Rules for Christian Households
Having discussed husbands and wives, Paul turns his attention towards parents (particularly fathers) and children. And as is the case with marriage, child-rearing is another matter that has fallen on hard times in our society and the Church. And if previous generations were harsh with children, ours has been far too permissive. Christian parents must understand that in the process of raising their children, they are in the business of shaping souls for eternity. And they must be shaped because they are born sinners whose natural tendency is towards evil if left to themselves. Parents cannot farm this out to their church, their babysitter, and certainly not the television, the Internet, or public school. Christian parents are supposed to be raising Christians—and not the garden-variety nominal style but men and women who will be Kingdom citizens furthering the Kingdom for their generation.
Two things are necessary for raising children: love and discipline. And these are not mutually exclusive terms. Indeed, the parent who loves his child disciplines his child: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). To forbear discipline is equated with killing your son: “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (Proverbs 19:18). Moreover, the promise of discipline is an honorable future: “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:17).
Now we must understand that discipline is not only what we do when we correct our children for doing wrong; discipline is a manner of life. The word itself comes from the Latin, discipulus, which means “student,” from which we derive the word, “disciple.” So discipline is a lifestyle. Thus, the father says to his son, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26). Christian fathers cannot run from this. The eyes of your children are watching. Are you a man who is disciplined in your own behavior? Do you walk in integrity? Can your son say, “That’s the kind of man I want to be when I grow up?” Could your wife affirm those words?
So we return to our passage. Our children are to obey parents in everything, and if they disobey, they must be disciplined, and with the rod if necessary. And they will disobey because they have sinful natures and so must be disciplined; otherwise, they shall grow up to be barbarians. And fathers and mothers must not be harsh or burdensome with their children but gentle and kind. Love both disciplines and covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).