Parents and Children
A Catechetical Sermon for Advent Midweek Services – 12/20/2023
Ephesians 6: 1-9, Colossians 3:18-25
Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer
That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this evening is our first reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians in the sixth chapter with special emphasis on verses one through four which read as follows:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Thus far the Scriptures.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This Advent, we looked at some of the relationships and responsibilities of the family. We looked at how our Lord God has created the family as the basic social institution upon which all others are dependent. We discussed marriage as the foundational relationship within a family that God ordained to be a nurturing, loving, and secure arrangement so that man and woman might be bound as one and to raise children. We also discussed the role of single persons and how to deal with family members who are a bit further out on the family tree such as cousins and grandparents.
Tonight we circle back to one of the more central relationships within the family, that of mother or father to son or daughter. Notice that I do not wish to talk about generic parenthood or childhood. This misses that our distinctiveness as male and female is a central component of all of our family relationships, including among siblings and between parents and children. That is to say, when God made us in the Garden of Eden as recorded in the book of Genesis, He made us not to be generic, genderless humans, but made us male and female in His image. Each sex, then, is a God-designed and God-given distinct and dignified expression of the loving design of our creator. And just as a man cannot be a wife, so he cannot be a mother. Similarly, just as a woman cannot be a husband, she cannot be a father. There are different dimensions in these relationships that reflect our unique status as men and women. And more still this is neither a defect nor an accident but is part of the very goodness of this design.
Just as the husband is the head of the wife as Ephesians 5:23 notes, so too is he the head of his family. And just as his headship is to be benevolent and oriented to providing good things for his wife, so too is his headship to be oriented to providing good for his family. That is to say, all authority given by God, especially that in the family, is not for the sake of the person who holds that office but is to be exercised for those under that authority. It is far too common today that officeholders, whether mom or dad or elected politician or anything else, see their positions of authority as for their own sakes. Stories of corruption and mistreatment under these various offices are far too common. For our purposes this evening, it is enough to note that fathers should not rule their houses as if the family was something to sate his desires or to grant him glory. Instead, the father should rule his household well and for good. Parents are commanded to love and serve their children.
Love is not acceptance as we are so often told. That is to say, love is not simply embracing everything that a person may want to do or say. This is a corruption of love. In the world of psychology they call this enabling or codependence depending on the exact form that it takes. Ultimately, this version of love is harmful. Love, real love as defined by God Almighty who is love Himself, does not blindly and uncritically embrace evil or harmful things. Instead, it takes the character of being sacrificial and seeking that which objectively good. Scripture says that love looks like a man giving up His life for His friends. And as noble as dying for a friend is, this passage from St. John’s Gospel is referring to the ultimate sacrifice wherein Christ gave Himself for us who are sinners, losing His life so that we might have the forgiveness, life, and salvation that we so often take for granted. Even though many seem to think that they do not need God or this forgiveness, this is exactly what we truly need. Therefore, love is the sacrificial seeking of what is objectively good for others as shown in the example of Jesus. That means that to be truly loving involves setting boundaries and bringing just discipline when the need arises in order that objectively good things be cultivated and encouraged. Indeed, the Scriptures note sparing the rod leads to children growing up to be spoiled. Further, this same passage from Proverbs notes that a parent who refuses to discipline does not love, but in fact hates, his child. To put this is more modern way of talking: children need structures, boundaries, and repercussions for failing to act within those boundaries. These rules should be in line with God’s Law and not be unreasonable. And when they are transgressed, there should be discipline for children to teach right from wrong. As Paul here notes, Fathers should not exasperate their children through being unreasonable.
Mothers, similarly to fathers, have this responsibility as well. And while the maternal instinct tends toward nurturing and caregiving which is good and wholesome and right, mothers also share in this responsibility to raise children to respect authority, both in our secular lives and also to respect the authority of God.
Both parents, and especially fathers, are to ensure that children are instructed in Christian doctrine, that is, biblical teaching. They are to give their children the great gift of knowing God through His Word for their salvation. This duty is of utmost importance.
Children, keep the fourth commandment. Respect, honor, and obey your parents, even when they are undeserving of these things. Every mother and father is imperfect, but this is not an excuse to dispense with God’s holy command. Their authority is from God and unless they bid you to follow them into sin or vice, you are obligated to follow them. This is often hard, especially when the parents do not do the things that they should by God’s command.
Much of the conflict between parents and children comes down to a failure on one or both sides to respect the God-given arrangement between children and their parents. Children often seek to rebel against or outright usurp parental authority. Parents often exasperate their children or, as is sadly common today, abandon their duty to be parents to their children. Either way, this will cause a fracture between the generations and does not lead to respect or love.
I heard once a saying that applies here, if a parent refuses to be a friend to their children and instead is their parent, then their children will grow up into people who are friends to their parents. In other words, abandoning parental responsibility only leads to children being formed to be the sort of people who do not make for good friends. Such children are often entitled, needy, greedy, and the like. Besides this, there is the sadly common phenomenon of pay to play relationships between parents and children. An adult child should not only talk to their parents when they need money. Further still, barring some sort of disability or emergency, an adult child should not ask their parents for money and especially should not receive money regularly. Children should care for their parents once the children reach adulthood.
What I am trying to say is that it is not loving, but is actually unloving, to not force children to take on adult responsibilities. What seems to be like care and love turns into something that stunts a person and prevents his growth into a functional adult who can serve and love those around him.
Children, one of your duties is to grow up and provide for yourselves so that your parents’ burdens might be eased in their twilight years. And when those parents need extra help, make sure you take care of them. Do not just dump mom or dad into the manor and only visit once in a while. This is unchristian and unacceptable. If you need such a facility to care for your parents, then do so. But this does not relieve you of your duty to care for mom and dad. They still need your care and respect. Even if they suffer a loss of physical or mental ability, they still need you. And let me be frank here: your parents having advanced memory loss of whatever sort is not an excuse to avoid seeing them. Saying that you do not want to see them as they reach their twilight years so that you can “remember them as they were” is completely selfish and ignoble. Caring for those who need it is a basic Christian duty, particularly for parents or children.
There are certainly a number of other things that might be said about parenting and being a child. This sermon was certainly not exhaustive. Remember, the God-given structure of the family is good and for the sake of good and loving things. Children should obey, respect, and love their parents even when it is hard. Parents should love and discipline their children, especially when it is hard. And finally, we should all remember the need for forgiveness for our failures in these ends. None of us perfectly executes the offices that God gives. So too with parents and children. So, when we fail, we must be gracious enough to confess our wrong both to God and those who we have hurt and to be gracious enough to extend forgiveness when these wrongs are confessed to us. After all, as Christians, forgiveness is the very center and life of our religion, founded, as it is, on Christ’s own forgiving death.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 English Standard Version
 1 John 4:8
 John 15:13
 Proverbs 13:24
 Ephesians 6:4