

c.) The homes of the high-esteem group were also characterized by democracy and openness.  Once the boundaries for behavior were established, there was freedom for individual personalities to grow and develop.  The boys could express themselves without fear of ridicule, and the overall atmosphere was marked by acceptance and emotional safety.  [James Dobson, Hide or Seek (Old Tappan, JF: Revell, 1974), p. 82, 83.]

  1. Lack of follow-through: either not keeping promises or not following through on threats.  How many of us grew up under that parenting style?  What does that do to you? 
  2. Comparison parenting: How many of us grew up under that parenting style?  What does that do to you? 

Encouraging:

  1. Love: emotional connectedness, warmth, boundaries, sacrificial giving,
  2. Time—individual and shared
  3. Cheerleading successes
  4. Praise (deserved)
  5. Joy/laughter/happiness
  6. Boundaries
  7. Reward good behavior
  8. Fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control!
  9. Prayerful
  10. Humble/honest enough to admit faults and failures.

There is a lot at stake in parenting.  It may not seem like it day after day, year after year.  But nothing other than Jesus and the Holy Spirit is more influential on another person’s life than parenting.  All of us are proof of that truth.  Sadly, so was this man.

STORY:  He began his life with all the classic handicaps and disadvantages.  His mother was a powerfully built, dominating woman who found it difficult to love anyone.  She had been married three times, and her second husband divorced her because she beat him up regularly.  The father of the child I’m describing was her third husband,; he died of a heart attack a few months before the child’s birth.  As a consequence the mother had to work long hours from his earliest childhood.

            She gave him no affection, no love, no discipline, and no training during those early years.  She even forbade him to call her at work.  Other children had little to do with him, so he was alone most of the time.  He was absolutely rejected from his earliest childhood.  When he was thirteen years old a school psychologist commented that he probably didn’t even know the meaning of the word love.  During adolescence, the girls would have nothing to do with him and he fought with the boys. 

            Despite a high IQ, he failed academically, and finally dropped out during his third year of high school.  He thought he might find acceptance in the Marine Corps; they reportedly built men, and he wanted to be one.  But his problems went with him.  The other Marines laughed at him and ridiculed him.  He fought back, resisted authority, and was court-martialed and thrown out of the Marines with an undesirable discharge.  So there he was—a young man in his early twenties, absolutely friendless.  He was small and scrawny in stature.   He had an adolescent squawk in his voice.  He was balding.  He had no talent, no skill, no sense of worthiness.

            Once again he thought he could run from his problems, so he went to live in a foreign country.  But he was rejected there also.  While there he married a girl who had been an illegitimate child and brought her back to America with him. Soon she began to develop the same contempt for him that everyone else displayed.  She bore him two children, but he never enjoyed the status and respect a father should have.  His marriage continued to crumble.  His wife demanded more and more things that he could not provide.  Instead of being his ally against the bitter world, as he hoped, she became his most vicious opponent.  She could outfight him, and she learned to bully him. On one occasion she locked him in the bathroom as punishment.  Finally she forced him to leave.

            He tried to make it on his own, but he was terribly lonely.  After days of solitude, he went home and literally begged her to take him back.  He surrendered all pride.  Despite his meager salary, he brought her $78.00 as a gift, asking her to take it and spend it any way she wished.  But she belittled his feeble attempts to supply the family’s needs.  She ridiculed his failure.  At one point he fell on his knees and wept bitterly as the darkness of his private nightmare enveloped him.

            Finally, in silence he pleaded no more.  No one wanted him.  No one had ever wanted him. 

            The next day he was a strangely different man.  He arose, went to the garage, and took down a rifle he had hidden there.  He carried it with him to his newly acquired job at a book storage building.  And from a window on the third floor of that building, shortly after noon, November 22, 1963, he sent two shells crashing into the head of President John F. Kennedy. 

            Lee Harvey Oswald, the rejected, unlovable failure, killed the man who, more than any other man on earth, embodied all the success, beauty, wealth, and family affection which he lacked.  In firing that rifle, he utilized the one skill he had learned in his entire, miserable lifetime.  [James Dobson, Hide or Seek, pp. 9, 11.]

CLOSE:  Where are you needing re-parenting by your Heavenly Father?  Do you need to embrace God your Father through faith in Jesus Christ, your Savior?  Adults, what needs to change about your parenting/mentoring of younger people?  What has God spoken to you today about what you do that is either encouraging or discouraging to the next generation?  Children/teens/young adults:  Where do you need to abandon disobedience to parents/God in order to put yourself under the blessing of Christ?  Will you do it?