Obey Your Parents Except for Abuse

I know I said I would take a break from blogging, but the verse of Ephesians 6:1-3 came to mind. 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 

I think it is a beautiful thing when children are obedient with their parents. I grew up in church and was taught this at many occasions. Parents have the toughest job in the world, having unruly kids only makes that job harder. And so, it’s a great thing to teach. It fits most situations, and indeed all situations when you look close enough.

Paul also quotes the 4th commandment which is to honor your father and mother. In this we must always show them honor. Even if things seem unfair, God is asking us to be honorable towards them and to treat them well.

What about abuse?

Here’s where we look deeper into the verse. 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 

“In the Lord” is a very important phrase to keep in mind. It’s the same thing when Jesus says, “If you ask anything in my name. I will do it.” (John 14:14)

Does Jesus mean that we can literally ask Jesus for anything and he will give it to us? Well, it has to be in His name. What does that mean? Let’s go back to the 10 commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Growing up I was taught that the third commandment meant not to cuss. Well, pardon my French, but what does God’s name have to do with cuss words that don’t have His name in them? Not to say that saying the “D” word or the “F” word is a good thing, but I think Bible verses that speak against wrath speak against all forms of cussing. So, is the third commandment only against cussing like the GD cuss word? Does this commandment mean more?

If you do something and say it is of the Lord, but it is not of the Lord, you have taken His name in vain. And the Lord will not hold you guiltless. 

So, now the verse in John 14:14 takes on a very new type of meaning. 

If you ask anything in my name. I will do it.

If you ask anything of the Lord and it is not of His will or of His name, then you are using the Lord’s name in vain, or using it to increase your own vanity. The prosperity gospel is neck-deep in this sort of recklessness. 

Use the model Jesus set up when asking the Lord of something. He was on the Mount of Olives praying before the crucifixion.

41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

So, this same thing applies to parents in Ephesians 6. Children are requested to obey their parents in the Lord. If a parent is being abusive, whether physical, mental, emotional, or verbal, and that parent professes to be in the Lord while doing this abuse. They are breaking the third commandment and taking the Lord’s name in vain.

God protects the abused. He does not condone it. This is also expressed in the next verse where Paul addresses the parents.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In a perfect world, parents never abuse, or provoke their children to anger. And I love how Paul states it because, “provoke your children to anger” covers abuse or even a parent with an overbearing personality. In the end, that parent must guide their child “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” 

If a parent tells a child to do something that is not in the Lord that parent has broken the third commandment. God does not take these things lightly. What should a parent do if the Holy Spirit deals with them in this?

I can recall a few times in my life, when my parents would confess and even apologies to me or my brothers. When they get something wrong and it causes anger inside of me, the Christian thing to do is to admit the wrong and ask forgiveness. Not very easy for parents to do, but think of the message you are sending to your children? Instead of pretending you are right when you know that you are wrong, you’re humbling yourself, showing the kids that you are not infallible. 

Doing otherwise teaches them to hide their wrongdoing and continue in it.

So, how should a child act when they are provoked to anger? They must approach the situation with honor to the parent. If abuse is involved, well then, God will eventually hold that parent accountable in this life or the next. He does not take abuse lightly.

When the parent has wronged the child, not through abuse, the child should approach that parent in an honorable way. This means different things depending on the child’s age. When the child is very young, honoring the parent usually means just doing what they say no matter what. As the child grows into adulthood the relationship changes.

When They are Old

I went to college to earn a degree in Music Composition and Theory. My parents did not agree with my major. They wanted something more practical. What was the end result? They trusted me enough to write my own path in life.

Though the degree I earned did not give me a steady job at the beginning, I don’t regret making that choice. It took years to bear its fruit, but I am currently in a creative field that deals with some music (and many other things). My degree in composition has helped me understand the form behind any sort of art. I’m even, also paid for my writing!

How did I handle this back then when none of this was apparent? Even in disagreement, I approached my parents with honor. They respected my wishes as a man.

What is to be done when a parent hovers over their children even into adulthood? There is no easy answer for this, but ultimately that parent will need to grow their relationship with their child. Their little girl has grown up and should be treated accordingly. This means showing support at times even when the parent disagrees with the choice their grown-up young woman has made.

If that choice isn’t sinful, then, in the Lord, the parent should not provoke them into anger. Let them go in the trust of the Lord. For ultimately, we are all in His hands.

If the parent has not yet done this, if they still hover over their children even into collage age and beyond, the child should approach this parent in an honorable way. 

Does honor mean obedience? When the child is young and a dependent (and not in an abusive household) I would say yes. But as the child grows into a man or woman, they will need to reevaluate how to honor their parents in the Lord, even while making decisions that their parents don’t fully support.

There is always an honorable way to approach disagreements, and the young adult must learn what this means.

My only advice is to pray and ponder about it. Ask for wisdom of the Lord. The alternative is to always live in the shadow of your parents. This is not how God designed it.

Genesis 2:24

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

It is written in the hearts of children to one day grow up and leave their parents. God even gave young men and women the audacity to do things differently from their parents. Now, while parents are older and have a whole lot of wisdom, this wisdom can be overbearing, and encroaching on where their young-adult son desires to go.

If the path of the young-adult is not one of sin, but simply, a different way of doing things, what merit is it for the parent to step in the way of their son’s self-discovery? This only leads to doubt and dependence on the parent, a very unhealthy result.

Parents are wired to protect their children from all harm. When the child is young this is very godly and helpful. At some point the child grows up and naturally develops this desire to try things on their own. God honors this (if it is unsinful). Even if the child is wrong, when they are older, it is better for them to learn this through experience.

Experience is God’s way of pruning us into becoming more like Him. At some point, a parent should step away and allow this pruning to take place.

Who knows, maybe the direction their young man is going will lead to a better path in the Lord… you will never know unless you try.

So, young adult. Be prayerful, honorable, and firm with your parents. In a loving and honorable way leave your father and mother. Find a significant other and in marriage hold fast to them so that the two become one.

Have children. Protect them and grow them in the ways of the Lord so that when they are old they might not depart from Him. And when your own child reaches that age of independence, support their dreams in the Lord. Help them achieve the goals that in prayer, can be discerned to be of the Lord.

In the end, trust in the Lord, for He cares for you and your family.

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